Marine Turtle Species and Individual Photo Identification

Status: Project idea


The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is monitoring marine turtles throughout the Philippines. The Philippines is very important as a breeding, feeding and migration habitat for multiple turtle species. The Green Turtle has one of it's biggest nesting grounds in the world in the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary in Tawi-Tawi, while the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle nests throughout the country, and the Olive Ridley turtle nests in very large numbers along the west coast of Palawan and Luzon.

Data has been collected for the past 30 years, but lack of a proper data management system has made it hard to use the data for proper management. That is changing now with the creating of a good data management system for DENR for marine turtle monitoring. One of the problems often encountered though is that species were mis-identified in the field, and the pictures that were taken with the reports were lost or not available at the time of digitalization. With the new setup, pictures will always be available digitally with the reports, so it would be great if we can develop a machine learning algorithm that can identify the turtle species automatically from those pictures.

Secondly, traditionally turtle have been tagged with metal flipper tags with a number, that allowed the identification of those same turtles at later encounters. This provided valuable information, but is stressful for the animal and costs money because of the personnel and materials needed. Recent developments have made it possible to identify turtles purely from a picture of the scales on the side of the head. This would provide a much easier data collection method, where we can potentially even involve trained divers or citizen scientists, resulting in much bigger numbers of data. Doing the identification with a machine learning algorithm would make it much easier to collect data where the individual turtles could be identified, allowing us to track them throughout the country, their behavior and habitat use.

So from pictures we need to identify the following:

  • Turtle in picture?
  • What turtle species? (Green Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Leatherback Turtle)
  • Side of head visible for ID?
  • Identification of the individual turtle

This page is subject to our Disclaimer.