Hey all you happy herps and hatchlings!

This week was a little different, with Alexis leaving Maura for three days for some teeny turtles, head-starts. Head-starting aims to help with Blanding’s turtle conservation by collecting eggs during nesting season, and then sending the hatchlings to a facility (Turtle Town) that will spend the next year raising them up to a hefty weight of around 30g. For those that are not familiar with the metric system, that equates to 6 grapes, or 13 dimes, or 18 playing cards. Their wild-raised counterparts will not reach a similar size for at least another year or two. This means they hopefully have a better chance for survival when they are released and can help add to the juvenile population of Blanding’s turtles.

After being told there were 90 Kane County head-starts ready to be examined, Alexis sent out the bat-signal to the rest of the epidemiology lab! Luckily, Dr. Laura and fellow veterinary students Kelcie, Rachel, Kayla, and Carley were willing to help. We were able to perform 90 tiny physical exams on tiny turtles, drew 90 tiny blood samples, collected 270 tiny swab samples, read 90 hemacytometer, read 180 PCV/TS, made 180 blood smears, and somehow managed not to be too distracted by the tiny turtle cuteness. All done in three days!! Meanwhile, Maura braved the sweltering swaps, did not fall over once, and processed the turtles found in the field. Daily, you could see the heat and soreness from the field forgotten by Maura each afternoon when she returned to the lab to find more baby turtles had arrived from Turtle Town.

Alexis with the 50 turtles examined Tuesday

“I read a study that sitting on the floor helps with flexibility” -Alexis

Kayla getting swabs. Alexis measuring shell length. Carley making blood smears.


Alexis teaching Maura how to pit tag

Once all head-starts were done and transferred to Kane County, Alexis joined Maura back in the field Thursday. However, she was there more as entertainment than assistance, getting stuck in the sticky-bottom swamp three times! Lucky for her sore legs, this field week was cut short to allow them to help with more head-start processing Friday. All turtles are given a pit-tag (microchip) under the skin and shell notch code to allow for identification purposes if re-caught in future weeks and years. By all turtles having individual identities, we are able to better assess population numbers and monitor health of specific populations.

Although Alexis loves her baby turtles, and literally smiles every time she see’s their faces, she is look forward to being back out in the field next week! Meanwhile, Maura is just hoping for some rain to slow the swamps from drying up in this recent ridiculous heat.





Disclaimer: CDC COVID guidelines have been followed by all lab personnel mentioned in this blog.