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  • A Summer of Blanding's Fieldwork

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    Tags: blandings turtle, conservation, fieldwork, turtle tuesday

    Created: 9/14/2015      Updated: 7/29/2016

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    You may have noticed some new faces in our Blanding’s Turtle Conservation Lab, that’s because we have taken in a new group of Blanding’s hatchlings to headstart.

    Two Blanding's Turtle hatchlings

    It all began a few months ago, when our Biology team and Dan Thompson of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County went out into the field to track down some gravid Blanding’s turtles that were ready to lay their eggs. Each turtle has a tiny radio transmitter attached to her shell which gives off a unique signal so using a receiver we can track them. After locating them, the turtles were put into secure laying pens so they could lay their eggs in safety before being re-released. The eggs were then collected and put into an incubator to hatch.

    Nature Museum biologist Jamie Forberg holding a Blanding's turtleDan Thompson of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County holding a Blanding's turtle

    After a couple of months, the tiny turtles began to emerge from their eggs.

    Baby Blanding's Hatching

    Looks like #TurtleTuesday decided to turn into #TurtleWednesday! We caught one of our adorable baby Blanding's Turtles hatching on camera!

    Posted by Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    It was about at this same time that our 2014 hatchlings reached the point where they were ready to be released into the wild. So, a few weeks ago, our Biology staff, along with Dan Thompson, released 60 of our 2014 Blanding’s hatchlings into the wild. We kept 24 of the 2014 hatchlings (some of which you can see in our Blanding’s display tank in Mysteries of the Marsh), and have introduced 106 2015 Blanding’s hatchlings to the Conservation Lab.

    Museum biologist Celeste Troon and Dan Thompson releasing hatchlings

    The majority of turtle predation takes place as eggs or during the first two years of life. By giving the Blanding’s hatchlings a "headstart" at the Museum during this vulnerable time, we are increasing their chances of survival. Although our Animal Care team works hard to provide them with this headstart, we don’t want the turtles to become habituated to humans. In order to reduce the risk of this happening, our biologists keep handling to an absolute minimum and the turtles that are on exhibit at the Museum are behind one-way glass. This is all part of a larger effort, in collaboration with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, to help restore the population of this endangered, native species and help re-establish ecological balance to the area.

    Museum biologist Lalainya Goldsberry releasing hatchlings

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  • Finally Fieldwork

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    Tags: conservation, fieldwork, blandings turtle, endangered, Biology

    Created: 6/11/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

    A sure sign of the change of seasons is when we in the Biology Department finally start to get out to do field work. Our Blanding’s Turtle work was severely affected last year by the drought so we had some catching up to do. First order of business, release all last years hatchlings that we had held onto due to a lack of water. We begin by blanking out their individual ID numbers to make them less conspicuous.

    Blanking out Blanding's ID number with marker


    Then we select suitable sites with relatively shallow water, plenty of vegetation for cover and a healthy population of aquatic invertebrates for food. It is always a delightful moment when we watch these little turtles get their first taste of freedom.

    Releasing Blanding's hatchlings into the water


    After all the hatchlings were released we started doing some radio tracking. This can be a slow process as we work to follow the beeps emitted by the transmitter and home in on its location.

    Biologists tracking Blanding's in the water


    This time we had so much water to work in we had a problem reaching the bottom to grab the turtle when we located it. We go from one extreme to the other it seems! Unfortunately our first trail was a bust as we came up with a detached transmitter but we would far rather have this happen than find one that had obviously been removed by a predator.

    A detached radio transmitter


    We can recycle and refit these transmitters so we carefully stowed it and then set of tracking another turtle.

    Biologists tracking turtles through the marsh


    This one led us on a merry dance through all kinds of habitat...

    Biologists wading through the water


    ...before we eventually tracked it down. It is always a great way to end a day of fieldwork by finding a large, strong, healthy turtle.

    An adult Blanding's turtle


    He will have his transmitter replaced and then be rereleased at the exact location he was found. Hopefully he will soon find some female turtles and start work on this year's batch of babies!

    Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections

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