by Eric Munscher
The North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (NAFTRG) sampled the Comal Springs in New Braunfels, Texas for the sixth time (third time in 2013) from September 20-22, 2013. Comal Springs is the headwaters to the Comal River and represents a very important ecological region in Texas. This area is an iconic site in Texas that is visited by over a million people each year. People come to experience and swim in the Comal River, to visit historic Landa Park, or to enjoy the sites and tastes of an old German town in New Braunfels. The study site is in Landa Lake, the headwaters of Comal Springs that is responsible for feeding this entire system. This site is home to numerous endangered species as well as a host of invasive species.
During this past turtle survey, volunteers from SWCA Environmental Consultants Houston, Austin, and San Antonio offices, Turtle Survival Alliance, Fort Worth Zoo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Sea World San Antonio, San Antonio Zoo, Houston ISD, Tyler Zoo, and other affiliates participated in the sampling effort. In just 2.5 field days, the group captured a new record 520 turtles representing four species. Over half of the captures were Common Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus). In less than two years’ time, the NAFTRG has already marked over 1,500 individuals in this spring-fed lake system.
Another important milestone to acknowledge is that the week before this sampling event took place, the City of New Braunfels invited NAFTRG Principal Investigator Eric Munscher and fellow researcher Stephen Ross from SWCA to attend the city’s volunteer appreciation dinner, where we were awarded the city’s Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award, the second highest honor bestowed upon a volunteer group. The award acknowledges our turtle and invasive species efforts. As part of an ecosystem restoration and management project, the city of New Braunfels initiated an invasive species removal program in 2013. The initiative is being conducted by SWCA Environmental Consultants, headed by NAFTRG Principle Investigator Eric Munscher. To date over 6,000 lbs. of invasive biomass has been removed including tilapia, armored catfish, nutria, and giant ramshorn snail. Much of this effort is aimed at improving spring quality for the federally listed species that live in this system, and may also benefit the turtles. This project will continue in 2014.
The next sampling session for this spring will be November 8-10, 2013 . Please come and join us! Click here to learn more about how you can participate.