Sunday, December 19, 2010

Terrific Turtles

· Coastal Awareness, school vacation weeks. The following programs are suitable for children ages 5-11 with adult chaperones:

Terrific Turtles

Children will learn about the turtles that visit the coast of Massachusetts and some of the problems that they face, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2-3 p.m.

Meeting location will be in Revere, MA.

Pre-registration is required.

Contact DCR park ranger Matthew Nash at or 781-485-2804, ext. 105.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Volunteers helping save turtles on Cape Cod

(NECN: Greg Wayland, Eastham, Mass.)

The race is on to save turtles on the coast of Cape Cod.
Every year, volunteers come together to rescue and rehabilitate the animals.

It's been a record year for stranded sea turtles in Massachusetts waters -- 140 and counting, and today they added a few more.

Bill Allan: "We're right about high tide now and what happens, the turtles will come in with the tide and the waves."

We stood above the cold December sea in Eastham, Mass., Bill Allan and I. We'd come to look for sea turtles stranded by the high tide.

Then, like hundreds of volunteers in towns facing Cape Cod Bay, we walked the beach, with extra help from Bill's golden retriever Hunter.

He's good at hunting for those stranded turtles. Every year in November and December, hundreds of them slip into the warm Gulf Stream from Mexico, get carried north to feast on crab in warm Cape waters, then become trapped in the Cape's long curving arm.

We looked along the "rack line" -- that margin of seaweed and flotsam where turtles usually turn-up, cold-stunned and inert from the forty-degree waters.

Wind is always a factor in where turtles will turn up.

"When we get westerly winds, we'll cover from Truro to Brewster. When it's northerly winds it's from Orleans to Barnstable or Sandwich.

"Finally we got word that there was a turtle that had come ashore at Breakwater Beach in Brewster.

"It's a little Kemp's-Ridley."

A young Kemp's-Ridley, the most endangered of the species -- seemingly lifeless, cold-stunned, its heartbeat possibly as low as one beat per minute.

Volunteers had staked it out, protected it with grass and seaweed, even written "turtle" next to it in the sand,
then moved on in search of more turtles.

Bill took it to the Audubon Sanctuary in Wellfleet.

Soon, Sanctuary director Bob Prescott arrived with more. volunteers to help clean, measure and weigh them
and box them for the trip to the New England Aquarium's Quincy sanctuary where they slowly raise their
temperature five degrees a day and revive them.

On the beach, Bill told us he's been doing this rescued work for eight years.

Bill: "And a couple of times I've gotten to release the turtle that I found the prior November. That's a big high."

About a hundred forty have been rescued so far this year -- and still counting.

If you wish to help volunteer, call the Wellfeet Audubon Sanctuary at 508-349-2615.

Source: NECN

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Three-year-old Plymouth boy rescues endangered sea turtle

By Don Lewis aka the Turtle Guy

Late Monday morning, Karen Whalley of Plymouth and her son Teague walked Sagamore Beach on a beautiful sunny day. The seas were calm and the winds gentle. The tide had receded, allowing Karen and Teague to explore the shoreline. As they approached a rock groin, Teague and his mom found a “beautiful” sea turtle unlike anything they had ever seen on the beach before. Not knowing what to do, they returned to their nearby home and searched the internet to find a Cape Cod sea turtle rescuer to call. Google search produced the hotline number for Turtle Journal (508-274-5108). They also found procedures on the site for saving stranded sea turtles.

After calling the Turtle Journal rescue team, Karen and Teague rushed back to the beach. The tide was rising quickly, and they had to plunge into the water to recover the turtle before it was dragged out to sea and condemned to certain death. As they lifted the turtle to the beach, it began to move its flippers, signaling that it was quite alive.

Karen and Teague covered the sea turtle with dry seaweed to prevent hypothermia while they waited for the Turtle Journal team to arrive.

Turtle Journal's Don Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse examined this juvenile, 2-year-old Kemp’s ridley. Its right eye had been damaged either by scraping against the rocks as it was driven ashore or by predatory gulls. But this little critter proved a survivor and demonstrated its fight for life by trying to “swim” out of Lewis' arms. Even though it was late in the afternoon, Lewis knew that this animal would not survive the night unless it received immediate medical attention. He called the New England Aquarium marine rescue hotline and explained the situation. While they are swamped with nearly a hundred cold-stunned turtles already, and rarely take new patients this late in the day, they generously agreed to accept this Kemp’s ridley. Lewis and Wieber Nourse raced up Route 3 to the new marine rescue facility in Quincy, and the turtle was admitted to the emergency facility by 4:15.

But none of this would have been possible if it were not for a heroic yound lad, Teague Whalley, and his mom Karen.

Don Lewis is executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts; Sue Wieber Nourse is a marine researcher, textbook author and master educator. Known as the Turtle Guy, Don and his spouse and partner, Sue Wieber Nourse, have led research, rescue and conservation activities from the tip of Cape Cod to Mount Hope Bay and around the globe for more than a decade. They own and operate Cape Cod Consultants, an environmental solution company that specializes in wildlife issues and habitat assessments that protect nature while enabling appropriate development. Their nature discoveries are chronicled on Turtle Journal.

Source: CapeCodToday

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turtles strand on Cape beaches in high numbers

By Eric Williams | Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | | Photo by Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times

Even turtle experts are stunned at the recent pace of cold-stunned turtle season on Cape Cod.

From Thursday through midday Monday, 85 sea turtles in trouble were plucked from area beaches.

"This certainly could be a record stranding year," said Robert Prescott, director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. "They’re being found anywhere from Sandy Neck in Barnstable all the way up to Ryder Beach in Truro."

Altogether this season, 107 turtles have been found alive and 26 found dead. Most of the survivors have been sent for treatment to a New England Aquarium rehabilitation facility in Quincy. Kemp’s ridley turtles make up the vast majority of the Cape’s stunned turtle population.

In 1999, 278 turtles were brought to the Audubon sanctuary, the current record.

The sanctuary is seeking donations of towels and cardboard boxes to help transport the chilled reptiles to rehab.

Experts say if you see a cold-stunned turtle, move it above the high-tide line. Cover it with eelgrass or seaweed to reduce the effect of the wind. Mark the spot with beach debris in a way that will allow it to be found again. Call the Mass Audubon's sea turtle hot line at 508-349-2615, ext. 104, and leave the exact location of the turtle. Then, let the turtle professionals do their thing.

Article URL:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Endangered Sea Turtles Rescued Off Cape Beaches

Sea turtles at center of attention

By Carla Gualdron | Friday, November 26, 2010 |
Photo by Jim Michaud

Twenty-one beleaguered sea turtles were rescued on Cape Cod beaches late Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day after they failed to swim south and succumbed to cold waters.

“They look like they’re dead,” said Tony LaCasse, media relations director of the New England Aquarium. “They’re black, green, covered in fungus. They literally have a single heart beat per minute.”

The turtles were brought to the aquarium’s new Animal Care Center in Quincy, a state-of-the-art facility that was specifically designed to handle a large number of animals over a short period of time in emergencies.

The Kemp-Ridley sea turtles, an endangered species, suffered from hypothermia and other injuries. Staff and volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay braved the cold to search for the critters. LaCasse said strong northwest winds drove the turtles on shore. Since Oct. 20, the aquarium has treated 24 other sea turtles.

“On Thanksgiving, we are thankful to have this new center,” LaCasse said.

Article URL:

Strong Winds Drove Kemp-Ridley Turtles Ashore

More coverage here:
Endangered Sea Turtles Rescued Off Cape Beaches - Boston News Story - WCVB Boston

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Making a Difference for People and Turtles: Parallel Careers in Medicine and Conservation."

Posted: 11/03/2010

Talk on turtles

BENNINGTON, Vt. -- The inaugural address in this year’s James L. FitzGerald Annual Invitational Health Services Lecture Series will take place at Southern Vermont College’s Everett Mansion Theatre on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 2:45 p.m.

Dr. Anders Rhodin, an orthopedic surgeon and owner of Wachusett Orthopedic, and Carol Conroy, vice president for operations and chief nursing officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, will deliver the results of their continuing research on turtles in a lecture titled "Making a Difference for People and Turtles: Parallel Careers in Medicine and Conservation."

In addition to being an orthopedic surgeon in private practice since 1982, Rhodin is also a world-renowned expert on turtles. A lifelong interest in turtles and tortoises, as well as the conservation of nature, has led Rhodin to become a leader in the global conservation community with a focus on turtles. He has been working on turtles since 1971 at Dartmouth College and then for several years as an Associate in Herpetology at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Conroy’s spare time is dedicated, in part, to turtle conservation. She serves on the Chairman’s Council of Conservation International and participates as a field assistant in turtle conservation and research activities with Rhodin.

The lecture is free.

For more information on the lecture, contact the Office of Communications at 802-447-6389/6388 or e-mail

Monday, October 25, 2010

Curtis Middle School honored for protecting Blanding's Turtles

By Neela de Zoysa/Special to the Town Crier
GateHouse Media

Curtis Middle School students in Sudbury and their seventh grade science teacher Michal Mueller received a Congressional recognition from Niki Tsongas on River Day, Sept. 12, for their involvement with saving the rare Blanding’s Turtle.

The certificate read “in recognition of your strong commitment to the environment of the 5th Congressional District. Thank you for caring for Blanding’s Turtle hatchlings”

The Annual River Day is an event hosted by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas to celebrate the waterways that connect the Fifth Congressional District. The awards were the highlight of the Tsongas’ visit to the new US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Visitor Center at the Assabet River NWR, which opened on Oct. 17.

The Blanding’s Turtle is listed as a rare species in Massachusetts as well as in 14 other states and three Canadian provinces. The species does not reproduce until they are about 15 years old, and they lay eggs in upland habitat and therefore need to move between upland and wetland habitat. The lack of understanding of these factors and the fragmented habitat are real problem to overcome. The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge located in Sudbury, Maynard, Stow and Hudson is a location where the turtles are being reintroduced by researchers

The conservation efforts include protecting nests and “head-starting” turtles raised in captivity for their first year. The “head-started” hatchlings are less vulnerable to predation and more likely to survive their second year of life in the wild.

“Going through this experience was very meaningful to me and gave me a huge insight in to the problems in my own backyard,” said Ali Stahr, one of the students. “I hope every kid has at least one chance to participate in programs like the one I did because I know that if they do, we will be one step closer to keeping our world safe”

Neela de Zoysa is a member of Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.

Source: WickedLocal

Copyright 2010 The Sudbury Town Crier. Some rights reserved

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Turtles get right-of-way on Weymouth base

By Ed Baker
Wicked Local Weymouth

Weymouth —
Eastern Box Turtles will get their own pathway at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station when the first phase of a two-lane parkway is scheduled for completion in June, 2012.

During separate public hearings on Sept. 27, the South Shore Tri-Town Corp. board of directors approved a Notice of Intent and a Determination of Applicability for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) to complete some land clearing near a wetlands at the base for construction of the East-West Parkway.

VHB administrative assistant Lisa Stanley said that the box turtles nest in an area north of a runway and west of the Old Swamp River that flows through a portion of the base.

“These two areas will be cleared of trees and the litter there will be raked up,” Stanley told the board. “The objective is to turn these areas into turtle nesting habitats.”

The Eastern Box Turtle is a small yellow-dotted amphibian that is protected under the state’s natural heritage and endangered species program.

Eastern Box Turtles are found along streams, bogs, marshes, and moist or dry woodlands in Massachusetts.

“The land will be cleared, and our plan is to ship the trees away to be chipped,” Stanley said. “The cleared area will be left for the turtles to access, and it will be accessible to them by next spring.”

She said that there are about 50 box turtles that nest on the base.

“They are on areas that are owned by LNR (Property Corp.) and are not in developed areas,” Stanley said. “The turtles live in conservation areas.”

She said that the parkway would have two wire-meshed fences to keep the turtles off the parkway after it is built.

A pathway under the road would provide the turtles access to their habitats.

Stanley said that roadway contractors would be required to keep the turtles off the parkway and an access road to the site while the two-lane road is being built.

“We want to clear an existing dirt road to be able to use to get the construction equipment in,” she said. “There will be a small fence to keep the turtles off the access road, and we will use jersey barriers to keep trucks from going into the wetlands.”

VHB’s plan includes placing an orange silt fence around the wetlands for truck drivers to avoid disturbing the restricted area.

“We will use hay stacks near the wetlands to protect them (the turtles),” Stanley said.

The construction of the parkway will begin with a design plan that is one quarter complete.

Stanley said that the first phase of the road would begin 300 feet west of the Old Swamp River and continue to Weymouth Street in Rockland.

“It is at a 25 percent design stage,” she said.

Hours after the News went to press on Sept. 28, the Rockland conservation commission was scheduled to review VHB’s request for a master permit to be issued for the portion of the parkway that extends through Rockland.

“We will come back to you for your approval once we get to a 75 percent design phase,” Stanley told the board. “We will submit the 75 percent design stage plan to you.”

Weymouth resident Tricia Pries said she appreciates the attempts to protect the turtles, but is uneasy about work being done on a parkway with only a 25 percent design phase completed.

“What if it gets halted by the Rockland conservation commission?” she said.

Steve Ivas, president of Ivas Environmental of Norwell, said he does not believe that Rockland officials would reject a permit request to construct the roadway.

“If a roadblock occurs, we will deal with that,” said Jeffrey Wall, chairman of the board.

Construction of the parkway is expected to get underway within a few weeks.

The road with two passing lanes in each direction will eventually give drivers access to the base from Route 18 near Trotter Road to Hingham Street near Reservoir Park Drive.

Gov. Deval Patrick and local officials broke ground for the roadway in July.

Patrick has committed $42.6 million in state aid to construct the road in a 30-year bond bill that lawmakers approved last year.

The funding includes $8 million in previous federal aid and $15 million in stimulus funding.

The state Department of Transportation gave the parkway construction a boost when it closed on a $30 million bond on June 30.

The bond will provide a major source of funding for the construction of the parkway.

Source: Wicked Local

Copyright 2010 Weymouth News. Some rights reserved

Friday, September 17, 2010

Turtles found in Wareham Community Garden hatching and healthy

By Ruth Thompson
GateHouse News Service
Posted Sep 16, 2010

The recent release of 18 painted turtle hatchlings into the wild was cause for celebration.

About 20 people were present at the Wareham Community Garden to witness the return of the thumb-size turtles to their natural habitat.

According to Don “the turtle guy” Lewis, painted turtles are medium-size and are found in lakes, ponds, wetlands and bogs throughout the state. He said painted turtles are on the protected status list in Massachusetts or elsewhere.

Lewis serves as the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts. His research and rescue exploits have been featured on National Geographic TV, and his work has been profiled in books on global animal rescue, endangered wildlife management and habitat preservation. His original stories and wildlife photography have been published around the globe.

Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse document the nature of coastal Massachusetts on their website,, and they share real-time adventures directly from the wild on Twitter.

In addition to the 18 painted turtle hatchlings that were released, Lewis also brought along a pair of Eastern box turtle hatchlings and two diamondback terrapin hatchlings to greet the community.

The Eastern box turtle hatchlings had been rescued from a nest along Route 6. The diamondback terrapins were protected on a beach in a nearby estuary.

Eastern box turtles are not aquatic and live in woodlands, fields and backyards throughout the Wareham community. They are protected in Massachusetts as a species of special concern.

Diamondback terrapins are a coastal marine turtle and can be found in salt and brackish water, such as salt marshes. They are protected in Massachusetts and are listed as threatened.

“The objective was to demonstrate for the community some of the wonderful turtle species that share the Wareham community with us,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the first 11 painted turtles came from three nests that were laid in the end of May in the garden beds of the Wareham Community Garden.

“The first was discovered by Dick Wheeler when he saw the female painted turtle and discovered the nest,” Lewis said.

Lewis said Wheeler called him and Wieber Nourse.

“When Sue went to the Wareham Community Gardens to protect this nest, she and Dick watched another female painted turtle dig a nest and deposit her eggs,” he said. “A third nest was found by another gardener in her garden patch.”

Lewis said the painted turtles have been nesting in the spot at the Wareham Community Gardens for generations.

“Now that humans are working their nesting site as a community garden, it makes good sense for them to exhibit good stewardship to protect future generations of turtles for future generations of humans to enjoy.”

The first three nests were laid and protected in late May. They hatched Aug. 17 after 83 days of incubation, yielding 11 perfect babies.

Lewis said while working on a new garden, Wheeler found two more sets of eggs buried in the soil.

“He called Sue and me,” Lewis said. “We relocated the eggs June 30 to our ‘turtle sanctuary’ in our backyard. Because the eggs were disturbed at an unknown period of their development, we had little expectation but always hope. From these eggs, seven perfect babies emerged Sept. 3 with the arrival of Hurricane Earl.”

Lewis said turtles hatch “fully prepared to deal with the world.”

“Their first act of survival is to tunnel to the surface from the nest and to scramble as quickly as possible into thick vegetation and wetlands for cover and concealment,” he said. “They are tiny, around an inch long and weighing a quarter of an ounce. Their shells are still crunchable like potato chips, and they are vulnerable to a host of critters.”

By the time the hatchlings are about 3 years old and the size of a hockey puck, they have an excellent chance of surviving for the long haul.

Lewis said depending on the species, turtles can live a “very, very long time.”

By protecting nests with a cage (predator excluder), and by helping them get into the thick vegetation near the wetlands when they hatch, humans are providing an enormous boost to the survival of these babies and to the survival of the species.

“Once in the wild, these babies will largely live off the nutrient package (yolk sac) that momma has provided for the fall,” he said. “They will burrow under vegetation or slip into the thick vegetation of the wetlands and burrow into the mud and muck for the winter. They will snooze their winter in the Great White North, protected by a covering, a warming ooze. In the springtime, when temperatures rise once again, they will emerge hungry and raring to go.”

Lewis said turtles have adapted to every conceivable, and some pretty inconceivable, habitat on earth and can be found on the six continents in landscapes and seascapes from the ocean depths to the high desert.

“Turtles serve our world as a metaphor for its environmental health,” he said. “They are the earth's ecological barometers. As turtle species decline, the quality of our planet declines proportionately. As turtle species recover, so does our precious blue world.”

Lewis said if someone comes across a hatchling, if it appears healthy, place it under vegetation in a safe area where it was found. For adult turtles, place the turtle in a safe place in the direction it was heading.

Because different species requires different habitats, people are encouraged to call the hotline.

“If you have any doubt our question about what to do, call the 24/7 turtle hotline at 508-274-5108,” he said.

Source: Wicked Local
Copyright 2010 Wicked Local Wareham. Some rights reserved

Taunton's Bristol County Agricultural High School gives 'threatened' turtles a head start in life

By Charles Winokoor
Taunton Daily Gazette Staff Writer
Posted Sep 16, 2010

Taunton —

If Blanding’s turtles could talk, they would probably say thank you to participating students in the Natural Resources Management program at Bristol County Agricultural High School.

For the past three years, sophomore students involved in the NRM program have monitored and nurtured newly hatched Blanding’s turtles during the fall and winter months, eventually releasing them into the wild the following spring.

The goal of the program is to increase the Blanding’s turtle’s chances of achieving a population comeback in the Bay State.

Massachusetts is one of six states that designate the the Blanding’s turtle as a “threatened” species. Four other states, as well as Ontario and Nova Scotia, list it as “endangered.”

The NRM program is a vital component of re-establishing the Blanding’s species in the commonwealth, said Kurt Buhlmann, a conservation ecologist at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

Buhlmann came to Bristol Aggie this week, bearing the gift of nearly 50 baby, or hatchling, Blanding’s turtles.

The hatchlings will be carefully “head-started” within the temperature-controlled confines of one of the school’s six greenhouses, where they will be kept safe from birds, chipmunks and other natural predators.

The special head-start treatment ensures that the semi-aquatic turtles will have the chance to grow quicker and larger than their counterparts in the wild, thus making them far less vulnerable to becoming another animal’s meal, Buhlmann said.

The joint effort of the University of Georgia’s ecology unit and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dates back to 2007, when 28 hatchlings were released at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.

But this is only the second year Bristol County Agricultural High School has participated by offering the use of its greenhouse, which utilizes ultra-violet lamps. They also allow the turtles to eat as much as they want, whenever they want.

The refuge, with its wetlands, fields and forest, consists of 2,230 acres,within sections of Sudbury, Maynard, Hudson and Stow.

The Assabet refuge was formerly part the U.S. Army’s former Fort Devens Sudbury Training Annex; ownership was transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000.

“There aren’t many areas in the state like that,” said Brian Butler, president of Oxbow Associates, an Acton-based wetlands and wildlife consulting company hired to help develop the plan to re-populate the Blanding’s turtle.

Butler, who was also on hand at Bristol Aggie, said the hatchlings delivered this week were from eggs previously laid in the marshy ground of Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, located near Ayer and Shirley.

Of the total number of eggs retrieved and examined, half were brought to the high school to be incubated while the other 50 or so were put back in the ground in protective wire-mesh cages.

Each baby turtle has identifying notch markings engraved on its shell, he said.

Butler said his company’s name came about, in part, as a result of the thesis he wrote 20 years ago at the Oxbow Wildlife Refuge.

He said his contract with the fish and wildlife service is not especially lucrative, but he added that he wasn’t complaining either.

“This project is really interesting and fun,” Butler said.

NRM students this past May traveled to Sudbury where they went on the river in canoes and released approximately 50 healthy head-started Blanding’s turtles.

The goal for May 2011 is to release 75, Butler said.

The program model requires that at least 50 turtles be released every year for a period of 10 years.

Buhlmann said the head-start capability provided by the school is invaluable, in part because it can take 15 to 20 years for a Blanding’s turtle to reach sexual maturity.

Some of the head-started turtles literally carry a load: About a dozen of those released last spring had radio transmitters attached to their shells.

Buhlmann said that the two-stage micro-transmitters, which run on lithium batteries and are epoxied to the shells, transmit valuable information that allows researchers to track the turtles’ movements and whereabouts.

“It tells us if they’re staying in the habitat and indicates if the habitat is suitable,” Buhlmann said.

It also, he said, “tells us where to release them next year.”

Each transmitter weighs just three and a half grams with the epoxy accounting for an additional gram, which equals roughly five percent of the turtle’s weight, Buhlmann said.

Zach Cava, a 23-year-old Ithica College biology graduate who is doing a herpetology internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that he tries to track the movement of the turtles three times a week.

Sixteen-year-old Katie Barboza was one of 18 NRM sophomores last year who kept track of the turtles’ progress.

“It’s a great program to start with,” in an environmental field of study, Barboza said.

Barbara Mello, public relations representative for the school’s admissions office, said NRM students have made unexpected discoveries during the course of their head-start growth studies — one of which is the benefit of natural sunlight versus UV rays.

Mello also said that one student concocted a meal the turtles found irresistible, consisting of unflavored Jello, pieces of beef heart and shrimp.

Mello said that she and others grow attached to the turtles as they become full-grown.

“I have mixed emotions when they’re released,” she said.

Copyright 2010 The Taunton Gazette. Some rights reserved

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Box Turtles at Wellfleet Bay

Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

2-4 p.m. Saturday, September 11, 2010

Outdoor program focusing on eastern box turtle, a Species of Special Concern in Massachusetts. Join sanctuary director Bob Prescott for a short introductory lecture followed by a field walk in search of box turtles. Information on their natural history, biology, and research provided.

$10. Reservations required. 508-349-2615.

291 Route 6, South Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Boaters urged to avoid sea turtles

PROVINCETOWN — Marine wildlife officials yesterday reminded boaters that they share the water with large sea turtles that can be hard to spot.

Leatherback turtles are a federally listed endangered species. They can grow to seven-feet long and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. They are migratory and populate Cape and Islands waters at this time of year eating jellyfish and spending time at the surface.

Several have already been hit, some fatally, by vessels in local waters this year. Boaters can avoid sea turtle collisions by proceeding with caution and posting lookouts watching for turtles in areas of relatively high concentration such as Buzzards Bay, Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay.

A second, more frequent danger for sea turtles is entanglement in fishing, mooring and other vertical lines. Brian Sharpe, who leads the state's turtle disentanglement team at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, said his team has freed 13 leatherbacks from lines this summer. Ten were still alive, he said.

With a 6½-foot wingspan, one wrong turn near a line can mean entanglement and possible death for these giants of the sea.

Sharpe said mariners should not try to free turtles because they are powerful animals that could injure a would-be rescuer. Plus, the Provincetown-based rescue team doesn't want a partially freed animal to swim off with entangled gear, Sharpe said. Trained responders can properly free entangled sea turtles, collect essential data, and tag turtles for scientific research, he said.

Marine wildlife officials ask boaters who spot an entangled turtle to call the Massachusetts Sea Turtle Disentanglement Hotline at 800-900-3622. Boaters can also call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 866-755-NOAA or hail the Coast Guard on Channel 16. If possible, boaters should remain at a safe distance and wait for a trained biologist to arrive.

Source: Cape Cod Times

Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Patty continues long,slow road to recovery at National Marine Life Center

By Ruth Thompson
GateHouse News Service

Things continue to look up for Patty as she makes a slow recovery from the brink of death at the National Marine Life Center (NMLC).

The diamondback terrapin turtle was brought to the NMLC in March 2009 after having been cold stunned by the frigid temperatures of winter water. At the time, she was immobilized by shock, blinded by burst blood vessels in her eyes, and her rear legs were partially paralyzed.

Diamondback terrapins are on endangered species list in Massachusetts.

Turtles that are cold stunned often die, and Patty’s prognosis at the time was questionable.

She responded well to treatments that included antibiotics, physical therapy, a hearty, healthy diet and plenty of rest and relaxation.

A serious bone infection she developed is also improving.

“Her shell is starting to grow back,” NMLC President and Executive Director Kathy Zagzebski said. “You can see the pigment coming back.”

Zagzebski explained the shell of a turtle is actually bone, and on top of the bone is a layer of skin, the pigment of the shell is the skin, and on top of the skin is the keratin, which is much like the human fingernail. Below the shell is another layer of skin, and below that is more bone.

“It’s the lower layer of bone that is growing back,” Zagzebski said.

When Patty was found frozen and brought to the NMLC by Don “The Turtle Guy” Lewis, the blood supply to the bone had been cut off and the bone started dying.

“She lost 95 percent of her top shell,” Zagzebski said.

In order to prevent further infection, the dead skin and bone had to be removed.

Patty receives a gentle scrub with antibiotics every day, which is followed by an antibiotic-laced dressing being placed over her shell. The water in her tank is changed daily, and the rocks inside the tank are also cleaned to make sure there is nothing within her habitat that could make her sick.

“It’s very critical we make sure she does not get an internal infection,” Zagzebski said.

Because of the loss of bone and skin, Patty’s shell has a pinkish hue to it.

“I don’t think she’ll ever look normal, but we want the bone to grow thick enough to protect her in the wild,” Zagzebski said.

The objective of the NMLC is to return animals to their natural environment once they are fully recovered and rehabilitated and able to care for themselves on their own.

As for Patty, there’s more good news: she’ll soon be moving into a larger tank outside of the exam room.

“It has a bigger filtration system,” Zagzebski said.

And that will allow for more room to stretch those legs.

Another area of improvement for Patty is her mobility.

“She can move very well,” Zagzebski said.

She is regularly tested to see how she fares in deeper water, and while she’s not ready for the ocean’s depths, Zagzebski said she is in double the amount of water she was in last spring.

“That’s a good sign,” she said. “She can move well and walk well, though she’s not swimming at 100 percent yet.”

There’s optimism that Patty will eventually be back 100 percent, especially if her appetite stays strong.

According to Zagzebski, Patty consumes up to two pounds of cohogs every week (weight is based on cohogs in their shells).

“Patty would really appreciate anyone able to donate cohogs,” Zagzebski said.

Yet while Patty is definitely moving in the right direction, Zagzebski said she will be a long-term patient at the NMLC.

It could be five years before she is ready to be released back into the wild.

In the meantime, Patty remains the darling of the NMLC community with staff members, volunteers and visitors all looking after her and wishing her well.


Patty isn’t the only turtle at the NMLC currently being nursed back to health.

In a private room off the maze of corridors in the NMLC building, Catch-22 is also settling in nicely to his surroundings as he is being treated for legions on his shell.

Catch-22 is a northern red-bellied cooter.

He was part of the Head Start program sponsored by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. The program collects 100 hatchlings and places them with partner organizations – wildlife centers, zoos, schools – that care for the hatchlings over the winter months following specific guidelines.

The hatchlings remain awake through the winter and are given all the lettuce and vitamins they can eat.

Zagzebski said they put on the equivalent of three years of growth, so they have a greater chance of survival twhen they are released back into the wild.

Northern red-bellied cooters are a freshwater species indigenous to Plymouth County.

They are on the endangered list at both the state and federal level.

Before they are released around Memorial Day, the hatchlings are turned back over to the state from the partner organizations, where they are measured and weighted and checked for any potential health issues.

Zagzebski said the state asked the NMLC to examine Catch-22, named as such because his ID number was 22.

“He had some other issues,” she said, adding that he seemed weak and his mouth was continuously open.

As part of the procedure for evaluating new patients, Zagzebski said Catch-22 was X-rayed as part of his full exam.

His X-ray revealed that he had swallowed a staple.

“That can be really dangerous as it moves through his system,” Zagzebski said.

The veterinarian felt surgery to remove the staple would be too dangerous, so it was suggested Catch-22 be tube fed a lettuce and oil concoction to help lubricate his insides.

“The staple passed through without any internal damage,” Zagzebski said.

She said Catch-22 could have been stationed beneath a bulletin board, where a staple fell into his tank, as a possible explanation of how the turtle could have ended up with a staple in his innards.

“Turtles will try to eat anything in their environment,” she said. “We have to be really careful about their environment.”

As for the legions on his shell, a biopsy revealed it’s a superficial fungal infection.

He is being treated with the antibiotic scrub.

Zagzebski said the legions are already starting to heal and the diseased pieces are falling off.

“It does not go to the bone,” she said.

Despite Catch-22 being rather shy, which is why is he being kept in a somewhat out-of-the-way spot, Zagzebski said he’s doing really well, especially since passing the staple.

“He’s doing really well,” she said.

NMLC staff are just waiting on lab results to make sure there are no serious issues with Catch-22; if not, he’ll be released back into the wild.

“Hopefully before it gets too cold,” Zagzebski said. “The worse case scenario is we’ll keep him here over the winter and release him in the spring.”

Source: Wicked Local

Copyright 2010 Wicked Local Wareham. Some rights reserved

Previous article on "Patty" -> Patty the turtle continues slow recovery

Friday, August 27, 2010

Turtles halt cemetery construction

Norwell, Massachusetts

By Jessica Bartlett, Town Correspondent

The building of a new cemetery off Stetson Shrine Lane in Norwell is still on hold due to the presence of the Eastern Box Turtle, an endangered species with habitats in the area, causing concern about the increasing lack of cemetery space in Norwell.

About a half mile from the North River, Stetson Shrine Lane was land initially given to the Norwell Recreation Department, said Gertrude Daneau, the chairman of the Cemetery Committee. It was traded with the Cemetery Committee after the initial property for the cemetery was found with too high of a water table.

Yet after a town meeting to switch the properties, turtles were discovered around the area, inhibiting the development of the land for a cemetery.

“We have the money to develop it, we're all set. We've been set for more than a year to develop that property, but the turtles are holding us up,” Daneau said. “How much longer it's going to be? We don't know.”

Currently, the town has about 35 cemetery lots available for immediate use, and another 20 additional lots available for cremation burials. Because of the low numbers, Norwell residents are unable to buy lots ahead of time.

“Up until three months ago, we would sell any residents of the town lots ahead of time, but now we can't do that. We have a lot of people calling, but what do we tell them? If I had filled all the requests we'd received, we wouldn't have much left. Then if someone died, what would we do? They wouldn't be able to be buried in Norwell,” she said.

If Norwell runs out of cemetery plots, residents would have to go to private cemeteries in nearby towns for burial, places that charge double than what the town charges, Daneau said.

“It is a fairly immediate problem,” said the chair of the Norwell Board of Selectmen, Richard Merritt.

“We still do have some space on our cemetery on Washington Street, we have enough to accommodate burials for a few more years, but we don't have space to sell people who want to plan further ahead,” he said.

This can be problematic, Marrit said, as only residents of the town can purchase cemetery plots in Norwell, a problem for older residents who move out of their homes in their later years.

Switching sites isn't really an option, Merritt said, as you need a lot of space, road access, and a suitable water table, a difficult find in Norwell.

However, to smooth the process, Norwell has dedicated a parcel of the land in the area for conservation, and is even willing to make the cemetery grounds smaller to make room for the turtles.

“I think it will be approved under some circumstances, it may get smaller than it is, but best case scenario, we go forward with our plans,” he said. “I think it will be resolved before next summer, well within a year's time.”

Marion Larsen, an Information and Educational Biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, couldn't comment on the status of the proposal but noted that it is rare for cases like this to be denied.

"In many cases, there is no requirement for the project to change, sometimes modifications can be made, and very few are not allowed to go through at all," she said.

Yet using the land is still a long ways away, as the town still needs to appropriate the funds for building at a town meeting in May.

Daneau doesn't see anything happening with it anytime soon.

“It's going to be at least a year, and that's being optimistic,” she said.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Two entangled leatherback sea turtles rescued

Two leatherback sea turtles entangled in fishing gear were rescued yesterday in Cape waters.

The turtles weighed between 700 and 800 pounds, said Brian Sharp with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, which runs the Massachusetts Sea Turtle Disentanglement Network.

Both of the entanglements were reported by recreational fishermen, he said.

The first turtle was spotted around 11 a.m. in Truro's Pamet Harbor, he said. The second was seen in the Wychmere Harbor area around 2 p.m., said Harwich Harbor Master Tom Leach.

An assistant harbor master helped with the Harwich rescue, he said.

Crews from the International Fund for Animal Welfare marine mammal rescue program responded to the Harwich rescue, as the Provincetown rescuers were in Truro, Sharp said. Both turtles were able to swim away after the fishing gear was removed.

Source: Cape Cod Times

Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Endangered sea turtles to be released off Cape beach today

Globe staff file photo/Dina Rudick

By Alex Katz, Globe Correspondent

Months after they were found near death on the beaches of Cape Cod, 18 endangered sea turtles will be returned to the ocean this afternoon on the shores of the lower Cape.

Staff and volunteers from the New England Aquarium and the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, will assist with the release.

The juvenile Kemp's Ridleys are the world's most endangered sea turtles, and the species most affected by the Gulf oil spill, aquarium officials said. Some scientists expect the oil to be largely gone by the time the turtles arrive in the Gulf, while others remain deeply worried about the long-term damage of dispersants used there.

The turtles were originally rescued last fall by the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay before being brought to the aquarium for life-saving medical care.

After months of rehabilitation, they are now ready for release. The sea turtles are expected to remain nearby and feed on crabs for the remainder of the summer, and then ultimately make their way down south.

At the end of every summer sea turtles can get trapped off Cape Cod. Their body temperature declines as the water temperature falls, and they become lethargic.

If the turtles are lucky, they wash up on beaches where more than 100 volunteers affiliated with Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and staff there comb beaches to find them each winter. The near-death turtles are then brought to designated turtle rehabilitation centers to be treated for hypothermia, pneumonia, dehydration, shell and bone fractures, and infections.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beachgoers advised to watch for tiny turtles

By Aaron Gouveia
August 08, 2010

They're back. And this year they're early.

This summer's heat wave has baked the diamondback terrapin eggs buried underneath local beaches to the point the minuscule turtles are hatching earlier than at any point in the past three decades, said Don Lewis, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts.

Terrapin eggs on Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet began hatching Friday, after being laid in a nest on June 5, Lewis said. The eggs' 61-day incubation period is nine days shorter than any recorded in the past 31 years, Lewis said.

Terrapins hatched after 69 days in Eastham, which is still five days fewer than an average incubation period, Lewis said.

Although Lewis said the early hatching is "not negative," the turtles have been without much-needed moisture, which they absorb and use to grow while incubating.

"The fact that it's been a dry summer means a lot of the eggs are not getting enough moisture and the babies are going to be smaller than normal, which increases their vulnerability," Lewis said.

The newly hatched terrapins are roughly 1-inch long, weighing in at just one-quarter of an ounce when they hatch. That means the turtles, which are listed as threatened on the federal Endangered Species List, are susceptible to a plethora of predators.

On average, each nest contains about a dozen eggs, but often only nine or 10 hatch, Lewis said. As a whole, the survival rate drops to about one of every 250 baby terrapins, he said.

Although common predators such as raccoons, skunks and foxes use the protein-rich turtles to feed their own young, the turtles are also vulnerable to human beings who often don't realize they are killing the terrapins.

Lewis urged all beachgoers to look for "crawling pebbles" while traversing the Cape's sandy shorelines for the rest of the summer, and to carry the baby turtles to safety if possible.

"Just doing that little thing has an enormous conservation value because those few feet from nest to scrambling into vegetation are the most dangerous moments in that animal's life," Lewis said. "Saving a couple of turtles here or there makes an enormous difference to the population."

Lewis said Wellfleet Bay is one of New England's major hot spots for terrapins, and anyone with questions about the turtles can call Lewis' 24-hour hotline at 508-274-5108.

Copyright © Cape Cod Media Group, a division of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cars vs. turtles results in mounting losses for the reptiles

The Republican file photo / Don Treeger
A snapping turtle takes its time crossing Route 19 in Brimfield.

Cars vs. turtles results in mounting losses for the reptiles

Alas, a turtle’s shell is no match for a 2-ton automobile, and this time of year the carnage on roadways across New England involving these reptiles can ravage their population.

Turtles, even those that live the rest of the year in water, travel the landscape in late spring and early summer looking for sites to lay eggs. And, that often means crossing roads - at a turtle’s pace.

“Probably there is no other wildlife species that is as vulnerable to road kill as turtles,” said Scott D. Jackson, a wildlife biologist at University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

“Not just individuals but populations are highly vulnerable because turtles tend to live a long time and need a long reproductive life to counter the high mortality (of their young),” Jackson said. “So to lose turtles prematurely, especially females, can be devastating to them.”

Massachusetts has 10 native turtle species that live on land or in fresh water, and five are listed under the state’s Endangered Species Act. There are also several sea turtles that visit the Bay State’s coast.

Turtles can live long lives, with some box turtles reaching 100. But, owing to predation of their young in the nest or in their first year, few young turtles reach adulthood.

Most of the state’s native turtles are less than 10 inches long. The glaring exception is the snapping turtle, which can reach 18 inches in length and weigh more than 40 pounds.

When one encounters a small turtle in the road, it should be lifted to the side of the road to which it was heading, said Marjorie W. Rines, a naturalist with the Massachusetts Audubon Society.

“People see a turtle going from a wet area to a dry area and think it’s making a mistake, so they move it back to the wet area,” she said. “But, they’re just making life harder for the poor turtle who now has to turn around and go back” to resume its search for a suitable nesting site on dry land.

Another mistake people make is to take the turtle out of the road and move it to the nearest pond, which may be quite a distance away. This, too, is a mistake, and the turtle may now be far from its familiar territory.

When a snapping turtle is encountered in a roadway, do not attempt to move it unless absolutely necessary, naturalists say.

Snapping turtles can move quicker than people think, they can extend their necks and reach farther with their heads than people think, and they can crush and even sever a finger when they bite.

“Try to direct traffic around it because they can be dangerous to handle. But be careful. You don’t want to put yourself at risk and you don’t want to put other drivers at risk,” Jackson said.

On its website, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife offers this advice if a snapping turtle must be moved.

“Use a broom and plastic tub (or box) to capture them, by sweeping them into the tub. An alternative method is to pick them up by grabbing the tail and then sliding one hand underneath the turtle to support the body. Lift it like a platter, steering with the tail. A snapping turtle can reach your hands if you lift it by the sides of its shell ... Do not lift them only by the tail; that can injure their spine.”

Source: MASS.Live
© 2010 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Preserving Mass wildlife: linking landscapes - Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Posted by Tim Dexter, MassDOT Environmental Analyst

Transportation infrastructure affects wildlife through direct mortality due to vehicle collisions, fragmenting and isolating habitats, and by altering natural habitats. In addition, roadway usage by wildlife causes accidents, which can result in property damage and personal injury. To address these issues, the MassDOT Highway Division has teamed up with MassWildlife, UMass Amherst, and the Vernal Pool Association to create ‘Linking Landscapes’, a long-term and multifaceted effort to minimize the impact of the existing road network on wildlife, while improving highway safety.

The Linking Landscapes research framework is simple: team up with citizen scientists to gather information on wildlife roadway mortality hotspots, to inform long term planning decisions in the context of transportation infrastructure upgrades. A critical component to the research is a user friendly online mapping interface where the general public, state highway personnel and law enforcement can document site specific wildlife mortality observations.

I was pleased to lead a discussion about turtle mortality with representatives from communities in the watersheds of the Sudbury, Assabet, Concord and Shawsheen Rivers, above. My thanks to Sylvia Willard of the Carlisle Conservation Commission for the photo.

How can you get involved? Three statewide citizen science research efforts are underway:

The Wildlife Roadway Mortality Database: Document your observations of wildlife deceased due to wildlife vehicle collisions.

The Vernal Pool Salamander Migration Study: During early spring rain events, mole salamanders migrate from their upland hibernating habitat to vernal pools to reproduce. Often, hibernating habitat and vernal pools are separated by roadways, which causes roadway mortality. Be on the look out for large ‘over the road’ salamander migrations in early spring, and record the locations within the Amphibian Roadway Crossing Database.

The Turtle Roadway Mortality Study: Turtles have existed for millions of years, but roadways are threatening the survival of local populations. Turtles in Massachusetts often cross roadways late spring to early fall. Keep your eyes peeled as you drive by wetland areas, and record your observations of turtle roadway mortality. The information gathered will be used to coordinate local turtle conservation efforts.

Get involved and find more information on the web.

Source: Article Ant

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Be on the watch for turtles this month

Posted Jun 01, 2010 @ 10:00 AM

Over the next month or so, from the end of May until the end of June, female turtles will leave their watery hangouts and trek overland in search of a spot to lay their eggs.

Massachusetts has 10 species of native turtles -- painted, snapping, musk, red-bellied, bog, spotted, Blanding's, wood, box and diamondback terrapins (and one exotic species, the red-eared slider). Except for the box turtle, which is a terrestrial or land turtle, and the diamondback terrapin, which lives in salt marshes, all of our turtles live in fresh water environments.

From diminutive 4-inch-long musk turtles to 60-pound snapping turtles, if you live or work near a pond, stream, swamp or other wetland, you're likely to see one of these reptiles crossing a road or parking lot, or digging a nest hole in an open field or vacant lot, or even in your yard.

Turtle nests consist of a hole in the ground, which female turtles dig with their hind feet. They tend to choose patches of bare soil, which is easy to dig in, in open areas like fields or yards where the nests will get plenty of sunlight to incubate the eggs. For example, a conservation officer for a town north of Boston told me recently that Blanding's turtles, which are a threatened species in Massachusetts, like to nest in the sandy soil on the town's soccer field. During nesting season the part of the soccer field where the turtles dig their nests has to be cordoned off until the baby turtles hatch in late August and early September.

Smaller turtles, like bog or musk turtles, may only lay four or five eggs. Bigger turtles, like Blanding's or snapping turtles, may lay a dozen or more. After she's finished laying her eggs, the female turtle fills in the nest hole and covers the eggs by pushing the loose soil she's excavated back into the hole with her hind feet. The eggs usually hatch anywhere from two to three months after being laid.

Interestingly, the sex of the hatchlings is determined by temperature, with warmer soil temperatures typically producing female offspring and cooler soil temp's producing male offspring, although this can vary depending on the species.

Threats to turtle eggs include mammals like raccoons, skunks, opossums and rats, which will dig up the nests and eat the eggs, according to Kerry Muldoon, Conservation Commission biologist for the city of New Bedford. Muldoon adds that even plants can pose a threat to turtle eggs. She says the roots of beach grass and saltmarsh cordgrass can penetrate and destroy the eggs of diamondback terrapins, which she studied while in graduate school. Hatchling turtles likewise fall prey to a variety of animals including mammals, birds and even ants.

Many adult turtles are hit by cars as they cross roads in search of nest sites or when they attempt to nest in open areas along the edges of roads. Turtles also sometimes nest in the open, sandy and gravelly soil next to railroad tracks where they may be hit by trains or become trapped between the rails. Biologist Tim Beaulieu says he found about a dozen or more turtle nests along a 100-foot section of railroad track behind a small pond while conducting a biology survey for reptiles and amphibians in a suburban area west of Boston a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, Beaulieu said, all the nests had been destroyed by predators. Additionally, Beaulieu said he found the remains of several adult painted and snapping turtles trapped between the rails.

Turtle eggs and hatchlings have a high mortality rate and only a small percentage of turtles ever reach adulthood. Because of this low survival rate, says the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife website on turtles, "...a turtle must live for many years and reproduce many times in order to replace themselves in their population. Losing any adult turtles, and particularly adult females, is a serious problem that can tragically lead to the eventual local extinction of a population."

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife's Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program is working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on a new program called the Turtle Roadkill Monitoring Project to locate turtle roadkill hotspots. Its goal is to identify and monitor problem road crossing sites for turtles. The program is asking for public's help to identify potential turtle roadkill hotspots in your town, working to confirm the spots with project coordinators, then help conduct road surveys at these sites during designated time periods in May and June.

In addition to roadkill hotspots, Mass. Fisheries and Wildlife and the Turtle Conservation Project are asking the public to submit information on locations where multiple turtles nest, as well as to report sightings of individual turtles.

If you should find a female turtle nesting in your yard, Mass. Fisheries and Wildlife says the best thing to do is to keep people and animals away from the area until she's done nesting, which can take several hours. Also, remember that turtles can deliver a painful bite and, in the case of large snapping turtles, can inflict serious wounds. Half a dozen of Massachusetts' native turtle species are state listed as endangered, threatened, or species of special concern. Other than snapping, painted and musk turtles, it is illegal to capture and keep wild turtles as pets in Massachusetts. It's also important never to release store-bought turtles into the wild, as they may transmit diseases to wild turtle populations.

Turtles have been around since before the time of the dinosaurs and they play an important role in the environment as predators, herbivores and prey.

"Aquatic turtles often represent a very high proportion of animal biomass in wetlands they occupy, therefore making them very important in wetland food webs," says Dr. Hal Avery, a biology professor and turtle researcher at Drexel University in Philadelphia. "Turtles occupy many trophic levels (an organism's feeding position in a food web)," says Avery, "from primary consumers (herbivores) to top carnivores,"

Turtles also play an important role in limiting herbivore populations, according to Avery, which helps maintain the stability of entire ecosystems and ecological communities. "For example," says Avery, "without diamondback terrapins, Spartina (the dominant salt marsh plant) salt marshes would be overgrazed and lost to mollusc grazers."

Avery, his colleague professor Jim Spotila and other researchers from Drexel University, in conjunction with volunteers coordinated through the nonprofit organization Earthwatch, have been conducting a long-term research project at New Jersey's Barnegat Bay for several years now, studying the ecology of diamondback terrapins and the effects of humans on these turtles. The researchers are discovering that commercial fishing, shoreline development, pollution, the hazards of roads and motor vehicles, and even boat noise all take their toll on turtles.

"Because they occupy some of the most biologically diverse and productive ecosystems in the world," says Avery, "and because they utilize aquatic and terrestrial habitats within these ecosystems, aquatic turtles are paramount indicators of ecosystem function, making them important model organisms to study in conservation biology."

Unfortunately many species of turtles are threatened due to habitat destruction, pollution, roads and other hazards. But research being carried out by scientists, as well as programs like those being conducted by Mass. Fisheries and Wildlife, and citizen involvement in turtle conservation efforts, can help ensure that turtles will continue to be around to play their important roles in the environment, and for future generations to observe and enjoy as part of our natural heritage.

Don Lyman is an adjunct instructor in the Biology Department at Merrimack College in North Andover.

Find out more:

Massachusetts Turtle Roadkill Monitoring Project:

Turtle Conservation Project:

Earthwatch Barnegat Bay Diamondback Terrapin Project:

Copyright 2010 The Daily News Tribune. Some rights reserved