Environmental Impacts: Sea Turtles and Marine Renewable Energy Technologies

Project Lead: Jeanette Wyneken, Ph.D.
Affiliated Home Campus: Boca Raton
Affiliated Department: Biological Sciences
REU Scholar: Brennan Smith
REU Scholar Home Institution: Bucknell University


Anthropogenic interference continues to be one of the major threats to the endangered and threatened species of sea turtles. As the imminent implementation of marine renewable energy (MRE) technologies proceeds, it is necessary to quantify and report the potential dangers that could be posed to sea turtles in order to establish regulations to promote conservation efforts for the endangered wildlife.

This project involved calculating material properties of collected samples of numerous carapaces from four of the sea turtle species native to South Florida: loggerhead, green, Kemp’s ridley, and hawksbill. Using an Instron compression test in the biomechanics lab on the sandwich-like structure of the outermost bone, characteristics including elasticity, ductility, and strength at a yielding point were recorded in 16 different regions of the carapace. The nature of the testing process allowed for a quantitative comparison between stages of life, species, as well as sex. The results of the test have the potential to accompany evolutionary theory related to the development of the shell throughout its history.

The research in the material science of the sea turtle carapace creates an understanding of the damage from predatory attacks, boat strikes, and underwater turbine interactions. Characterizations of the strength properties of the bone will allow for further protection of the endangered and threatened species.

Additional related research should incorporate beam theory to find the bending strength of carapace through four-point flexural tests and may require finite element analysis of the body or a statistical analysis of the likelihood of an interaction with MRE technology based on swimming behaviors.

Click here to watch the student presentation.