After our week of trudging through marshes in heavy wadders, we made our way back to land to finish off our last turtle team week in Vermilion County. While this week was slower than our previous ones, we still managed to find 27 turtles in 4 days!
The highs of the week were finding a different box turtle species at one of the sites, having several special guests join us on our hikes, and everyone worked very efficiently in the field and the lab.
To elaborate, at the third site for the week one of the dogs found a three-toed box turtle living among the eastern box turtles. This species is not native to the area, and was likely released/introduced by humans. While this might also be considered a low for both the turtles involved and the environment,
box turtle species can interbreed with each other. She had also been found on turtle team a few years ago and appeared to be doing well in the environment, thus she was allowed to stay. After working with two other box turtle species this summer, it was exciting to be able to work with a third species. Plus, she was super cute and photogenic!
As for the special guests, we had a prospective student join us on the first day, followed by Dr. Allender’s daughter (future turtle doctor in training) the next day, who found two turtles and will be featured in our Meet the Turtle Dogs Blog coming soon! Finally, on the last day, Kayla, our former turtle team leader joined us, as well as a fellow WEL researcher, Megan Britton, and her best friend. It was great having the extra set of hands and eyes to help!
Finally, we finished early in both the field and the lab everyday this week! Being that it was third week of turtle team, everyone knew their jobs well and worked very efficiently. On the last day, many of the students that helped in the field joined us in the lab to help us finish the lab work and disinfect the supplies too. Almost everyone had an opportunity to do every position on turtle turtle team, both in the field and in the lab. The jobs in the field consisted of carrying turtle backpacks, taking GPS coordinates of the turtles’ locations, flagging the turtles’ specific locations, placing a temporary tape ID on each turtle, recording in the data books and/or ipads, performing venipucture, taking heart rates, assisting with demographic recording, assisting with physical exams and swabbing, and taking temperature readings. In the lab, the jobs available were separating plasma, running and reading PCV and total solids, running and reading hemocytometers to get a white blood cell count, performing DNA extraction, and making and staining blood smears (usually done by Dr. Laura or Dr. Allender).
The lows for the week, included the heat and finding a sick turtle. Due to the weather and the dogs working as hard as they normally do, they needed extra water breaks and we even started an hour earlier on the last day to avoid the climbing temperatures later in the day. The image shows Dr. Allender carrying a tired pup to the shade. The heat and lack of rain could have also contributed to the lower number of turtles found compared to our previous weeks.
At our second site for the week, we found a turtle that was missing his foot and the rest of his arm was severely infected. We decided to bring him back to the WEL for aggressive treatment. While a low at the time, he has been a fun patient to work with and has improved significantly since his initial capture. He has been treated with antibiotics, wound management, and daily soaks. Here he is on one of his walks outside for physical therapy. More updates to come on his progress!
Overall the week went very smoothly and ended with Marta and I packing for our much anticipated trip to Tennessee to conclude our box turtle season. Be sure to check out our next blog on our adventures in Tennessee!
To close, earlier in the season, one of our turtle team members, Maddy Waleski, used her GoPro to capture turtle team in action and compiled the footage for everyone to see. There is even some footage from the perspective of the dogs too! Enjoy!