Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School



Biological Sciences

Program or Major

Marine Estuarine Freshwater Biology

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Larry Harris


With the prediction of devastating global climate change effects for the near future, scientists are expanding their research and understanding of some of the most severely affected organisms. Because sea turtles rely on both marine and terrestrial habitats for survival, and because coastal areas are already experiencing great losses due to sea level rising, human development, and pollution, all seven species are already listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In this literature analysis, I examined the many factors that contribute to a sampling of the current sea turtle population status as well as scrutinized turtle adaptability to the changing environment. After developing a broad global view of the effects of climate change and human practices on worldwide sea turtle populations, I focused my study on the populations found in the waters of America as a continent, which included case studies of Costa Rica and Cape Cod Bay. In these two unique regions, various species experience diverse threats, including cold stunning, problems feeding, and nesting pressures. From this literature review in combination with my own independent research projects, I examined how some turtle populations would be affected by changing environmental and anthropological factors, and congruently formed my own conclusions and predictions about current population statuses and potential future implications. Though global climate change is causing sea level rise, and sand and air temperature increases, humans greatly impact both the vital marine and terrestrial environments of foraging and nesting sea turtles through ocean acidification, development, and over exploitation. The future of sea turtle population conservation and management relies on research and understanding of anthropogenic and climate change effects on marine and coastal habitats.