NAFTRG 2014: The Year of the Volunteer

by Eric Munscher 

This year has been a great one for the North American Freshwater Turtle Research Group (NAFTRG) for many reasons, none more so than because of the incredible volunteers that made it all possible. The group captured and processed more turtles in 2014 than in any other year since the project launched in 1999. Our captures at Wekiwa, Blue, Ichetucknee, Manatee, Fanning Springs in Florida, Comal Springs in Texas, and Horseshoe Creek Lake in Tennessee have brought the total for the year to 3,415 turtles representing 12 species. Volunteers from eleven states attended this year's sampling sessions, including a class from Freed Hardeman University led by Dr. Brain Butterfield, a class from the University of Florida led by Dr. Ben Atkinson, and an international class from Earlham College led by Dr. John Iverson.

Students from Santa Fe College and the University of Florida posed for a group photo with park staff and volunteers from the naftrg

The NAFTRG also added a new sampling site in Ichetucknee Springs (Florida) this year. With this park came a new partnership with Dr. Jerry Johnston and his Santa Fe River turtle crew. This new park was sampled twice in 2014 and the group captured approximately 550 turtles total. This will be a great site for long-term monitoring that also offers wonderful opportunities for collaboration with another turtle research group.

Other highlights from the year include:

  • An Apalone ferox population modeling paper, developed using NAFTRG data, has been accepted to Chelonian Conservation and Biology for publication.
  • The NAFTRG leadership and volunteers reached out the community several times this year via presentations at study sites, as well as at professional meetings. At its heart, the NAFTRG is a citizen science program and outreach is a great way to recruit new researchers. 
  • We added Ichetucknee Springs to our list of sampling sites in 2014, expanding our reach in Florida. We are pleased to announce that we are adding yet another Florida site in March. Weeki Wachee Springs, the land of mermaids, will welcome turtle researchers for the first time in March 2015. We hope that you'll join us!