Besides data analysis, our turtle study has been relatively quiet lately, partly because the older turtles are hibernating, and partly because we haven’t received any funding for additional microsatellite analysis, although I am trying hard to get the money together… and paying out of pocket, as well. Sometimes, for science to happen quickly, you’ve just got to go ahead and make it happen yourself.
Now since today was so ridiculously warm, and since the baby turtles won’t be going into hibernation, I decided that today might be a good day to test out my new camera and get some decent pics. Only recently have I realized that the camera really does make the difference, and my iPhone pictures, while decent, can’t compete with a device that is specifically designed with one purpose–to capture images in the finest detail.
A total of fourteen turtles are being kept warm this winter, eleven of which weren’t found early enough to be included in our first round of microsatellite analysis, while another three (Lamb, Quania, and Tiny) are being helped through their second winter… just to make sure that they are big enough and strong enough to make it through next winter on their own. The reason is simple: even though turtles are supposed to be adapted for harsh winters, many do not make it through. In times when turtles were abundant, this could be considered an acceptable loss, since turtle numbers would be limited to ensure sufficient resources for all. These days, however, with box turtles on the decline, every baby is precious, and we are doing everything we can to ensure hatchling survival. So far, so good–every baby appears to be gaining weight and eating. They are getting a balanced diet of greens, fruits, insects, and worms, and taking vitamin baths once or twice per week. Should it turn out that these babies are Eastern box turtles, they will be released into suitable habitats once they are a few years old, since they generally tend to live long lives once they reach a sufficient size. Few animals can harm an adult box turtle, protected as they are (except from human pet collectors and cars, of course).
Here are a few of my favorite photos for the day, along with a couple of videos. I know that it can’t always be 76 degrees Farenheit (24 degrees Celsius) in the middle of December, nor should it, but at least the weather allowed me to take some nice pictures in natural light.
Students are continuing to work through the turtle family relationships, carefully checking the microsatellites that they inherited from each parent. We are making some interesting discoveries, all while I continue to improve the matching “game” and add new features. If you’d like to get involved, try the games and start reporting your results (along with any computer bugs); it will all help make our research better!