This week our Director of the Alexander Center for Applied Population Biology Joanne Earnhardt, Ph.D., was in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge near Savanna, Illinois, tracking ornate box turtles.
With the help of several turtle-sniffing dogs, scientists and a team of volunteers combed a sand-prairie habitat that is slated for heavy development. Any turtles that are found this week will be collected, registered, radio-tagged and released into a protected area.
This is the first year Lincoln Park Zoo is participating in this project, lending our scientific expertise while learning more about ornate box turtles, which occupy increasingly shrinking portions of our state. This threatened species requires sand-prairie habitat to thrive. As only a small percentage of these regions remain in Illinois (lost to industry and agriculture), the spaces for ornate box turtles to live are small.
Efforts like these are critical. This project is another example of our field conservation initiatives, which range from work performed here in Illinois to exotic locales like Gombe and the Serengeti.
Finally, to celebrate Endangered Species Day tomorrow, zoo educators will be on the Main Mall to discuss the zoo’s rarest species, while scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will share how they’ve partnered with the zoo to save animals. I hope you can stop by.
As always, I’ll keep you posted.