An Old Turtle, Good Friends, and a Box of Paperwork

7:30am - We are on the road heading to Orlando. I have to stop by the Orlando Science Center to pick up a Florida box turtle. This specimen was the first turtle I ever hatched out. It hatched April 6th, 1991 when I was 18 years old. The turtle is now 25 years old and has been on loan to the science center since 1996. 

I worked for the science center for six years as the Manager of NatureWorks. The NatureWorks exhibit is a 7000 square foot indoor nature exhibit. The center is going through a great deal of renovation and expansion. I am eager to catch up with my former director, Brandan Lanman, to hear what is in store for NatureWorks. 

We will also be stopping by Oviedo, Florida and visiting another former director of mine, mentor, and great friend, Dr. Peter Pritchard. Peter is one of the greatest authorities and conservationists of the world's turtles. He has inspired practically every turtle person for more than 40 years. He runs a private turtle museum, the Chelonian Research Institute, a quirky, Victorianesque facility housing approximately 13,000 preserved specimens available for research. I worked at the museum for three years curating the collection which has every known genus of turtle and about 95% of species.

After visiting Peter, we will be heading to Sanford. There we will meet with our friend Steve DeCresie, former bird keeper and horticulturist at the Central Florida Zoo. I worked as Senior Reptile Keeper there in 1994-1998. I first met George in 1994 and mentioned to him the number of wild box turtles I would see on zoo property. He encouraged me to begin a mark and recapture study. When I left the zoo in 1998 I had marked around 320 individual box turtles! After I left, Steve took over the project and by the time he left the zoo we were up to 420 marked turtles. We have a decade of morphometric and habitat data that I will be picking up from Steve. George had a similar project at the nature preserve he worked at in St. Petersburg and had about 197 marked box turtles. We have plans to review all of our data and write a paper comparing the two populations. We will however need to clear our plates of numerous other projects before we can begin.

Tim Walsh - Manager of Natural History Collections and Citizen Science