Evaluating local turtle populations in Toledo
The Zoo's Conservation department is conducting research in Toledo-area woodlands areas and marshes through mark recapture techniques with Spotted Turtles, Blanding's Turtles, Woodland Box Turtles, Painted Turtles and Common Snapping Turtles. This data allows our conservation biologists to determine the population statuses of these species by providing insight on size, weight and number of turtles in each study location, as well as estimates of population sizes.
Our conservation biologists also use radio telemetry to monitor turtle movements and habitat use. Turtles are caught and are outfitted with a radio-transmitter, then and released back into their habitat where they are tracked weekly. The transmitter is harmlessly attached to the shell with an epoxy that can be removed later on. The antenna is situated behind the turtle and is flexible to allow the turtle to move unrestricted. Data from our telemetry studies are used to inform conservation plans and recommendations to our partners.
Our work with The Ohio State University’s Ohio Biological Conservation Partnership has resulted in the largest turtle dataset for the state. Over three years, we put in over 26,000 trap nights across 47 sites in Northern Ohio. These surveys resulted in the capture and marking of 588 Blanding’s Turtles, 5,936 Painted Turtles, and 1,665 Snapping Turtles.
The Toledo Zoo has a long-term Blanding’s turtle community science program that began in 2014. One of our community scientist partners acts as a lead and collects Blanding’s Turtle plastron photos from people in his neighborhood. The patterns on the plastron are like fingerprints and pattern-recognition software, similar to fingerprint scanners, can be used to identify individuals. Over many years, these chance occurrences add up and we can create mark-recapture histories for the turtles and generate population estimates.
Anyone can be a community scientist! Upload images of reptiles or amphibians that you encounter while out on your adventure.