As we start our third week of school the 4th grade classrooms are getting ready to begin their annual citizen science project. This Sept. marks the 6th year that all the CPS 4th grade classrooms will be participating in a local conservation project, Head-starting Blanding’s Turtles. To learn more about the project and it’s impact on schools visit
Patty Levasseur Biologist, Herpetological intern for US Fish and Wildlife Service present Certificates of Excellence to Thoreau students for their years of service in raising and conserving Blanding’s turtles.
After Patty presented the certificates to Ms. Burns class the students assisted Dr. Windmiller in recording the final measurements before the release of their turtles. Dr. Windmiller also has a student take a photograph of the turtle’s plastron. Dr. Windmiller believes the plastron’s are unique to each individual (like a finger print) and can be used to identify individuals in the future.
Before the class heads into Moore’s Swamp Dr. Windmiller stops and shows the student’s a Snapping turtle’s nest. After the nest and egg’s are examined the students help replace the netting the is used to protect the nest from curious skunks and raccoons that might dig up the nest for the treasured eggs.
Next it is time to head into Moore’s Swamp. Dr. Windmiller makes a stop to check his minnow traps and students get a close up look at the food the turtles will be munching on.
Finally it is time to say goodbye to the turtles.
The trip is complete with a stop at the heron rookery!
One never knows what we will run into on our trips to Moore’s Swamp. Over the course of two days we saw a baby snapping turtle, a great horned owl and heard the rare Green Heron. What a wonderful place a swamp can be!
March 18th and 19th the Blanding’s turtles traveled to either Zoo New England or the New England Aquarium for their very own field trip!. The turtles were not going to visit or explore either facility instead the turtles visited the veterinarians who performed laparoscopic procedures to determine their sex. Not surprising all the hatchlings were female! Dr. Windmiller along with many of the 4th grade students predicted that their would be a high percentage of females this year. Blanding’s turtles display temperature-dependent sex determination. This means that eggs that are incubated between 79.7-86°F produce males, and higher temperatures produce females (Ewert and Nelson 1991). Teachers and students analyzed the 2013 Headstarting data to predict the sex of their turtles.
This year the students and
Our local biologist, Dr. Bryan Windmiller has visited all the 4th grade classrooms to introduce the hatchlings and the Headstart project to the students. Classes are now in the process of meeting Dr. Windmiller in the field to learn about the Blanding’s habitat. Due to the federal government shut down our yearly trip to Great Meadows National Wildlife Reserve had to be changed to Punkatasset Conservation Area- one of Concord’s best kept secrets.
Dr. Windmiller led students on a guided walk through the woods that Thoreau had often visited before the beavers and houses settled in. During the walk Dr. Windmiller introduced students to the equipment he uses to track the turtles, which he hopes to reintroduce in this beautiful wooded area.
Beside investigating the turtle habitat, students were also introduced to winter berries, woolybear caterpillars, Great Blue Herons, frogs, snakes, salamanders, beaver dams and a beaver lodge. So far a few classes experienced a few drops of rain but all in all we all agreed that a visit to Punkatasset Conservation Area is a must do for any nature enthusiast!
Mrs. Levin is becoming a pro at administering Speedy’s medicine!
So far Speedy doesn’t appear to have a greater interest in food. However Speedy is still acting like Speedy and is very active. This week Speedy will be weighed and we have a better idea if the antibiotics are helping.
Yesterday Speedy began his/her round of antibiotic injections in an attempt to rid the hatchling of any infection he/she might have that may be preventing him/her from growing at the same rate as the other turtles in the head-starting program. Speedy is one of several hatchlings (from the same mother) that have not been showing a lot of interest in eating and therefore are either growing very slowly or in some cases beginning to lose weight.
Dr. Windmiller has talked with several veterinarian colleagues and agreed to try an antibiotic treatment that has appeared to work with other turtles that have the same condition. Mrs. Levin (Alcott) will administer a total of 6 shots (1 shot every 3 days) in hopes of getting rid of any infection the hatchling might have. Mr. Smith from Willard school administered the same treatment for one of his very small hatchlings and has reported that the hatchling is now eating more and appearing to gain weight!
As you can see Speedy did very well taking the shot and was excited to return to his home-what a trooper!