University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Michelle Scott, Professor of Zoology
Variation in population size and home range for painted turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) between two southeastern New Hampshire marsh sites
Human development and activity have a negative effect on the population size of many species in wetland environments. Reptiles and turtles in particular are suffering substantial declines in population throughout North America. My research is on the eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta), commonly found in the ponds and marshes of New England. I planned on applying my data to a comparison study with Matt Hinderliter, a graduate student in Zoology, whose study focuses on declining populations of spotted turtles (Chrysemys guttata).
My study sites are one pristine environment (Durham, NH conservation land) and one environment close to human habitation and susceptible to human disturbance (on Durham Point Rd in Durham, NH). I compared the population and home range of a common turtle with those of the threatened spotted turtle. My research involved field observations and the collection of painted turtles for a mark-recapture study using two methods. We utilized funnel traps baited with carrion (dead salmon or haddock), and we netted the turtles directly by wading in the sites or using a canoe. I took body measurements and marked the turtles by notching the carapace. Although I hypothesized that painted turtle population and home range would be adversely affected by human disturbance and interaction I observed more painted turtles at the disturbed site. They allowed us to get close to them (3-5 feet) and they recovered from disturbances quicker than the turtles at the pristine site.
This research is important to wetland conservation issues. The comparison of the pristine environment to the environment susceptible to human disturbances may give new insight into why amphibian and reptile populations are declining.