Author Archives: riveredge

Turtles, Turtles, Turtles

Today, we had a great visit with Dr. Windmiller.  We discussed many issues, including whether Zelva’s mother, turtle 2030, should continue to have her hatchlings placed in the Head Start program as well as what is the best habitat to release the headstarts.

I would you to comment on both points.

  •  Should turtle mother 2030 continue to have her hatchlings placed in the head start program due to the eating problems that some of her hatchlings are having this year.
  • What is the best habitat to release the head starts and why?
  • What type of data would you like to have the next time Dr. Windmiller comes in?



The 2012-13 Hatchlings Need a Name!

Our hatchlings arrived last week.  Turtle 1029 came from Turtle Mother 30 and was hatched on August 27th.  This hatchling weighed 11.4 grams and was 37.4 mm in length.  Turtle 1038 came from Turtle Mother 2030 and was hatched on August 28th.  This little turtle weighed in at 9.5 grams and was 37.5 mm in length.

Your job tonight is to come up with two potential names for the turtles.  But, here’s the catch.  They either need to be named after someone who MADE A DIFFERENCE or it should be a name meaning turtle in another language (Kame and Kachua mean turtle in Japanese and Hindu).  You should write about why you think this would be a good name for the turtles.

Your post should be 3 to 4 sentences for EACH name.  You should write your post on a word processing document first and then edit it carefully for punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammar.  Then you can post it into the blog.

Have fun with this and be creative!

Eastern Vernal Pools, Moore’s Swamp or Great Meadows? That is the Question

Kachua and Kame – reunited!

We have a decision to make regarding Kachua.  Dr. Windmiller is allowing us to decide where she will be released on Saturday, June 23rd.  If we want her to have a turtle tracker, she will need to be released at Great Meadows or at the Eastern Vernal Pools.  If we don’t want her to have a tracker, she can be released at Moore’s Swamp.

Based on what you know about the habitats at these  locations, please write a persuasive paragraph about where you think Kachua should be released.  You should use an elaborated paragraph template, complete with your FREDS, say mores, and a so what at the end.

Great Meadows

Mrs. Erickson at one of the Eastern Vernal Pools

Moore’s Swamp

Headstart found at Great Meadows July 2011

Weight Watchers for Kame and Kachua


The Girls

In our quest to make sure that our head starts were of a good size to be released into the wild, it appears that the turtles might be a bit overweight as a result.  

Dr. Murray from Tufts Wildlife Center writes this report about Kame:

We took x-rays on Kame yesterday and I don’t see any abnormalities in the bones of the leg. I do see that she does not use that leg the same way she uses the left. On examining her, the most notable problem is that she is–sorry, there’s no other way to put it and I don’t want to offend–obese. Her carapace is also slightly mis-shapen toward the tail end. 

I don’t know the reason for the lameness/decreased use of the right front leg at this point. Is she very active in her enclosure? It is possible that she simply twisted it and caused a soft tissue injury in the leg and is reluctant to use it because it is sore.

Sam was asking about the UV light because the light is important for normal calcium metabolism and growth of bone, including the shell. The abnormality of her carapace could possibly be related to not having enough exposure to UV light. It could also be due to her simply growing too fast. The carapace is not a huge problem for her, but it is good that you have replaced the light.

At this point, we can hold on to her, treat her with some anti-inflammatory medication for the leg, and start her on a diet and see how she does with the leg.  We definitely need to get her weight down. Do you have other turtles, and, if so, are they all as, well, round as Kame? 

So your job in this blog is to develop a plan to get Kame and Kachua’s weight down.  What should they be eating?  How often should they be eating?  How can we get them to exercise more?  What types of experiences would get them to be ready for the wild?

Comparing Blanding’s Turtles Born at Different Locations


This year, there are three different hatching locations for the Blanding’s turtle head starts:  Great Meadows area in Concord, Littleton (on the side of Route 2) and Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge.  Your job for this blog is to do the following:

1.  Read about both Great Meadow and Oxbow National Wildlife Refuges by clicking on the links.  Name three interesting facts about EACH wildlife refuge.

2.  On the spreadsheet that you received about the location of hatching, dates of hatching, and December weights, please answer the following questions:

a.  What is the range of hatching dates at Great Meadows?  (when did the first group hatch and when did the last group hatch?)

b.  What is the range of hatching dates at Oxbow?  (when did the first group hatch and when did the last group hatch?)

c.  When did the Littleton turtles hatch?

d.  What is the range of December weights for the Great Meadows turtles?  (the lowest weight to the highest weight)

e.  What is the range of December weights for the Littleton turtles?  (the lowest weight to the highest weight)

f.  What is the range of December weights for the Oxbow turtles? (the lowest weight to the highest weight)

3.  What differences do you notice and why do you think there are these differences?  What other data might help you figure out these differences?



2011 Blogging in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Letter to Kame and Kachua from Lynn-D and Yertle

Moore's Swamp

Lynn-D and Yertle have been residents of Moore’s Swamp for five months now.  As we are watching Kame and Kachua grow from little nine gram hatchlings to over four times that size over the past two months, it won’t be long now before they too are released back into their natural habitat.

So, for this assignment, you are to write a letter to Kame and Kachua from Lynn-D and Yertle.  Your letter should be at least two paragraphs in length, should be creative, use great words, and be very descriptive in nature.  Here is also what your letter should contain:

1.  Your letter should include information from the time that Dr. Windmiller put Yertle into upper Moore’s Swamp and from the time that I put Lynn-D into lower Moore’s Swamp.  What were their feelings when they were released into the swamp?  What did they do for the first few days?

2.  They have been released now for five months.  Over this time period, we have seen lots of different weather, ranging from 100 degree days to Hurricane Irene to snow and thunder storms as well as some nice days.  Write about how they

Yertle being released by Dr. Windmiller

have adapted to all these different weather.

3.  What types of activities and fun have Yertle and Lynn-D had at Moore’s Swamp?  What types of food have they found in Moore’s Swamp?  What do they do on a daily basis?

4.   Advice for Kame and Kachua from Lynn-D and Yertle.  What types of adaptations will help them survive in Moore’s Swamp?  What should they be doing in their tank to get ready?

5.  Yertle and Lynn-D’s opinion on whether or not Moore’s Swamp is a great place for the Blanding’s turtles.



Make sure you first type your letter in a word processing program.  It should have perfect capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and grammar.  Make sure an adult proofreads it for you before posting.

Lynn-D being released by Mrs. Erickson


2011 Hatchlings By the Number

Turtle 232

Now that we have our two new Blanding’s turtle hatchlings, it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with data analysis.  Take a look at the following three tables and answer the questions about each.  Remember to answer your questions in full sentences.   You can click on the tables to make them easier to read.  A reminder of data analysis terms:

1.  Range:  list the data from the lowest number to the highest number.

2.  Median:  the middle number in a set of data.  If it is an odd number of data, it is the middle number.  If it is an even number, you add the middle two numbers and divide it by two.


Data from Turtle 3300

1.  What is the range of lengths for the hatchlings of Turtle 3300?  What is the difference between the lowest and highest length?  What is the median length?

2.  What is the range of weights for the hatchlings of Turtle 3300?  What is the difference between the lowest and heaviest weight?  What is the median weight?

3.  Where does our turtle 224 fall within this data?

Data for Hatchlings of Turtle 334

1.  What is the range of lengths for the hatchlings of Turtle 334?  What is the difference between the lowest and highest length?  What is the median length?

2.  What is the range of weights for the hatchlings of Turtle 334?  What is the difference between the lowest and heaviest weight?  What is the median weight?

3.  Where does our turtle 232 fall within this data?

Take a look at the number of hatchlings for both these turtle mothers.  How would you describe the number of live births that each turtle mother had in 2011?  What would you attribute this difference to?

Number of Live Births from 2008 to 2011

Hunting for Head Starts

On a very hot July morning, I headed to Great Meadows to meet up with Dr. Windmiller to do some tracking of the recently released head starts.  We were met by two interns for the Fish and Wildlife Service, Zack and Jarrod, and John from the zoo.  Being a pretty hot day, I thought perhaps hanging out in a pond wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  Dr. Windmiller had brought me a different pair of waders from the ones I wore the last time, and I put them on over my shorts, tucked my camera in the little zipper pouch on the top part of the overalls, and tucked my “booties” into a pair of my old running shoes.  Dr. Windmiller selected two radio frequencies for two Sudbury head starts and we started off to what I thought would be the open water.

Heading into the forest of cattails to search for head starts

So, needless to say, I was quite surprised when we did not head into the open water.  Instead, we headed right into the forest of cattails.  I was amazed at how tall these were and how I quickly felt like I was deep in a jungle.  I didn’t have any sense to where we were, I just kept following Bryan deeper and deeper into the field of cattails.  He would stop and point out various plants to me —  pretty ones such as Button Bush, as well as not so nice plants:  a type of rose that is extremely thorny, and another one called something with an arrow, that could also tear up your arm pretty well.  John held the radio tracker as we headed deeper and deeper towards where the signal was coming from.  We finally arrived at an area where the signal was pretty loud.  John switched the big tracker to a smaller one, and kept on looking.  Shortly, he and Bryan were down on their knees, digging in the mud.  And before long, I was holding a mud covered Blanding’s turtle head start, who did not look very happy to be in my hands.  She kept her head pretty much inside her shell, probably wondering what was going on.  She was weighed, measured, photographed, and then put back into her muddy home.  Bryan took an

One of the found Sudbury head starts

inventory of the types of plants that were around her.  I was surprised that there was really no water where she was found, and asked Bryan about what they would eat in this type of habitat.  It became pretty clear to why the data the students had crunched indicated that the head starts don’t gain a lot of weight here initially.   Zack and Jarrod had picked up the signal of this turtle’s tank mate pretty close to where the head start we had found.  Bryan and John started helping them and before long, about 6 feet from where we found the original one, they had found the tankmate deeply burrowed in the mud as well.  This turtle was much more interested in seeing what was going on.  His head was out, looking around, while he tried to push off my hand.  After his weighing and measuring, he too was put back into his mud bath.

All hands on deck!

We headed back out of the cattails to decide on the next turtle to try and find.  Bryan mentioned to Jarrod to watch out for these “ditches” that contained rather deep, yucky water.  Taking a breather for a moment, we decided what radio signal to go into and then it was back into the cattail forest.  With the hot sun blazing down on us, we traversed through the cattails.  The signal brought us to a small pool of water that was about two feet deep.  The biologists started searching again.  This turtle did not cooperate, swimming all over the little pool.  Zack finally stuck his entire arm into the water and muck and voila — up came turtle number three of the morning.  This turtle had more of the habitat

Zack finally has his turtle!

that I thought they would have.  Again, we went through his measurements and then he was plopped back into the water.  Everyone mentioned that the water was rather cool, so I stuck my legs into the water.  They were right, it was almost refreshing.   One of the things I have enjoyed about these experiences is the opportunity to meet biologists and to listen in on their conversations.  The four of them sat in the water and talked about their research experiences.  Growing up and even in my first career as a Food Scientist, I thought of biologists as the people in white lab coats who worked in labs.  But becoming involved in this project, I have had the opportunity to meet biologists who do many different jobs.  I have enjoyed hearing about the Fish and Wildlife Services interns’ experiences and enjoyed watching Bryan’s mentoring of the younger biologists.  This has been a great learning opportunity for me and maybe in my next life, I’ll come back as a Wildlife Biologist.

Still smiling!

Back to those ditches.  We started going back to the trail.  Bryan and Zack were talking about toads, when all of the sudden, my foot sank into knee high guck and got stuck.  I heard that sucking sound of my foot in the mud.  I called out to Bryan and Zack who turned back and helped me out.  My shoe remained in the muck and Zack leaned in and pulled it out.  His mother would undoubtedly be proud of his manners in helping this middle age teacher out!  As soon as that foot got out, in sunk the other one.  Two shoes were no longer white at all!  I quickly heeded Bryan’s advice to step on the roots, and managed to not get stuck again.

In the parking lot, some of us took off our waders while we determined our next step.  We had been at this for two hours and yielded three turtles.  John decided to take Zach up to see the vernal pools where a third of the turtles were also released.  Up we went to a street, out of our cars, and onto the bike path, where we were quickly greeted by hoards of hungry mosquitoes.  It was funny that in the cattails, there were no problems with biting insects, but this was quite different.  We didn’t track during this trek, but it gave me a pretty good idea of the area and how the turtles would be in a more aquatic environment in this area.  Looking back, probably out of the three release areas, I would envision this might be the easiest place to actually find the head starts.

The spot where Lynn D was released

Back into our cars, we headed to Moore’s Swamp, which Bryan had deemed the most difficult place to find the head starts.  Having been in this swamp on two occasions, I could attest to the rather unstable bottom and the deep water.  We quickly applied the strongest mosquito repellent available and I led the group to where we had left off Lynn D not that long ago.   I pointed out the area, John and Zack turned on their radios, and off we went.  It was pretty apparent that she was not where we left her.  Zack quickly climbed into another part of the swamp while Jarrod, John, and I headed into the swamp to reach a pennisula.  I carefully traversed the knee deep water.  We came on a hill, where the signal was evident, but not that strong.  John led us down a hill to the other side of the bridge where we had let Yertle go.  That was water I was not looking forward to crossing as I remember how deep that was.  John switched to Yertle’s frequency, where he picked up a weak signal.  Into the swamp once again I carefully walked, not wanting to take a face plant.  Out of the water, up another hill, down back through the trees we went.  Finally we arrived at the outer edge of the swamp nearer the cemetery, where both Jarrod and John thought the signal was stronger.  Out the three biologists waded, the water becoming deeper and deeper with every step they took.  I admired their perseverance in looking for Yertle and Lynn D.  However, after a while, it was pretty clear that they were living in pretty deep parts and they wouldn’t be easily caught.  I was surprised at how far they had traveled.  John mentioned how rich of a feeding ground that this is for the turtles and how they must be quite large.  This was the ideal habitat for the turtles, safe from predators with plenty of great food to chow on.  Slowly we headed back towards our cars.  It was 1:00 o’clock by now and 4.5 hours in the blazing sun was enough.  Even though we did not find Yertle and Lynn D, I felt good that we did hear their signal and that they have such a great new home.

This movie will give you an idea of our morning – so enjoy!

Lynn-D: The Newest Resident of Moore’s Swamp

On June 28th, five students, their parents, little siblings, Mrs. Erickson, Dr. Windmiller, and his two dogs Betsy and Squiggles, brought Lynn-D to her new home at the upper part of Moore’s Swamp.  The swamp itself is a little lower in water level than the lower Moore’s Swamp where Yertle was released.  Lynn-D was weighed in (150 grams!), measured, notched, and fitted with her new radio tracker before we took the walk into the swamp area.    Here are some photos detailing her move in day!

Being fitted with her radio tracker

Lynn D on her last morning at the Erickson's house

Lynn D being weighed


On the way to her new home


Mrs. E and Lynn D


Mrs. E, Dr. Windmiller and Squiggles accompany Lynn D into the swamp

Lynn D gets placed into the water


Dr. Windmiller and Mrs. E say good bye to Lynn D




Lynn D's new home