All you need is a digital camera and an internet connection to take part in an exciting turtle-tracking project. The Bruce Museum in Greenwich is looking for Citizen Scientists to record observations wherever they occur in Connecticut The project is called the Connecticut Turtle Atlas. There is an iNaturalist smart phone app that makes it even easier. To learn why this is so important and how to get started, see below. Approximately 58% of all turtles worldwide are threatened with extinction. A long list of diverse threats impact both common and highly endangered tortoise and freshwater turtle species on several continents. Perhaps the greatest are habitat loss; collection for the food, pet, and medicinal trade; road mortality; and predation. Working in negative synergy, these threats are creating a perfect storm for this most endangered vertebrate group in the world. Certainly, these threats present broad and immediate conservation challenges. Despite the urgency of the situation, opportunities for conservation are abundant and the charismatic attraction of turtles makes them an excellent group for education and outreach efforts to enhance ecological, conservation, and environmental awareness.
Twelve species are native to Connecticut. Some, such as the wood, bog, spotted, and box turtles are in decline. With this Bruce Museum Citizen Science initiative, the Connecticut Turtle Atlas invites the public to assist in conserving the State’s rich turtle diversity. So far, 37 participants recorded 186 observations of nine species throughout the State. Citizen Scientists will collect data on specific locations and abundance of all turtle species found throughout the State. These volunteers will record data via website or smartphone app using the iNaturalist.org platform. The information gathered will be used to map distributions, identify important habitats, locate areas of nesting abundance, and detect roadways with high traffic-related mortality. The data will be shared with other interested researchers and governmental entities. This is a great project for families to participate in while enjoying the outdoors. There may also be opportunities to assist with various aspects of turtle research and participate in field trips.
For more information on how to join the project, please contact Tim Walsh, Manager of Natural History Collections and Citizen Science, at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will send you a sheet with specific, easy directions on how to sign up. Or call Tim at 203-413-6767. If you feel adventuresome, you can create an account at www.iNaturalist.org and search the projects for the Connecticut Turtle Atlas.