SWOT was hatched in 2003 by Conservation International, the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, the International Sea Turtle Society, and Duke University. The four institutions united to address a common challenge: the lack of an up-to-date global perspective on sea turtle distribution and status—coordination critical to global conservation planning, education and outreach efforts, and scientific research.
From the beginning, the SWOT founders knew that addressing this challenge would be a monumental task, requiring the participation of every possible individual and organization in the field. Their solution was to devise a strategic approach that would enable them to move towards their goal in focused and meaningful steps.
The SWOT coordinators set out to take the first of these steps by documenting one species—the leatherback—during one year—2004—and during one life stage—nesting. They invited researchers and conservationists at leatherback nesting areas around the world to join the SWOT effort, and, in 2006, published the first-ever global map of leatherback nesting with the information they received.
Through this collaboration, SWOT took form. SWOT has been evolving ever since, with new partners recruited each year, and new information added to the global picture. In 2012, Oceanic Society, a non-profit based in the San Francisco Bay area, took on the management of the SWOT Project. Step by step, SWOT and its partners are realizing their ambitious goal.