Sampling for Wood Turtles

The Orianne Society spends a significant amount of time working on Wood Turtles in Vermont as part of the Great Northern Forest initiative. But did you know that Wood Turtles can be found in approximately 15 other states and in some parts of southeastern Canada? Despite this relatively large range, Wood Turtles are listed as Endangered by the IUCN and have already experienced population declines throughout most of their range, making them one of the rarest freshwater turtles in North America.

Ambystoma Nights

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) from the mountains of Virginia. – Houston Chandler On cool rainy nights from late fall to early winter something incredible happens across much of the United States. Ambystomatid salamanders leave their subterranean refuges and migrate towards breeding wetlands, often in large numbers that can transform shallow wetlands into a frenzy of […]

Occupancy Surveying for Gopher Tortoises

I wrote last month about our recent Line Transect Distance Surveys (LTDS) for Gopher Tortoises on the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve. This survey technique has become the standard for the vast majority of the tortoise monitoring that occurs across the southeast and with good reason. The LTDS framework presents a relatively easy survey methodology that can be carried out reliably by a small group of observers. Furthermore, it accomplishes the general goal of monitoring populations for a species that can be difficult to actually encounter using other survey techniques (i.e., tortoises are underground a majority of the time). With all of this said, are there circumstances where an alternative survey approach may be desired to monitor tortoise populations?

Monitoring Gopher Tortoises on the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve

The Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve (OISP) contains just over 2,500 acres of protected lands located in the heart of southern Georgia. The property contains a mix of sandhills, small creeks and wetlands, and a large floodplain that backs up to the Ocmulgee River. An impressive 75 species of amphibians and reptiles have been documented on the property, and it provides a home to several rare or imperiled species, including the Eastern Indigo Snake, Gopher Tortoise, and Tiger Salamander. The OISP is also important because it serves as The Orianne Society’s home base in southern Georgia, housing all of our land management and sampling equipment. Over the last 10 years, an impressive amount of management has been conducted on the property. Tree planting, thinning, prescribed fire, and ground cover restoration have gone a long way to restoring the Longleaf Pine forests to their former glory.

Adult Spotted Turtle basking in the afternoon sun – Houston Chandler

Avoiding the Heat: Thermal Environments Experienced by Georgia’s Spotted Turtles

Ectotherms are unable to internally regulate their body temperatures, instead depending on the environment as a source of heat. These animals must either conform to environmental temperatures or thermoregulate to raise body temperatures above environmental temperatures through behavior, physiology, or both. For reptiles, this typically means some type of basking behavior where high body temperatures can be obtained relative to the air temperature.