By Neela de Zoysa/Special to the Town Crier
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.
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