When people imagine places with spectacular reptile and amphibian diversity, they are unlikely to think of the extreme northeastern North America. Yet, despite lacking the species diversity of many other places, the Great Northern Forests are home to some of the rarest turtles in North America, and during spring rains, the vast numbers of frogs and salamanders that can be seen greatly exceeds those observed in other places that attract far more attention by herpetologists. Northern New England and the surrounding areas lay right at the edge of a major ecological transitional zone, with northern hardwood forests to the south and boreal forests to the north. As such, it is home to unique combinations of species found nowhere else in the world and contains some of the most remote wilderness on the east coast. Through our Great Northern Forests Initiative we work to protect the unique species and landscapes that call this place home. To launch this initiative, we are focusing on research and conservation of Wood Turtles and vernal pools in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (NEK). The NEK contains a diverse mosaic of truly wild and pristine places, but is also rich with small-scale agriculture and is under increasing development pressure. The same fertile riparian floodplains best-suited for agriculture, however, are also the preferred habitat of the Wood Turtle. Wood Turtles are in sharp decline across their range due, in part, to mortality caused by mowing equipment. Thankfully, a series of conservation programs exist to help find innovative solutions that not only help stabilize Wood Turtle populations, but also help farmers by promoting agricultural sustainability. As we work to better understand the distribution of Wood Turtles in the NEK, we will also work with farmers to restore riparian habitat in ways that protect Wood Turtles while balancing the needs of the farm-to-table agriculture the region depends on. Through the Great Northern Forests Initiative, we partner with other organizations to conserve the ecosystems and landscapes critical to rare reptiles and amphibians in the places most important to their conservation.  

Wood Turtle Research

Wood Turtle Research

The Orianene Society uses Visual Encounter Surveys and Occupancy Modeling to better map the status and distribution of Wood Turtles in Vermont and assess population trends. Through these efforts we also identify the places most critical to the conservation of Wood Turtles in the region.

Photo: Kiley Briggs

Vernal Pools

Vernal Pools

Vernal Pools are critical to many amphibian species, but are not included on most habitat and wetland maps, which results in vernal pools lacking enforceable protections. Our vernal pool monitoring and conservation program increases knowledge and awareness of the importance vernal pools. We work with landowners to put in place measures that protect this critical habitat from development and fragmentation.

Photo: Houston Chandler

Population Monitoring

Population Monitoring

In places of great conservation importance to Wood Turtles, we engage in population monitoring efforts to identify locally-specific threats to the species so that appropriate conservation strategies can be targeted to those areas.

Photo: Pete Oxford

Timber Rattlesnakes

Timber Rattlesnakes

From 2011 to 2012, Orianne conducted the first ever extensive radio telemetry study of Timber Rattlesnakes in Vermont to identify critical foraging habitat for the species, and also provide the first estimates of population size in the state through mark-recapture analysis. This study is used to improve habitat for the species and help ensure Timber Rattlesnakes remain a part of Vermont’s landscape.

Photo:Pete Oxford

Conservation & Outreach

Conservation & Landowner Outreach

Wood Turtle populations are highly sensitive to the loss of adults due to human causes. In the places most important to regional Wood Turtle populations, we work with landowners (especially farmers) & conservation partners to develop habitat management plans that minimize turtle mortality without disrupting agricultural operations.

Photo: Kiley Briggs

Citizen Science

Citizen Science

Orianne Society staff give presentations and lead educational field trips and trainings to a variety of audiences to promote and raise awareness of reptiles and amphibians in the northeast, as well as their conservation concerns. If you are interested in having The Orianne Society give a talk or participate in an event, please contact us to inquire about availability.

Photo: Kiley Briggs