Bruce Museum seeks volunteers to report turtle sightings

Now that the ice has melted and spring temperatures are warming, turtles are starting to become active, sunning themselves on vegetation in ponds and searching for places to lay eggs. The Bruce Museum invites people throughout Connecticut to help turtles by reporting turtle sightings to the Connecticut Turtle Atlas.

Anyone interested in turtles or the outdoors can participate in the Connecticut Turtle Atlas, including families, children, individuals and classrooms. Participants in this Bruce Museum Citizen Science initiative, now in its second year, will report the location and abundance any turtle they see from April through November each year. The first year of the project saw great success with 151 observations of nine species by 34 participants including a number of observations of the imperiled spotted and wood turtles.

“Turtles can play key ecological roles, serving as both predators and prey, contributing to the cycling of nutrients, and acting as seed dispersers,” says Tim Walsh, Bruce Museum Manager of Natural History Collections and Citizen Science and developer of the project, “so they are a top priority for many conservation biologists.”

Connecticut is home to 12 native turtle species that inhabit the woodlands, wetlands, and even the waters of Long Island Sound. Unassuming creatures, turtles are the most endangered vertebrate group in the world – with approximately 58 percent of the world’s 335 turtle species threatened with extinction.

“The goals of the project include developing a public understanding of turtle ecology, promoting ways in which people can help turtles, and gathering research-quality data for use in publications, and sharing this data with other scientists,” Walsh explains.

Participants will learn about the diversity of turtles and their benefits to the ecology. No experience is necessary, but access to a smartphone, camera, or a computer is required. Using a smartphone app or a computer, volunteer scientists can record information that can be used to map distributions, identify important habitats, locate areas of nesting abundance, and detect roadways with high traffic-related mortality. Exact locations of sensitive species are hidden from public view in order to protect them from possible poachers. In addition, the Bruce Museum will provide opportunities to assist with other aspects of turtle research and fieldwork.

This is one of three Citizen Science projects the Bruce Museum is coordinating this year. Walsh is also looking for help in collecting outdoor ants and tracking domestic cats outdoors.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Bruce Museum Connecticut Turtle Atlas or other Bruce Museum Citizen Science projects should contact Tim Walsh, Manager of Natural History Collections and Citizen Science, at [email protected] or (203) 413-6767.

Bruce Museum’s Tim Walsh leads the Connecticut Turtle Atlas.

Bruce Museum’s Tim Walsh leads the Connecticut Turtle Atlas.

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