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We had a successful weekend. We were able to perform health checks on 10 more turtles! I was working closely with John Byrd of CRESO. He and his team find the turtles and collect morphometric data, and then present them to me for the health work-up. It’s a pretty amazing partnership, so I thought I would tell you a little about them:
CRESO, or the Clinch River Environmental Studies Organization was established in 1989 jointly by three institutions: the Anderson County, TN public school system, the Department of Energy, the Oak Ridge Schools, the Oak Ridge National Lab- Environmental Science Division, and the University of Tennessee Forest Resources Research & Education Center. John Byrd and Kathy Strunk are the teacher masterminds behind this project and they have been educating and collecting data since CRESO was established. I have had the pleasure to work closely with both of these people, and just in the past two days I have learned so much from them and their passion for education and conservation is astounding!
They coordinate and mentor a combination of high school and undergraduate students through field research and long-term data monitoring. For most of these students, it is their first exposure to working in the field. It is a really interesting experience and I have met some really great high school students who are very interested in my research. I am excited about the opportunity to teach and share my passion and experience with them as well.
In addition to box turtles, CRESO does long term data monitoring with aquatic turtles, salamanders, snakes, and birds, among many other projects. The goal of this organization is not only to have students exposed to science and scientific research but also to establish long-term data for many of these species for which many not much has been discovered. Furthermore, there are 6 box turtles that are fitted with GPS transmitters and two high schoolers volunteer their time, often 3-5 days a week to track and monitor the activity patterns of these turtles. When box turtles are collected, parameters such as carapace length, height, width, plastron length and height, habitat, temperature, wind speed, GPS coordinates, eye color, and annuli are recorded. All the turtles are also assigned a unique number so that all future encounters can be linked to that turtle. On Sunday, they reached 721, meaning they have taken data on 721 box turtles since 2006, which I find pretty impressive.
All in all I’ve had a lot of fun so far! Lots of turtles!
Here is a link to CRESO’s website if you would like to know more about them:
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