This educational collaboration between Washington University's Tyson Research Center and the Missouri Botanical Garden's Shaw Nature Reserve is designed to engage St. Louis area high school students in scientifically-based exploration of the natural world. Linked programs of field training (SIFT) and field research (TERF) provide teenagers with experiences that realistically reflect research in environmental biology. Participating teens learn a variety of field investigation skills and then have the opportunity to put those new skills to work assisting career scientists with real research projects.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Turtle Trackers

This summer 2 TERFers were given the chance to do off site work with a research team studying turtle movements in the St. Louis area. Dr. Stephen Blake heads this project with Washington University undergraduates Joanna Wang and Jenny Fung

The goal of this project is to observe the differences in box turtle movements in an urban area compared to a rural area. Every week the Turtle Team finds their 9 turtles at Forest Park and the 10 turtles at Tyson Research Center. All of the turtles have radio transmitters on their backs, allowing the team to be able to find them later on and record the new GPS locations. Once found, they take blood samples and check the weight, measurements, gender, and if female, whether of not it is pregnant. Even though this is still a fairly new project, some patterns are already emerging. By looking at the data they have collected already, it seems the turtles in the urban area (Forest Park) do not travel as much as the turtles in the rural area (Tyson).

Working at both Tyson and Forest Park has been an interesting experience for these two TERFers (Amber Stout and Meredith Hessling). When at Tyson they spend most of the day hiking through the research center whereas out at Forest Park, they are riding bikes most of the time.

"I have had a lot of fun  with the Turtle Team. Working with them has really helped bring me out of my shell," says Meredith Hessling.

 Amber, Meredith, and Joanna examine the turtle to determine it's gender.

Both Amber and Meredith agree, that one of their favorite experiences so far has been the work they did with the Eco Club at South City Preparatory Academy last week. The Turtle Team led this small group of middle schoolers on a field trip to Forest Park where they showed the students what their project was all about. This trip was even mentioned in an article by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and was aired on KSDK news later that night.

"It was exciting to do something different and meet new people from the middle school," Amber Stout explained.

For more information about this field trip with the Turtle Team, check out the following links: 
KSDK News Video
Washington University Press Release

If you would like to support this project, there is also a Facebook group for The Box Turtle Project:
 Facebook - Box Turtle Project

 Meredith and Jenny measure a turtle during the middle school field trip.

 Amber files the codes into the scoutes of the turtle. By marking the turtles, the team will be 
able to tell which turtles are new and which are the ones they have caught before.

Underside of the female turtle they found outside of Tyson's Living Learning Center. After
 examining this turtle, who was given the name Taylor, they discovered that she was carrying eggs.

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