If caught early, many sea turtles can recover from eating marine debris, according to the Turtles in Trouble team based at The University of Queensland’s Moreton Bay Research Station.  
The team, comprising UQ and CSIRO scientists, was a finalist at the 2015 Queensland Premier’s Sustainability Awards for its research and hands-on approach to the impact of marine rubbish on sea turtles. 
"We are responding to sick and injured turtles, found to have eaten everything from plastic bags and balloons to fishing line and hooks, rubber thongs, duct tape and styroform," Station Education Coordinator Dr Kathy Townsend said.
Moreton Bay was feeling the impact of discarded rubbish, she said.  More than 30 per cent of stranded sea turtles found in the bay had died from swallowing marine debris, with an additional 6 per cent of deaths caused by entanglement.  
After assessing, measuring, cleaning and rehydrating sick turtles for 72 hours, the Turtles in Trouble team pass the stabilised animals to vets at Underwater World, Mooloolaba and Australia Zoo for treatment. 
Dr Townsend said the Turtles in Trouble team aimed to better understand the impact that marine debris had on marine fauna in Moreton Bay.  
They used endangered sea turtles as indicator species; and have made management recommendations to reduce this impact. 
She said while the team was well respected in academic circles, it was the outreach component of the project that had provided significant benefits.  
"By working closely with industry partners, community groups and government organisations, the results of the research are shared and distributed widely," she said.
"This project is a wonderful example of a balance between science, outreach and support for management outcomes."
The Turtles in Trouble project recognition caps a year of achievement for staff at the University’s Moreton Bay Research Station.
  • Station manager Kevin Townsend and scientific officer Martin Wynne won a UQ Staff award this year as members of the UQ worker's compensation self-insurance licence renewal program. They won the "Award for Excellence in Wellness and Safety 2015".
  • Station assistant Morgan Chance and administration officer Kathryn Crouch received a Highly commended in the "Award for Excellence in Innovation" at the same awards ceremony, for developing a custom-made Filemaker pro bookings and invoicing database.
  • Dr Townsend’s team also won the "2015 Healthy Waterways Research Award" for work on marine turtles. 
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