Tag Archives: Blanding’s turtle

Adventures in eastern Mass

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Sarah Andrus landed an internship at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge this summer. Little did she know, she was in for an adventure at a handful of refuges in eastern Massachusetts. She’s had the chance to visit a common tern colony, release Blanding’s turtles and work with school children, all in one summer!

Coming to work here at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge this summer has been an adventure everyday. I love people and wildlife, so interning for visitor services was a perfect fit for me this summer. Each day, the visitor services team and I are welcomed with a new task – whether it be planning and completing a program for children, coordinating a hike, or doing general tasks for the refuge. We have also been lucky enough to help out with some biological work; like attending the common tern census at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, releasing Blanding’s turtles with high school students, helping with nesting and hatching of blanding’s turtles at Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, pulling the invasive water chestnut at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge’s Concord Unit, or learning how to use a mist net to band song birds.

One of my favorite things to do this summer has been trailside interpretation. Every week we have the chance to set up a small table along popular hiking trails with brochures about the different refuges in eastern Massachusetts, and a few things for children to touch and see! They love touching the beaver skull, and it gives us a chance to engage with the public and let them know what we do and why we do it.

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Working with children was one of the best parts of my job!

Another part of my job that I love is working with school children from urban areas. For some, it may be their first time going on a hike or seeing a great blue heron. The look on their eyes is the encouragement to keep going and show them more. They are fascinated with the microorganisms found in the pond, the signs of the beavers, and the exhibit room located at the visitor center.

Overall, interning here at the refuges in eastern Massachusetts has been a very rewarding job. Some days are long, but it is the lit up faces of kids (and adults too!) that make coming in each day worth it.

The Atlantic puffin is already at the southern end of breeding range. Photographed at Green Lake National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Fred Yost/USFWS

Climate change and the future of Maine’s wildlife

Today you’re hearing from Bob Houston, a biologist and GIS specialist in our Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. He’s one of the authors of the report, Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine, released today. The report identifies 168 vulnerable species of fish, plants, birds and other wildlife that could experience large range shifts and population declines in Maine as a result of climate change by 2100.

Today you’re hearing from Bob Houston, a biologist and GIS specialist in our Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. He’s one of the authors of the report, Climate Change and Biodiversity in Maine, released today. The report identifies 168 vulnerable species of fish, plants, birds and other wildlife that could experience large range shifts and population declines in Maine as a result of climate change by 2100.

Photo courtesy of Bob.

What will happen to the animals, plants and habitats for which we work so hard to protect? Will their environment change so much in the coming century that they will face hardships they can’t tolerate?

These and other questions were on my mind as I sat at a table with other scientists to discuss the future of ducks, seabirds, shorebirds and other bird species.

I have been very lucky to be a part of Maine’s Beginning with Habitat team from its early beginnings. The partnership, which includes state and local agencies and non-government organizations, was formed to share important information about plant and animal habitats with towns and land trusts to inform decisions about town planning and open space conservation.

The program has been a great success. But now we wrestled with questions about climate change and sea-level rise: How would it affect the plants and animals that are the focus of the Beginning with Habitat program? What will happen when the temperatures increase, rainfall and snowfall patterns change, non-native pests and plants expand their invasion, and the sea rises?

A sub-team of the partnership was formed to try to answer these questions and investigate the impact of climate change on Maine’s priority plants, animals and habitats. Led by Andrew Whitman of Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, the team decided to rely on the expert opinion of many scientists throughout Maine and the Northeast.

More than 100 scientists contributed their expert knowledge and opinions to the process through an in-depth online survey and an intensive one-day workshop. It was at this one-day workshop that I found myself at a table with other wildlife biologists who have spent their lives researching and conserving all types of birds and their habitats.

As other groups discussed plants, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles and invertebrates (such as beetles and dragonflies), our group discussed the future of birds. I quickly found that we had no definite answers. The uncertainties were overwhelming at times.

The Atlantic puffin is already at the southern end of breeding range.  Photographed at Green Lake National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Fred Yost/USFWS

The Atlantic puffin is already at the southern end of its breeding range. Photographed at Green Lake National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Fred Yost/USFWS

For instance, Atlantic puffins nest on Maine’s coastal islands and feed on herring and other fish in the Gulf of Maine. But they also spend a considerable amount of time outside the Gulf of Maine – in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Labrador Sea and other areas along the Atlantic coast. It is difficult to predict the effects of climate change on their food base in the Gulf of Maine, much less all the other areas that puffins rely on in a typical year.

We discussed these and many other questions that day. In the end, we identified 168 vulnerable species that could experience large range shifts and population declines as a result of climate change in Maine by 2100. They include Atlantic salmon, Blanding’s turtle, least and roseate terns, Atlantic puffin, red knot, saltmarsh sharp-tailed sparrow, American oystercatcher, piping plover, moose and Canada lynx.

The eastern moose may be vulnerable to outbreaks of moose ticks that survive mild winters well and can cause stressful hair loss and increased calf mortality. Credit: David Govatski/USFWS

The eastern moose may be vulnerable to outbreaks of moose ticks that survive mild winters well and can cause stressful hair loss and increased calf mortality. Credit: David Govatski/USFWS

We found that many of our existing habitat conservation efforts should succeed despite climate change. We also found that we might need new adaptive strategies—ones that put even more emphasis on connected habitats to allow plants and animals to respond to changing climate.

While only time will confirm our assessments, we hope this report will support decisions and actions that ensure a strong future for Maine’s natural heritage.

See the results of the vulnerability assessment.

Turtles in need move into a new habitat

A Bristol County Agricultural High School student holds a Blanding's turtle. Credit: Keith Shannon/USFWS

A Bristol County Agricultural High School student holds a Blanding’s turtle. Credit: Keith Shannon/USFWS

Today you’re hearing from Kizette Ortiz-Vanger, visitor services specialist at Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Be sure to check out the embedded video, where Jared Green explains the Blanding’s turtle headstart program!

New members have joined our family at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge.

Where are we today?

Recently, thanks to our many biologists, we have brought a small creature with a BIG purpose to our refuge. We want to see this population of imperiled species prosper in ways unimaginable, so we take pride on putting our spotlight on the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidia blandingii), now that it is here at our refuge.

The Blanding’s turtle is a semi-aquatic freshwater species that is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in all five Northeast states where it occurs, which happens to be mostly on wildlife refuges. The adult Blanding’s turtle is about 7 to 9 inches in length and has a high domed dark shell. Moreover, they can be distinguished by their bright yellow chin and throat.

The Blanding’s Turtle Project, led by biologist and researcher Jared Green, covers Assabet and other refuges within the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, such as Great Meadows. Jared, along with other researchers and biologists, monitors the female Blanding’s turtles as they lay their eggs, and once all are laid, he then puts enclosures around the nest to prevent predation by raccoons or other animals.

A couple months later, the eggs have hatched. Half are immediately released from the enclosures into the wetlands there and the other half are brought to Assabet River refuge, where they are kept at the site, fed on a regular basis, and then released on the refuge.

By feeding and caring for the turtle, it grows 2-4 times bigger and more likely to survive predation.

The students from Bristol County Agricultural High School. Credit: Kurt Buhlmann

The students from Bristol County Agricultural High School. Credit: Kurt Buhlmann

Many school groups in the surrounding communities learn about and raise Blanding’s turtles. They release them with better chances of survival at the Concord Impoundments on Great Meadows refuge and at Assabet. The Friends Group of the refuges raises funds to investigate how people can further support the return of Blanding’s turtles to a more stable population.

Although these turtles take little of our time, the more we help, the bigger part they play in our lives.

I invite you to visit Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, where we bring each visitor the joy of spending time in a world apart from our own backyards, and where every day, we take the time to observe and monitor our wildlife friends to ensure that they are safe and feel right at home.

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