Turtle Watchers Unite!

 Classic Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

Classic Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

The unassuming turtle is usually not on the mind of most people, but they are a top priority for many conservation biologists. Turtles and tortoises are group of reptiles that are recognizable components of the ecosystems in which they inhabit. Turtles can play key ecological roles, serving as both predators and prey, contributing to the cycling of nutrients, and acting as seed dispersers. In fables and folklore, turtles have often been portrayed as wise, and revered as symbols of longevity and tranquility.

Approximately 58% of the world’s 335 turtle species threatened with extinction, which makes turtles the most endangered vertebrate group in the world. Worldwide, turtles are negatively affected by such threats as habitat loss and fragmentation, collection for food and pets, disease, and changing climates.

The State of Connecticut is home to 12 native turtle species that inhabit our woodlands, wetlands, and even the waters of Long Island Sound. Primary threats in our state include habitat loss and traffic-related highway mortality. The Bruce Museum would like to assist in educating the public on the wonderful diversity of turtles, their benefits to the ecology, provide actions we can all do to help them, and offer an opportunity to assist in collecting research data.

The turtles in our State have just come out of hibernation and will be visible to many. In addition, they will be breeding soon and females will be searching for nesting areas which is when most people may encounter them.

 A beautiful specimen of the Eastern box turtle featured on the project page. Photo by Tim Walsh.

A beautiful specimen of the Eastern box turtle featured on the project page. Photo by Tim Walsh.

Please join the Bruce Museum’s Connecticut Turtle Atlas project. Participants in this Citizen Science initiative will collect data on specific locations and abundance of all turtle species found throughout the state. These volunteer scientists will gather the data through an internet website and smartphone app. This information will be used to map distributions, identify important habitats, locate areas of nesting abundance, and detect roadways with high traffic-related mortality. In addition, there will be opportunities to assist with various aspects of turtle research and fieldwork.

Persons interested in participating in the Connecticut Turtle Atlas project should contact Tim Walsh, Bruce Museum Citizen Science Coordinator, at twalsh@brucemuseum.org or (203) 413-6767.