Turtle Census 2012
Registration for Turtle Census 2013 is now open for VLM members:
May 18, June 1 and 8, for students who have completed grades 6-8.
Read Susan Summers' article about the ongoing Turtle Census project in the November 2012 issue of Science Scope, the journal for middle school teachers published by the National Science Teachers Association.
In the early summer of 2012 the Virginia Living Museum continued our census of the basking turtles in the lake. We chose three dates during the summer to conduct this project.
As we did in our previous seasons, students learned about turtle identification, biology, behavior and threats to these animals prior to each trapping experience. With the help of the curatorial, herpetology and aquariums departments, students received mini-seminars each session about a different aspect of turtle life.
Students assisted the staff with the retrieval of the traps, removal of the turtles from the traps and data collection. Each basking turtle that was caught was measured, identified and marked. To mark them we filed a small notch into the shell which corresponded to a number code. Once we collected all the information and determined whether the turtle was a male or female, we released it back into the lake.
At the end of the summer we collected 1 red eared slider (which are non-native to our area), 3 northern red-bellied cooters and 2 intergraded turtles. We did on occasion catch snapping turtles in our nets. We removed them safely and quickly, releasing them back into the lake. We did not collect data from those animals.
It was interesting to note changes from previous years. In 2010 we found that the non-natives were the front-runner in our pond, yet in 2011 we did not find that to be the case, quite the opposite, and also captured fewer turtles. In 2012 we collected more native species, and more intergrades. We still do not have enough information to determine why these fluctuations occur. We are looking forward to working with the students again and discovering more about these turtles. Check out our guest blogs on Virginia’s Fishes in June to learn more about what we did.
If you are interested in participating in 2013, please email Susan Summers
See results and photos from 2010