Research at Turtle Camp

The central research project is observing and recording painted turtle nesting. All Turtle Camp workers directly handle turtles and eggs to complete this project. Teams generally consisting of two high school students, one undergraduate student, and one graduate student will also work on individual research projects. The three ongoing projects and the specific methodologies that are employed are summarized below.

  1. Species richness and abundance surveys of the Mississippi River and PotterÕs Slough Ð The team will set and check turtle traps daily in the Mississippi River and in PotterÕs Slough adjacent to the Thomson Causeway. Any turtles caught in the traps will be measured and marked and returned to their original location. This information along with more than 10 years of similar data is used to examine variation in turtle species richness and abundances in the two locations and to determine differences in habitat use for the species caught.
  2. Distribution and demography surveys of reptiles in the relict Thomson Sand Prairie Ð The team will walk transects at three sand prairie sites looking for, among others, western hognose snakes, ornate box turtles, Blanding's turtles, and common snapping turtle nests. Reptiles will be caught, measured, marked and their location determined by GPS (global positioning systems). This information along with more than 10 years of similar data is used to create maps of reptile (and nest) distributions and microhabitat preferences on the sand prairie and to determine demographic information for each species.
  3. Painted turtle nest depredation and predator behavior on the Thomson Causeway Ð The team will monitor painted turtle nests every three days to determine if eggs have been destroyed by predators. Locations of intact and depredated nests are mapped and features of their location are assessed for significance. Motion-activated wildlife video cameras are set up and reviewed daily to monitor nocturnal predator activity.