Friday, April 5, 2019

Another Reason to Smile: A Blanding's Turtle Research Collaboration Opportunity

The Blanding's Turtle may be happy to be getting the attention, but the truth is, research that Standing Rush
will get to participate in will add knowledge about the status of many of Ohio's turtle varieties
(photo credit:

Not sure who's more excited: me, my eldest son, or the turtles? Let me back up . . . I've had several correspondences (by email and by phone) this week with a long-time friend by the name of Greg Lipps. Greg and I met about 20 years ago now because of a shared passion in the preservation of northwest Ohio's very own Oak Openings region -- not just a really cool Metropark, but a truly globally distinct ecosystem.

My eldest son, a turtle lover,
proudly displaying
an Eastern Box Turtle
Greg is one of the most passionate ecologists who I know. His deepest love is for reptiles and amphibians, but it's not difficult to get him bouncing on his toes about a whole host of things that creep, crawl, or go bump in the night. His previous hat was a zookeeper in the department of herpetology at the highly venerated Toledo Zoo. But new opportunities landed him at the Ohio State University about five years ago now -- just about the time we were getting underway at Standing Rush.

We've been talking periodically ever since about opportunities to collaborate, and we now seem to have found our chance. Greg is not just a bundle of enthusiasm, he is also highly adept at building a team and executing on a vision. To that end, he has helped assemble not just the talent (via The Toledo Zoo, Ohio State, Indiana Purdue University Ft. Wayne, Ohio Division of Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources), but the funding (through a multi-state competitive State Wildlife Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and a network of landowners (private and public) willing to provide access to some of the most pristine and suitable habitats to conduct his important research. Standing Rush is flattered to be among those being asked to participate as a monitoring site.

As the research summary flier below can best communicate, the target species in this research is the Blanding's Turtle, a "semi-aquatic" herp that is commonly identified by its broadly arching, high-domed shell, yellow throat and chin, and "permagrin" . . . as I like to call it. This almost cartoonish character takes center stage because (a) targeted historical research on its ecology has been spotty, at best, and (2) because there is growing consensus that its populations are precarious and at risk of further decline -- possibly to the point of extinction. One driving force in Greg's research is to help provide regional data that can be interpreted in the context of somewhat similar work that has been conducted in New England. The outcome being to determine what protections, if any, might be best recommended for the species.

Monitoring, including both passive spotting and very intensive catch-and-release trapping and tagging, will take place over two discrete, one-week periods -- likely in May and June. Considering my son received two turtle traps for Christmas, something tells me he'll be there with mud boots ready and clipboard in hand!

Click to enlarge