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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Turtles on the Move - Student Challenge

Join an Earthwatch Student Challenge team and help us uncover the secrets of Melbourne’s freshwater turtle population.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Data on turtles and their environment will aid in the development of strategies to conserve turtles in the Melbourne region.

Populations of freshwater turtles are decreasing globally. Help us to understand how changes from increased urbanization impact our wildlife populations.

The human population of Melbourne has grown by 750,000 over the past decade. With the increase in population comes an expansion of infrastructure, causing the few remaining habitats for freshwater turtles in urban areas to be threatened by polluted run-off and other changes that alter the natural flow, levels, and volumes of water bodies known as the hydrological regimes. Understanding how these changes impact wildlife populations is important in deciding land and wildlife management strategies.

Working with scientists from the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (ARCUE), Earthwatch teams will assess Melbourne’s freshwater turtle populations by undertaking a mark-and-recapture program at sites distributed along an urban–rural gradient. Data from marked individuals that are recaptured over the years can be used to estimate demographic features such as survivorship and population size. By taking various measurements of the turtles' size and weight, we can assess body condition and age structure within a population.

Freshwater turtle, Australia

A healthy turtle population points to a healthy ecosystem, but globally, freshwater turtles are in decline.

This information, along with water quality and habitat assessment data, will provide local councils and governments with the necessary evidence to develop management strategies that will enable sustainable populations of turtles to exist in the Melbourne region.

About the research area

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Australia & South Pacific

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

This is a summary:

The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Andrew
Hamer
Ecologist, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne

ABOUT Andrew Hamer

Why are you fascinated by freshwater turtles? Says Dr. Hamer: “Freshwater turtles inhabit both aquatic and terrestrial environments. This lifestyle puts them at the top of the food chain in wetlands, but somewhere in the middle when they are on land. Their slow life history is also quite different from that of most wetland animals; they take a long time to reach maturity and live a lot longer. But it is these very characteristics that place freshwater turtles at greatest risk from human impacts. Uncovering the reasons why some turtle species can exist in urban landscapes is a unique challenge that is the foundation of my research.”

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