by Eric Munscher
2015 marked the sixteenth continuous year of turtle research conducted by the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (NAFTRG). This year started with a ten-day trip in March to seven research sites in Florida including a new park – Weeki Wachee Springs. During that trip, the NAFTRG was able to capture and process 1,102 turtles representing 13 species. Sampling continued at our Texas, Tennessee, and Florida study sites throughout the spring, summer, and fall, ending with a November trip to Comal Springs in New Braunfels, Texas where we were able to capture 342 turtles representing four species in 2.5 days.
Over the course of the year, the NAFTRG had student volunteers from nine universities and numerous public and private institutions. This amazing volunteer turn out allowed the NAFTRG to reach a benchmark for the second time in its existence: 3,000 captured and processed turtles. This is truly an amazing feat that couldn’t happen without the dedicated and amazing volunteers that the NAFTRG calls family.
Not only was 2015 a good year for field research but it was a good year for publications. The NAFTRG was able to publish two papers on Pseudemys growth and a population model on Apalone ferox. We are closing out the year with another four manuscripts currently in review at various peer reviewed journals and another two papers that will hopefully be submitted in the year future.
Since the NAFTRG became a part of the Turtle Survival Alliance in 2011, we have added three new study sites, exponentially increased our volunteer program, secured substantial grant money, and are actively publishing our findings. To continue this growth, we will continue to rely on the strength of our volunteer base. The NAFTRG is sitting on a wealth of data that we are trying to publish. However, we have limitations in terms of time and resources and welcome partnerships and collaboration in all aspects of our research. We would welcome graduate students and professors eager for a long-term project to contact us. We have excellent relationships within the state wildlife agencies and the sites that we work in and can easily add side projects to our permits.
2015 was an amazing year for the NAFTRG. We are looking to make 2016 even better. We live by a simple slogan; one that we would like to share with everyone: “We are turtle rich”.