Andrew Hamer works with Earthwatch volunteers studying freshwater turtles.
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.”
A great moment in the field
“Most turtles we catch around Melbourne are common long-necked turtles, with the occasional Murray River short-necked turtle. When pulling in the nets at the end of a long day, you come to expect much the same: either no turtles (damn!) or a long-neck. But sometimes the unexpected happens: on the last day of surveys in December 2012 and March 2013, we caught the unexpected! First, a huge broad-shelled river turtle, then a massive saw-shelled turtle. We all were very excited at the sight of these impressive catches. I certainly needed help when handling these big turtles, for without it I would have been bitten or clawed. Well done to the brave citizen scientists on those days!”