My first day at COLO – Turtle Time!

My first day at COLO – Turtle Time!

Despite going into my fourth year of college fifteen minutes away from Jamestown Island, I had never visited the park prior to my first day. I heard from my fellow geology students that the park was rich in its attractions, whether you were interested in a nature walk or learning about American history. I was thrilled to learn I would be working at Colonial Historical National Park (Or COLO, if you don’t have time to say all that), because exploring this unique intersection of geology and history has been on my college bucket list. My first day at the park was spent exploring Jamestown Island – Dorothy Geyer, my lovely supervisor, wanted to give me the full history and tour. Dorothy told me a lot about the turtle mortality rates that have sadly been rather high recently, and we set out in the park’s Jeep to go see if we could find some turtles while touring the Island! 

Overlooking the marsh, which used to be farmland!

While we searched the narrow road for turtles, Dorothy told me more about the background for my summer project. Jamestown Island has been manipulated for centuries by humans, whether for agriculture, shelter, or education, and its geology is interesting to study in the context of climate change. Sea level rise has been impacting the island for years, with a projection of the entire island being submerged by 2100. By mapping the vegetation, hydrology, and soil/water quality, we will be able to put together a model for similar environments that can be used in the future as sea level rises. As ecosystems are submerged over time, how can we find suitable replacement habitats for the plants and animals whose homes go under? 

As Dorothy was explaining the rationale for this project, she also explained the sad news of turtle mortality rates on trails we were driving along – due to the shaded road cutting through these wetlands, people have been running over turtles who unknowingly cross dangerously. She pointed out a turtle that was almost impossible to spot because it blended into the road (see if you can spot the turtle in the photo!) and explained that since people are focused on the beautiful scenery surrounding the road, they tend to miss the turtles crossing the road. It saddened me to hear that mortality rates are rising, but Dorothy told me they were collecting data in order to prevent a rising rate. She also offered for me to volunteer and help out with the data collection, so I plan on spending an upcoming Saturday walking through the Jamestown Island Trails with other interns at the park and saving some more turtles from the road!

It’s hard to see turtles when they’re covered by the shade of the trees! This little guy was almost invisible from the car! (If you can’t see him, look in the very center of the image!)

I had a lovely day out in the park with Dorothy, and I am looking forward to a summer full of data collection, learning about Native and Colonial history, and turtle saving!

My new pal!
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