The Big Turtle Year: Update #20

Post by George L. Heinrich

The Florida Turtle Conservation Trust's (FTCT) yearlong project, The Big Turtle Year, has come to an end. During 2017, I completed 15 multi-day trips and dozens of one-day trips, took 25 flights, and was gone from home for an even 100 nights. Most of this travel was related to TBTY and on a few trips, I was fortunate to be accompanied by my research partner and best friend, Tim Walsh. Dozens of turtle biologists and conservationists traveled with us across the United States (U.S.) in an effort to see as many species as possible during a single year and to raise awareness regarding their diversity, status, and conservation. The final species count was 57! As reported in the last blog posting, we ended TBTY with finding a Florida chicken turtle (Deirochelys reticularia chrysea), which was appropriate since we searched for this species throughout the year in four states. In the end, only two species were not found: the Apalachicola alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys apalachicolae) and yellow mud turtle (Kinosternon flavescens). We tried for them in Georgia and Texas respectively, but it was not to be.

We are most grateful to the dozens of donors who made this project possible and to everyone who joined us in the field. What a great time we had learning about the plight of U.S. species, much of which quietly goes unnoticed. Although the fieldwork phase of this project is now complete, we still have much work to do. A nationwide lecture series, “The Big Turtle Year: Celebrating Wild Turtles Across the United States,” has already begun and will continue into 2019. Please contact george(at)heinrichecologicalservices.com if you would like to explore the possibility of scheduling a program in your area. Further, Tim and I are now writing a book based on this conservation education project. Please continue to monitor the project website (www.thebigturtleyear.org) and FTCT's Facebook page for updates. We like turtles and hope you do too.

 Adult, male gopher tortoise ( Gopherus polyphemus ) observed at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve (St. Petersburg, Florida) on 1 January 2017. This was the first species observed during The Big Turtle Year. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Adult, male gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) observed at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve (St. Petersburg, Florida) on 1 January 2017. This was the first species observed during The Big Turtle Year. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.