Last week, I joined Alexis and Michelle on their final week of fieldwork. Unfortunately, there won’t be a video in this post because while I was busy trying not to flood my waders and destroy my phone, they were busy taking all of the photos.
Our main goal was to catch and resample the 19 transmitter headstarts that were released earlier this summer. I am proud to say we succeeded and met this goal in only two days. Why is this so impressive? Because tracking turtles via telemetry is hard, especially when they are no larger than a kiwi and are bunkered down in the mud.
Telemetry is fascinating as it receives a signal from the transmitter attached to the turtle’s shell via epoxy (no, this is not harmful to them) and sends it to a receiver carried by us humans. This signal becomes a series of “beeps” that can be heard in different strengths depending on where you are in relation to the turtle.
As we get closer to the turtle, we are able to get a better idea of the turtle’s location down to within a few feet of us. Sounds easy right? Wrong. This usually leads us smack dab to the middle of cattails with their roots forming a large mass. Now, here is the fun part. Sticking your hands blindly into the murky water to feel around, not knowing what is down there, trying to find a small turtle about the size of kiwi. Want to know what makes this even better? They swim.
Once you feel something that resembles a turtle, which, believe me, there are many things that do, you are rewarded with the cutest little Blandings face staring back at you. All of that time spent walking in circles, getting cut by cattails and bit by mosquitos, is all worth it when you find another turtle that represents the future of this amazing species.