Integrating telemetry and point observations to inform management and conservation of migratory marine species
Species distribution models have been widely used in both terrestrial and marine systems, and applications have included invasive species management, evaluating potential effects of climate change, and conservation. Generally, only a single type of data can be accommodated within the model structures used, which may lead to higher uncertainty in the predictions when the data are sparse. In this case, it can be beneficial to pool data from multiple sources and data types, such as fishery observations and telemetry data. An integrated species distribution model (ISDM) utilizes data integration methods that address the challenges of harnessing multiple data types to estimate species distribution. In this study, an ISDM approach was developed to link turtle locations gathered as part of fishery observations with those derived from satellite telemetry in the East Pacific Ocean to enhance our understanding of a highly migratory and endangered marine species, the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). These models were developed to support a dynamic management tool, South Pacific TurtleWatch, to identify high-risk areas of management concern and help inform bycatch reduction efforts for this critically endangered species. This data fusion approach could be applied to other populations and species for which telemetry and other point source data are available.