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Follow The Mysterious Wood Turtle At Audubon’s First Friday

Where do wood turtles go when no one is watching?

Biologist Sara Crayton started radio-tracking these elusive turtles to find out.

At Audubon Community Nature Center’s First Friday on Dec. 3, area residents can join the West Virginia University PhD student in “Following Wood Turtles” to learn about their natural history, conservation efforts, and current research. Crayton’s doctoral work focuses on responses of Wood Turtle populations to landscape alteration for oil and gas development in Pennsylvania. She will share what she has learned about this incredible species, their habits, and how human activity affects them.

Wood turtles are a semi-aquatic species that spends much of the spring, summer, and fall wandering through upland forests before hibernating in streams through the winter. They can live up to 60 years in the wild, make remarkable long-distance journeys, and engage in some fascinating behaviors. Unfortunately, the species is now in sharp decline and is considered to be globally endangered.

Last summer Jeff Tome, ACNC public engagement specialist, took eight tweens and teens in Audubon’s Teen Camp, Reptile Round-up, to Crayton’s study site “in the middle of nowhere” in the Allegheny National Forest. They spent the day using her equipment, searching for wood turtles and other animals. She let the kids take measurements, weigh the turtles, and use the equipment. As Tome described, “It was pretty cool — I would have paid for the experience!”

From Farmington, Pa., Crayton received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., where she completed research on the signaling behavior of wolf spiders. As an intern at The Wilds in Ohio, she trapped turtles at a reclaimed strip mine and raised hellbenders in a headstart facility. She has completed wildlife inventories along the Missouri River, mist-netted saw-whet owls, and captured hawks. Her Master’s research at West Virginia University investigated whether stream salamander populations are affected by the insecticide imidacloprid.

The fee for this program is $8, or $6 for Nature Center members and children ages 9-15.

Space is limited. Reservations are appreciated by calling 569-2345 or going to AudubonCNC.org and clicking through “Upcoming Programs.” Walk-ins are welcome.

For First Friday, chairs are set up in a socially distant manner. Participants who come together may sit together.

To learn more about Audubon and its programs, call 569-2345, find Audubon Community Nature Center on Facebook, or visit AudubonCNC.org.

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