Cape Cod Sea Turtle Project

These miniboats are being used to better understand sea turtle strandings in Massachusetts Bay. Click on a title below to learn about the work during that season.

In October 2019, partners included NOAA NEFSC/GOMLF, Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Refuge, University of Rhode Island, and Cape Cod Schools.

In 2022, with support from Falmouth Education Foundation and Falmouth Public Schools, Falmouth High School set out to upgrade three miniboats with sensors to collect data in the bay during the 2022-2023 stranding season.

Two miniboats were launched on December 21, 2022 and recovered on December 22,2022. Click on each boat page to learn more:

Falmouth Public Schools shared about the project in their “Clipper Corner” on January 6, 2023. To read the article by Sarah Murphy, click here: Falmouth Education Foundation Fosters Citizen Science 

The students presented about their project to the Falmouth Education Fund’s in Action Showcase, which featuring a range of current projects on February 8. For those who missed it, here is a link to the event: FEF Showcase (miniboat presentation starts at 34:40)

The third miniboat, Scarborough Sailor, was launched on March 10, 2023 and landed on March 11.

That concludes the launches for this school year, but the project will still continue as students analyze the data and prepare for the next phase.

In 2023, the Falmouth Education Foundation renewed their support to continue the project with Falmouth, MA schools. The Lawrence School was selected, and work began with an assessment of the miniboats from the previous season.

We also learned that the 2019 deployment was included in a published paper in the Journal of Aquatic Biology: See Developing bottom drifters to better understand the stranding locations of cold-stunned sea turtles in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts (Page et al, 2023).

Only two miniboats were repairable for this season, the Riptide and Rock Star. Scarborough Sailor will need extensive repairs before sailing again. The good news on the two ready boats, though, is that all the electronics were still in tact and reported as soon as they were reactivated. So, work continued to update the decorations and charge up the systems as a new set of students learned about the project. A launch is planned for the end of November.

Collaborative Research

We are helping to support researchers in the region learn more about winds and currents, to help better understand how cold stunned turtles move in Cape Cod Bay. The miniboats and MakerBuoy drifters that we are launching through Educational Passages will be shared on the following:

December 2, 2023

Captain Dave of the F/V Grace Sarah launched a suite of units for this project during the early morning of December 2, 2023, including miniboats RIPTIDE and ROCK STAR (both with sensor packs) and two Makerbuoy Drifters!

A few hours after launch, the tracks looked quite different (drifting buoys are red tracks, miniboats are green – launch point is yellow star):

Also along the way, the RIPTIDE was spotted at sea by the F/V Relentless! Captain Chris took a cool video and shared it with us, too:



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By the evening, RIPTIDE had already made it across to Wellfleet (green icons close to shore in picture below). ROCK STAR was a little behind and started to head south!

December 3, 2023

The next morning, Carmela and Stacey drove out and picked up the RIPTIDE. By the time they got back west, ROCK STAR had landed on Scusset Beach in Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts. The winds had carried it across all the way back to where it started! And, this was just across the canal from where the F/V Grace Sarah (the boat that launched the two the day before) was in port.

We got a call around noon on Sunday that a beach walker had found the boat, so Carmela and Stacey met them and recovered it. A successful mission! Both boats are in great shape (and back at the school – see picture below), and the drifters are still out in the bay collecting more data.


There are lots of data from the drifters too!

December 14, 2023

The miniboats have been at the school in Falmouth, but on Dec 14, miniboat crew member Stacey Strong delivered them to the docks in Sandwich, MA.

December 15, 2023

The next day, Captain Rob of the F/V Resolve took out the two miniboats and student build drifters, all launched around 8am.


By the afternoon, Riptide sailed onto Duck Harbor Beach right in front of a couple that was walking the beach. They called the number and took the boat out of the surf for us.

Rock Star landed a couple hours later in Truro. A recovery is planned for both boats the morning of the 16th.