Industrial - Honours
Sea turtles are encountering extinction-level threats due to climate change and human activities. Despite many mitigation strategies, sea turtles are struggling to adapt to changing conditions due to the rapid pace of climate change. This calls for the design of more long-term strategies that help sea turtles to adapt to climate change.
Sea turtles are facing multi-layered and intertwined threats that have catastrophic effects on them during all stages of their lifespan. Climate change is causing loss of habitat, feminisation, clutch mortality, and phenotypic disadvantages. Additionally, human activities are contributing to population reduction, polluted water, interrupted nesting and migration, diseases, and injuries. These threats are pushing sea turtle species around the world closer to the brink of extinction. Sea turtles are long-lived species, and major changes can happen during their lifespan due to the unprecedented rapid pace of climate change. However, knowledge of sea turtles’ behaviour and migratory pattern is still limited, which hinders conservation efforts with long term impacts. This has formed the premise for the research and design of Abyss, an enhanced pop-up satellite archival tag used to track sea turtles for research purposes.
“[…] there probably needs to be more considered attention on how, what can be done to help turtles cope with climate change […] there are problems already from climate change affecting turtles, but it could take many, many decades of research to work out what the best thing to do is and so people need to start soon. You can’t start decades of research once all the beaches are washed away.”Dr Michael Dunlop, Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO
To inform the design process, I have engaged in a six-month research process in which existing literature was reviewed and primary research was also undertaken. Several interviews with experts in sea turtle conservation were conducted. This was supplemented by two online questionnaires that aimed to gain a better understanding of the public’s knowledge and perspective towards sea turtle conservation. From research, it became clear that a better way of collecting data about sea turtles’ behaviour and migratory pattern is vital to the establishment of long-term conservation strategies.
A cost-effective, eco-friendly, and non-intrusive method of obtaining a larger amount of accurate data.Near-term Outcome
The scientists and researchers are able to bridge the critical gaps in knowledge of sea turtles’ behaviour and migratory pattern so that they can better inform the design of long-term strategies and influence positive legislation changes?Lasting Change
The final solution is called Abyss, an enhanced pop-up satellite archival tag (PSAT). Abyss provides a cost-effective and non-intrusive way of tracking sea turtles for research purposes. The product is also retrievable and reusable, providing great economic and environmental value. Abyss can be used in telemetry, maritime surveillance, and environmental monitoring.
One of the most common methods of conducting sea turtle research is utilising telemetry devices, usually known as turtle satellite trackers or tags, which gather environmental, behavioural, and migratory data. Despite their well-perceived benefits, most of the current trackers on the market are extremely expensive and irretrievable. Some trackers are retrievable, but their release mechanisms either cause irreversible damage to the tracker or leave a part of the product behind upon release.
There are many dynamics and stakeholders involved in the institutions that govern a user’s life, the services available to them, and the community around them. In the case of Abyss, it potentially affects many individuals and organisations with different needs and perspectives towards sea turtle conservation. The main users of Abyss will be scientists, researchers, or conservationists who are involved in sea turtle research.
Since the final design needs to be cost-effective and resistant against the harsh environment of the open ocean, I took inspiration mainly from minimalistic and rigid electronic devices.
From vigorous research into the context, users, and existing products, many design opportunities with great potential to fulfil the design criteria were generated. After more research, peer-evaluation, and consideration, a final design direction was identified, which shifted the project towards producing a better way to collect data about sea turtles’ behaviour and migratory pattern.
A wide range of low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes were produced to test the product’s forms and functionality. This phase is incredibly important as the product needs to have all the required technologies for data collection while ensuring comfort and ease of movement for the turtle carrying the product.
To convey the product’s appearance and features with the highest level of accuracy, I carefully modelled every feature of the final design from the overall form to the PCB in SolidWorks and rendered in KeyShot. All details such as the positioning of internal components, dimensions, CMF, fastenings, and ingress protection are well-considered.
Khoa Tran is an Industrial Designer whose design philosophy resides in his commitment to research-led human-centred design. He is vastly passionate about leveraging his research and design thinking skills to improve people’s lives. His belief in the major role of industrial design in tackling major issues has seeded his endeavour to produce an improved way of tracking sea turtles for research purposes.