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Harms Continues Turtle Audiology Research Abroad

Dr. Craig Harms, NC State University professor and director of the marine health program at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST), spent the last part of March and early April in the island nation of Dominica studying hawksbill sea turtle hearing as part of a project funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The aim of the project is to fill data gaps in hearing by different species and size classes of sea turtle to allow for better informed permitting and ocean noise mitigation to minimize acoustic impacts on these threatened and endangered species. While green turtles, loggerheads and Kemp’s ridleys can all be studied in North Carolina, there are no hawksbills here, so they must be studied internationally.

Collaborators included Duke Marine Laboratory (Dr. Doug Nowacek and Charles Muirhead), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, Dr. Wendy Piniak), DomSeTCO (Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization Inc, Marcella Harris, and many others), BOEM (Jacob Levenson, Erica Staaterman), and Nature Island Dive.

The team successfully collected audiograms from six hawksbills using audio-evoked potentials (AEP), the same technique that is used to assess hearing in non-verbal humans, like babies, but underwater in test tanks. During the research, Dr. Natalia Lugay from the St. Nicholas School of Veterinary Medicine brought a group of veterinary students to observe the proceedings.