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Seychellois student studies reproductive failure in threatened turtles and tortoises

Victoria, Seychelles | October 16, 2023, Monday @ 11:21 in Environment » RESEARCH | By: Juliette Dine Edited By: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 7433
Seychellois student studies reproductive failure in threatened turtles and tortoises

The research on the reproductive failure in threatened turtles and tortoises is an extension topic in her master's project. (Alessia Lavigne)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - A Seychellois student, Alessia Lavigne, has received a fully funded scholarship to do her PhD on the reproductive failure in threatened turtles and tortoises.

The 25-year-old will begin her scholarship in October for a period of four years.

The research on the reproductive failure in threatened turtles and tortoises is an extension topic in her master's project, which she completed last year. To do her research, Lavigne took on a job at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom in the laboratory of Dr. Nicola Hemmings after getting funding from the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust's (SeyCCAT), Blue Grant Fund and the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF).

For gathering information, she collaborated with Fregate Island, SOSF on D'Arros Island, and Nature Seychelles on Cousin Island. This was done to develop the needed methods to identify whether eggs are failing due to fertilisation failure or early embryonic death.

One of the incentives for her studying turtles and tortoises is that over 50 percent of them are at risk of extinction in some way. (Alessia Lavigne) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  

"I have chosen to do this PhD, which I co-designed with my supervisor Nicola Hemmings, because of how successful the original masters project was. We develop these methods and now it can lead us into using this method to answer new questions around the reproductive failure of turtles and tortoises," Lavigne told SNA.

She said that one of the incentives for studying turtles and tortoises is that most people do not know that if you look at all the species of turtles and tortoises on earth, over 50 percent of them are at risk of extinction in some way.

"So, we are in fact going through an extinction crisis and looking at reproductive failure is one point where a lot of conservation efforts are struggling, either in captive populations or in the wild," said Lavigne.

She said that she has observed the population of turtles and tortoises in zoos that are in captive breeding programmes, as well as those in the wild, especially those from Seychelles.

Lavigne is working on the species that are in danger of extinction such as the hawksbill turtle, which is critically endangered, the green turtle which is endangered, and the Aldabra giant tortoise, identified as vulnerable.

The majority of the samples that she uses for her research come from Seychelles but she also receives eggs from zoos in the UK.

"In my first year of work in my master's research projects, I worked with three different islands. Presently, I am working with eight different islands in the Seychelles with 167 egg samples from the Aldabra giant tortoises, green turtles, and hawksbill turtles," said Lavigne.

Through this research, Lavigne is seeking to improve people's understanding of the causes of hatching failure in threatened turtles and tortoise populations in Seychelles and in zoos around the world.

Lavigne is seeking to improve people's understanding of the causes of hatching failure.  (Alessia Lavigne) Photo License: All Rights Reserved  

"We are now trying to have a better look at the mortality rates, by looking at the different islands in Seychelles to identify what are the fertilisation rates like and this will give us an idea of how healthy the population is or what possible problems are being faced by the turtles and tortoise population of Seychelles," she explained.

Once the problem has been identified, she will try and find solutions to improve the quality and quantity of the turtles and tortoises' population around Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.

Once she graduates, Lavigne intends to share her findings with the different conservation groups in Seychelles.

"With the funding I got from the Save our Seas Foundation and the Blue Grant Fund from SeyCATT, every partner will have their specific project report to know the exact result that we have received from the samples collected. This can be used to inform their own conservation decisions because we really want to be able to use this research to better inform efficient conservation decisions," she said. 

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Tags: SeyCCAT, Blue Grant Fund, Save our Seas Foundation

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