Saturday, May 19, 2012
Turtle Camp 2012! The 25th Year!
What is Turtle Camp?
25 years ago, a PhD student from the University of Chicago was looking for a place to find Painted Turtle eggs for a science experiment. Somebody suggested heading to a Sand Prairie along the Mississippi River, near Thomson, IL. As he was camping nearby on a nearby island, he noticed turtles seemed to love nesting right in there in the campsite! That student was Fred Janzen. Fred is now a Professor at Iowa State University and we now know that campsite as Turtle Camp. And every year since that summer, Fred and his students have traveled to the Turtle Camp to research the turtles.
For 6 weeks each May and June, a team of researchers is stationed at Turtle Camp, trying to learn as much about the ecology and evolution of these animals as possible. The Turtle Camp Research Team has very diverse duties. On one of the nesting beaches, we walk through every single hour of daylight looking for nesting turtles, and take all sorts of information about each nest. We also trap turtle swimming around in the river, and learn about those turtles as well. We visit the Sand Prairie, which is a great habitat for turtle nesting, and for many uncommon reptiles to live (like the Hognose Snake and Ornate Box Turtle). On top of all this, students have their own research projects going on. Indeed, Turtle Camp is a busy place for the Turtle researchers.
Who is the Turtle Camp research team?
Each year the research team is a bit different, and throughout the season different people come and go. Right now, I am coordinating the research project. I am a PhD student at Iowa State, and I am working with 3 Iowa State biology students, Jessica, Brooke, and Aubrey. Jessica is from Des Moines, and has been to Turtle Camp for 6 years (longer than I have). She started coming as a high school student. Brooke is in her second year at Turtle Camp, and Aubrey in her first. As Turtle Camp proceeds more and different people will be coming through. Of course, Fred is still the primary Turtle Camp researcher, and is the reason there has been successful research continuing here for so long.
What to expect by following along?
Over the coming weeks, you will learn that turtles are very fascinating and interesting creatures. And you will also learn what its like to be a science researcher living in the field, studying animals in their natural habitats. It will be a fun adventure for us, and I hope you will have a fun following along.