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.

North America’s Smallest Turtle

Eastern North America is home to one of the most diverse turtle faunas in the world, due in large part to the high number of freshwater turtle species inhabiting this region. This diverse group of turtles displays a wide variety of life histories, body sizes, colors, and preferred habitats. Globally, turtles are one of the […]