Image credit: Logan Eastburn-HidalgoMark Eastburn

Science Specialist

Riverside Elementary School

A teacher in the Princeton Public Schools since 2001, Mark Eastburn taught at Johnson Park School for ten years before moving to Riverside in 2011. Between classes, Mark always marveled at the wildlife around him, from the occasional garter snake to wild turkeys and foxes. Not surprisingly, Mark chose to move to Riverside School because it would bring him closer to the turtles he’d always dreamed of studying with students, although he has also been researching jumping spiders in Central America whenever he has a chance.


Bridgett vonHoldt

Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Princeton University

Dr. vonHoldt has been instrumental in supporting our efforts to sequence every turtle’s genetic markers, which has allowed us to determine how all of Riverside School’s turtles are related. In other words, Teacher Turtles has benefitted tremendously from Dr. vonHoldt’s patience and generosity with time and materials, and we are incredibly grateful for her skills as an educator and a great scientific mind. Dr. vonHoldt’s research primarily focuses on dogs, wolves, and their close relatives, which is also very cool!



Zemer Gitai

Professor of Molecular Biology/ Director of Graduate Studies

Princeton University

None of Teacher Turtles would have been possible without Professor Gitai, who generously invited Mark Eastburn to apply for visiting scientist status at Princeton University in order to conduct all of the genetic sequencing. Professor Gitai’s main research focus is how cells build themselves, particularly their internal structure known as a “cytoskeleton.”



Kathrin Fröhlich

Department of Microbiology

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Teacher Turtles would also not have been possible without all of the support that Mark Eastburn received from Dr. Froehlich, who once worked as a postdoc in Professor Gitai’s lab. Dr. Froehlich first started using her expertise in microbiology to help Mark Eastburn study bacterial communities that were living inside the vegetarian spiders that he’s been researching in Central America, and then she used her knowledge of molecular biology to help Mark Eastburn isolate and amplify turtle DNA. Though Dr. Froehlich has moved back to Germany, we are very grateful for all of her help!


Riverside Elementary School

Princeton Public Schools

58 Riverside Drive

Princeton, NJ 08540


Not far from Princeton’s Lake Carnegie is a public school for children in prekindergarten through fifth grade. The principal is Valerie Ulrich, and this is the location where Teacher Turtles got started, under the direction of science specialist Mark Eastburn, former principal Bill Cirullo, and interim principal Paul Chapin. The enclosed courtyard at Riverside is now an extensive native plant garden, where turtles have lived in a semi-wild state for more than thirty years.


Johnson Park School

Princeton Public Schools

285 Rosedale Road

Princeton, NJ 08540


Be responsible. Be respectful. Be safe. Be kind. Be respectful. These words form the Johnson Park School pledge. Johnson Park, or “JP” as it is often called, is a public school that serves approximately 338 students from prekindergarten through fifth grade. The principal is Dr. Robert A. Ginsberg, who has enthusiastically welcomed several turtles from Riverside Elementary School, as well as Leo and Josephine.


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Community Park School

Princeton Public Schools

372 Witherspoon Street

Princeton, NJ 08540


Since Community Park School does not presently have an enclosed courtyard where we can guarantee the safety of any outdoor box turtles, CP (as it is commonly called) will be participating by keeping two Asian box turtles (scientific name: Cuora amboinensis) in the school library. CP is also where a dual-language immersion program has been growing, and we have a plan in the works to translate this website into Spanish as soon as we find the time!


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Image credit: Southern Cross Schools

Southern Cross Schools

P.O. Box 116

Hoedspruit, 1380

South Africa

From the schools’ website: “Located in the small town of Hoedspruit in South Africa, the school enjoys impressive success in academics, sporting and cultural pursuits; but it is our unique environment that really sets us apart. We call a 1,100 hectare nature reserve home.

This means that each and every learner not only leaves school with the highest standard of education, but also with a deep love, respect and appreciation for nature and our environment.”

Since Southern Cross Schools, which serve children in prekindergarten through high school, are in such an incredible location (just outside the world-famous Kruger National Park), where three species of turtle live, Teacher Turtles looks forward to sharing data on the activity of wild tortoises in the Southern Hemisphere, and comparing these data to what other schools can gather on semi-captive and wild populations in the Northern Hemisphere. We are all very grateful for this international collaboration!