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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.


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


The Release of Yertle

On June 15th, we journeyed to Moore’s Swamp to release Yertle.  Lynn-D will stay with us for several more weeks to get a little bigger.

Here’s some of our movies about this event

By EC19:

By EC2:

by EC18

DPC — Looking Back — “The Turtles Will Win Regardless if We Win or Lose”

Again, I am so proud of you all and for all your hard work during the DPC project.  You came together as a true team, some of you having to take on roles that weren’t your first choice, some of you having to wear multiple hats, and all of you having to meet real deadlines.  Your motto of “The Turtles Will Win Regardless if We Win or Lose” is an inspirational one.  My classes have done a lot of awesome things through the years, but you stand alone in your willingness to take on such a big project and do it so well.

So, while it is fresh in all of our minds, I would like for you to really step back and reflect about this project.  Sunday night, while I was preparing my little story for you all, I looked through my other binder which contained even more work that you all did planning this project.  Looking at the two binders together, it is a true testament to all of our hard work on behalf of the turtles.  The blog posts that you have all done throughout the year are also inspirational.

Things for you to write about:

1.  If someone asked you to describe your DPC experience, what would you say?  What were the high points of the project?  What were the difficult times in the project?  What should people know about the entire process?

2.  Since we have done more activities  than you did the last time you reflected on this project at the beginning of February, what was your most memorable part of this project?

DPC Command Center

What made it memorable for you?  Why was this important to the entire project?

3.  How have you grown as a student while participating in this project?  Please be specific.  How has doing this project helped you become a better student and person?  What were some things that may have been hard for you before but you feel more confident now doing because you participated in DPC?

4.  How has the class as a whole changed while doing this project?  Please be specific here as well.

5. If you had to describe how you are feeling right now about our finish in the Challenge, what would you say?

It’s funny that above our command center, are the Egyptian hieroglyphs from the book that we read on the first day of school.  One is “Never Give Up”, another is “Imagine”, and another one is “Discover”.  You have done all of these friends so very well and eloquently.


The Tenth Good Thing About Bowser


Our turtle Bowser died last Saturday. We are very sad. My teacher said we should think of ten good things about Bowser so we can remember him always…

In this blog entry, I want you to write about Bowser and all the good things that you remember about him.

Mrs. E.  He was a wonderful teacher and a brother to Yertle.  You all took wonderful care of him and he taught us so much about Blanding’s turtles.  When I came in to school each morning, I would always go over first to check on the turtles and each morning, they would greet me.  Bowser was a real explorer, he loved to hang out on the rocks and investigate what was going on in the classroom.  In the early morning hours, he and Yertle would spend a lot of time pushing around the rocks.  I am happy that we had Bowser as a part of our class for almost six months.  I’m not sure what would have happened to him if he was not in the head-start program.  Even though he is not in our class physically, he will always live on in our hearts.




As we head down the home stretch on the part of our DPC project that is due shortly, I want you to take some time and reflect on Operation Blanding’s Nation:  Awareness, Advocacy, and Appreciation by answering the following questions:

1.  What new skills did you learn while doing this project?  (think about reading, writing, math, science) What new knowledge did you learn about Blanding’s turtles and the other factors effecting the sustainability of this species?  How can you use this information in future grades?

2.  What new technology skills did you use  while doing this project?  How can you use these skills in the future?

3.  What were the more difficult parts of this project?  What made them particularly difficult?

4.  How can you use all the skills that you learned in the future?

Up Close and Personal

Yertle on January 28th

This week, we will be traveling to the New England Aquarium to observe Yertle and Bowser’s Laparoscopies as well as observe other creatures in their habitats.

Most tanks in the Aquarium represent specific habitats. Each habitat is home to a unique array of plants and animals. Making careful observations is one way

Scientist learns more about animals. By spending more time and focusing more closely on what is going on in individual tanks and with individual animals you can observe and learn a lot about the animal and it’s surroundings.

So to get ready to go on Wednesday, we’ll do an observation of our Blanding’s turtle teachers.  Watch the video and then incorporate the following questions into a creative non-fiction piece.  You should write this in the first person voice (aka become one of the turtles)

1.  What do the turtles look like?  Make careful observations of the color, lines, spots, stripes, or other markings. Be very detailed when discussing their eyes, neck, feet, and mouth as well as the rest of the turtle.  What adaptations do the Blanding’s turtles have to help them survive in the world?

2.  What are Bowser and Yertle doing in all parts of the movie (Yertle is featured first)?   Do the turtles  move around or do they stayin the same place? Where is it spending most of its time? Why do you think so?

3. Describe the type of place where Yertle and Bowser live.  Is there anyplace to hide?  Is there anyplace to hold onto?  Are there any rocks or sand?  Are there any plants or other living things?

This post is due on Wednesday.  It should be written in paragraphs.  You should edit carefully for spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation.  You should also use proper vocabulary associated with turtles.


One of the Blanding's turtles at the Toronto Zoo

Over the next couple of weeks, we will have the opportunity to Skype with Brennan Caverhill, a biologist who specializes in Blanding’s turtles at the Toronto Zoo.  To prepare for this talk, I want you to read over the following articles and then develop some questions that we can ask during our on-line discussion.

Urban Turtle Initiative

Meet the Turtles

Then for your post, write down some questions that we can ask Mr. Caverhill about what they are doing to protect the Blanding’s turtles in Canada.  Each person should have four to five questions and should write a small letter.

A Day in the Life of…..

Our turtles had an interesting day in the tank on Monday.  I believe one of you once said that after their tank is cleaned out on Mondays that they are very active.

So, take a look at this video.  IT SHOULD KNOW BE ACTIVE TO EVERYONE. Then, write a little story from the point of view of one of the turtles.  Make sure if you use dialogue, that you use it correctly.  Here’s a link for you to remember those rules.