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SEE Turtles

The Center for Business Analytics is pleased to recognize SEE Turtles as an honoree of the 2023 Drexel LeBow Analytics 50 Awards. Read more about how SEE Turtles used analytics to solve a business challenge.


Alexander Robillard, PhD, Research Collaborator


SEE Turtles



Business Challenge

Hawksbills are a critically endangered species, hunted to the edge of extinction for their colorful shell. Their shells (aka “tortoiseshell”) are made into jewelry and other products that are frequently sold to travelers in markets across tropical regions around the world. Tourists are not typically aware that they are purchasing an illegal wildlife product. Reporting by SEE Turtles conservatively estimates that more than 45,000 individual products have been for sale worldwide since 2017. Although trained experts are able to visually identify tortoiseshell, the majority of identification is done via expensive or destructive means of testing. In short, this is a global issue that can only be addressed through the deployment of fast, cost effective and accurate tools for tortoiseshell documentation.

Analytics Solution

To address this challenge, SEE Turtles developed a machine learning application called SEE Shell. This groundbreaking application is very simple: take a photo of a product you think could be tortoiseshell with the app, and it will tell you instantly if it is real tortoiseshell or something else with a high degree of accuracy. By using the app, users will be able to avoid buying tortoiseshell products while contributing valuable data to studying the trade and identifying hotspots.


SEE Shell is a groundbreaking application for sea turtle conservation. When benchmarked against a test set, SEE Shell was able to obtain a maximum accuracy of 90.3 percent. Since June 2021, the application has collected over 3,200 reports. More than 1,500 people in 23 countries around the world have downloaded the app to date. Workshops for training government officials and conservation professionals to utilize the application have occurred around the world. It is SEE Shell’s goal to continue to expand this powerful application’s abilities, bringing it to a wider audience while continuing to combat the illegal trade of sea turtles everywhere.