Turtle Tracking Internship

By Daniel Guinto

This past year I was an intern with the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission working on the Eastern Box Turtle Project. As part of this project we conducted active searches along transect lines in several one acre plots. Although we didn’t always see eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina) we encountered a plethora of other amazing organisms along the way! As a transfer student coming from Ohio, this was an incredible introduction to the awesome herpetofauna diversity of North Carolina!  Since I focus mostly on herpetology I kept an ever expanding list of reptiles and amphibians we encountered from day to day. We encountered many snakes along the way including: worm snakes (Carphophis amoenus), smooth earth snakes (Virginia valeriae), Eastern garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), DeKay’s brown snake (Storeria dekayi),  rough green snakes (Opheodrys aestivus), black rat snakes (Pantherophis obsoletus), and copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix). We also regularly encountered: five lined skinks (Plestidon fasciatus), ground skinks (Scincella lateralis), common musk turtles (Sternotherus odoratus), painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), and yellow-bellied sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta). Additionally we came across plenty of amphibians including; green frogs (Lithobates clamitans), American toads (Anaxyrus americanus), northern cricket frogs (Acris crepitans), green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea), spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), upland chorus frogs (Pseudacris feriarum), red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens), southern two-lined salamanders (Eurycea cirrigea), Chamberlin’s dwarf salamanders (Eurycea chamberlaini), and white spotted slimy salamanders (Plethodon cylindraceus). Last but not least we also found some eastern box turtles (Terrapene carolina), North Carolina’s state reptile! Through these encounters I was able to practice my field identification skills, push myself to learn scientific names, and learn about the ranges and habitats of native reptiles and amphibians. Working at Lake Raleigh right on Centennial Campus I was able to see how much species diversity can occur in an urban area if enough space is properly conserved. The diversity I encountered help to reinforce the idea that you don’t have to go out into the middle of nowhere to find wildlife, but that you can find biodiversity right on campus! This experience also helped me to develop a new found interest in the growing field of urban ecology. Each day on the job brought all new exciting encounters with awesome animals and provided many chances to take some great pictures!