Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Today I went to the Museum of Science to pick up three northern red-bellied cooter hatchlings. I asked before I drove down what to bring to transport them and I was told by the live animal curator that they were already in a container. I was quite surprised when the curator came out with a small take-out container. She handed me three small turtles playing in a salad container with plenty of room to spare. These turtles are cute!
The turtles are part of the Turtle Head Start Program run by Massachusetts state biologists. The northern red-bellied cooter is an endangered species that is limited to a few ponds in Plymouth County. The goal of the program is to get schools, museums, and science centers to raise the hatchlings over the winter so they can be released and stand a better chance of survival in the wild.
I now have in the environmental science lab turtle numbers 294, 295, and 296 each weighing about 7.5 grams. Dave Taylor is the coordinator of the program and before he sent the turtles out to centers he placed notches on the marginal area of the shell. Each turtle is tagged so it can be tracked in the future. I need to figure out how to keep these turtles fed and healthy so we can release them in the spring.
Students in my Diversity of Living Organisms class will be involved in raising and caring for the turtles. The turtles will also be used as a teaching tool in my Environmental Science class as we talk about endangered species. Development is one of the major threats to this species of turtle.
I am a bit nervous about being a turtle parent. The stakes are higher than if I had sliders in the tank. Students are excited to name the turtles, but I am going to use the naming as a chance to raise some money to feed them. I think I am going to auction off the naming rights for one of the turtles. To name the second turtle I am going to sell raffle tickets for $1. The winner gets to name the turtle. I still need to think of a creative way to name the third turtle. Maybe the development office can find an alumna who would like an endangered turtle named after her. Maybe if I name one Sodexo they will donate the lettuce?
I also need to recruit volunteers. The turtles need to eat on the weekends, and the water will have to be changed regularly. At Siena College we had a Frog Club that was highly successful. Would a Turtle Club work at Lasell? Lasell Villagers may also be interested in volunteering with the turtles and willing to feed them on weekends.
I am planning many outreach activities. I'm going to start by inviting the children at the Barn into the lab to see the turtles. I'll invite other groups in, and we are working on developing outreach materials to help educate people about endangered species in Massachusetts. There are many classes in the lab throughout the day, so you may have to wait until we have an event to meet the turtles.