Predicting Hatching Success in Eastern Box Turtles Across Habitat Types

Predicting Hatching Success in Eastern Box Turtles Across Habitat Types (INT)
Anthony Beals, Michigan State University
Additional Contributors: Alicia Ihnken, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Tracy Swem, Michigan State University

In Michigan, eastern box turtles are considered a species of special concern. This project evaluates potential hatching success across nesting habitat types by interpolating temperatures across a spatial gradient. We placed 19 temperature sensors at soil depths consistent with eastern box turtle nests in five differentnesting habitat types consisting of a gravel pit, corn and soybean fields, big blue stem dominated prairie and a species diverse remnant prairie. These sensors temporally mimicked the natural nesting season at our field site. These sites were in previously known or suspected nesting areas based on data from a subset of radio-tracked female eastern box turtles. Using nest incubation temperature, vegetation structure, vegetation composition and soil moisture we evaluate the effects of habitat type on hatching success to assess potential recruitment vulnerabilities across habitat types. The gathered data can be used to develop best management practices by the Department of Natural Resources.

Anthony Beals, Michigan State University
Anthony Beals is a current undergraduate student at Michigan State University (MSU). He is projected to graduate in spring 2016 with a BS in fisheries and wildlife management with a concentration in conservation biology. While at MSU, he was elected chair of the Habitat Management Committee for the 2014 spring and fall semesters. As committee chair, he organized and oversaw the annual Red Cedar River clean-up. From May to October of 2014 he worked as a radio-telemetry technician on the on-going collaborative eastern box turtle project at Fort Custer Recreation Area with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and MSU. While there he tracked box turtles and recorded microclimate, habitat and behavioral data. He also helped perform a Blanchard's cricket frog survey and identified various plants around the park. He was also designated a "nest leader" during the fall season supervising other telemetry technicians tracking turtle hatchlings.