About the theme


The Kimberley coast and nearshore waters support foraging habitat and nesting beaches for five species of marine turtles. There is limited scientific knowledge however, to understand the status of regional marine turtle stocks that face pressures such as climate change, marine debris, coastal development and increasing human contact.

Existing knowledge revealed scattered information on the distribution and relative abundance of nesting turtles. This research conducted a systematic survey of all sandy beaches for nesting turtles to gain a regional understanding.


  • Identify when and where turtles nest in the Kimberley
  • Develop climate change models to predict how nesting turtles might be impacted
  • Work out relationships between different turtle nesting groups (genetics)
  • Work with Traditional Owners to exchange traditional knowledge and western science for better management


  • Record and photograph nesting along the Kimberley coast during the wet and dry season from the air using a small plane and a specialised digital camera
  • Visit beaches and islands to verify the aerial survey records and collect information on species, size and hatching success (select beaches in west, central and eastern Kimberley)
  • Deploy weather stations and loggers to measure nest temperatures to enable prediction of impacts to turtles through climate change
  • Collect a tissue sample from turtles to work out relationships between groups of turtles at different nesting beaches
  • Work in collaboration/partnership with Indigenous communities in the Kimberley including training rangers.


  • Better overall knowledge of where and when turtles nest to enable impacts to be managed (developments, tourism etc.)
  • Provided a knowledge base to allow monitoring of turtles into the future – information to help understand if populations are going up or down
  • Developed effective and efficient monitoring methods that can be conducted over the long term
  • Prediction of impacts of climate change
  • Defined management units (what scale should management be aimed at)
  • Standard operating procedures and manual to monitor nesting turtles to be used by marine and Indigenous rangers

Project News

New genetic stocks of turtles defined in the Kimberley

Beaches viewed from above helping to tell Kimberley turtle story 

Turtles face climate change threat as warming beaches turn eggs female 

Turtles face climate change threat as warming beaches turn eggs female

Premier briefed on Kimberley marine research projects 

Field trip finds turtle and fish food abundant in Bardi Jawi country

Bardi Jawi Rangers turtle tagging expedition

Secrets of the green sea turtle revealed 

Tracking the Lacepede green turtles from the Ningaloo to Indonesia

Research Projects

  • To develop a long-term monitoring program in the Kimberley in cooperation and partnership with Indigenous groups.


Tucker A, Pendoley K, Murray K, Loewenthal G, Barber C, Denda J, Lincoln G, Mathews D, Whiting S, Miriuwung Gajerrong Rangers, Balanggarra Rangers, Wunambal Gaambera Rangers, Dambimangari Rangers, Mayala Rangers, Bardi Jawi Rangers, Nyul Nyul Rangers, Yawuru Rangers, Karajarri Rangers, Nyangumarta Rangers, Ngarla Rangers (2021) Regional ranking of marine turtle nesting in remote Western Australia by integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and remote sensing. Remote Sensing.

Bentley B, Kearney M, Whiting S, Mitchell N. (2020) Microclimate modelling of beach sand temperatures reveals high spatial and temporal variation at sea turtle rookeries. Journal of Thermal Biology

Bentley, B. (2018). Predicting the impacts of increasing nest temperatures associated with climate change on Western Australian sea turtles.

Bevan E, Whiting S, Tucker T, Guinea M, Raith A, Douglas R. (2018) Measuring behavioral responses of sea turtles, saltwater crocodiles, and crested terns to drone disturbance to define ethical operating thresholds. PloS one doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194460

Stubbs JL, Kearney MR, Whiting SD, Mitchell NJ. (2014) Models of primary sex ratios at a major flatback turtle rookery show an anomalous masculinising trend. Climate Change Responses 1: 1-18.

T Tucker, S Whiting, N Mitchell, O Berry, N FitzSimmons, K Pendoley The Kimberley Marine Turtle Project under the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) Proceedings of the Second Australian and Second Western Australian Marine Turtle Symposia Perth 25-27 August 2014 Page 79

Zimm R, Bentley BP, Wyneken J, Moustakas-Verho JE (2017). Environmental Causation of Turtle Scute Anomalies in ovo and in silico. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57(6), 1303-1311.




Key biological indices required to understand and manage nesting sea turtles along the Kimberley coast (2017 WAMSI Research Conference)

Key biological indices required to understand and manage nesting sea turtles along the Kimberley coast (Parks and Wildlife Lunch and Learn seminar)

Biodiversity of the Kimberley (2015 WAMSI Research Conference)


Program: Kimberley Marine Research

Location: Kimberley Coast

Theme Leader: Scott Whiting, DBCA



Final Report