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Off to a Great Start

Posted on Jul 12, 2016

They say time flies when you’re having fun, right? Well I can say time has certainly been flying here at RTPI as the summer field season is now underway. So far, I’ve spent much of my time working with our Project Wild America Youth Ambassadors in the city of Jamestown as we continue the work we started last year. We are conducting more in depth studies of this urban ecosystem, and so far the PWA Youth Ambassadors have been diving in, quite literally, eagerly learning more.


Our first day started out with an orientation presentation, tour of the building and grounds and then some ice-breaker activities to get the crew working together and getting to know one another. Heather and Adolf created a scavenger hunt for the crew which entailed using a compass, GPS unit and a bit of direction to find some of their supplies they would need for the summer as well as getting familiar with some equipment and field guides. Here Mike Christy determines the next turn to make to get to their next destination.


The next ice breaker activity entailed learning about what every good biologist needs to have with them on a daily basis. The students broke up into teams and participated in a relay race. RTPI shirts had to be put on and backpacks stuffed with the proper supplies.


Griffin gets his backpack packed up and already has his boots on, just about ready to make a run for it.


After grabbing the correct nets, Griffin and Erros run to the “pond” to catch either a dragonfly or fish, only to race back to their team and get the next student ready.


After our relay race was complete (both student teams did great and it was a close finish!), we brought out all our nets that we would be using over the course of the summer to decontaminate them with a 10% bleach solution. By doing this, we prevent moving any diseases to or from the Chadakoin watershed that could impact fish, amphibians or turtles.


On our first day out on the river, we all had a special glance at a female turtle laying her eggs in the fresh mulch right along the Riverwalk. We didn’t disturb her as we didn’t want to disrupt her egg laying. The students were in awe of this big turtle and we had the opportunity to see a few more throughout the course of the week.


As we talked about turtle trapping, our big female finished her egg laying, covered the nest and moseyed back to the safety of the Chadakoin.


These turtles are quite fast, and she wasted no time getting back to the water.


After enjoying our turtle observation, we pulled the seine net out and did some practicing with it on land.


The students got the hang of the net fast, so we moved them into the water and tried our fortune to see if we could catch a spiny softshell turtle.


We had a number of students stationed on the net, holding it in place, and had the rest work their way down the river attempting to push any turtles in the water towards the net.


Once our students reached the net, they all grabbed it and pulled it up to see if their efforts were fruitful.


The following day, we tried another trapping technique and placed hoop traps into the outlet. They were staked in place and GPS’ed.


After being left overnight, the traps were pulled and the turtles inside were processed.


Each turtle was measured, aged and sexed.


Turtles were weighed and photographed as well.


From turtles to dragonflies, the PWA crew has been interested in everything we can find and catch! Here, Heather shows Morgan one of the proper methods of holding a dragonfly.


Referred to as the photographers hold, this eastern pondhawk dragonfly is in the perfect position to be photographed and released shortly after.


Our explorations have led us deep into the outlet of Chautauqua Lake, and as you can see it doesn’t look like we are in Jamestown but we certainly are!

Although we have just completed our second week with our students, I anticipate the rest of the summer season with them to be nothing short of excellent. Our students have been impressing me everyday with their enthusiasm, work ethics and deep desire to learn more about their backyards. Furthermore, they want to see change and are doing their best to collect valuable information so that we might be able to better educate the community, city officials and others so that we can work together to improve this beautiful ecosystem that thrives within the historically industrial and currently commercial city structure.

As we enter this week, we will be focusing our attention on invasive species around the city and will be hosting a number of events in which the public can join in on and learn a bit more about the alien species we share space with. Check out our events page to get the full listing and keep watch on the PWA webpage,  www.projectwildamerica.org, for more!

Elyse Henshaw
Conservation Technician