Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Category: research impact (page 1 of 3)

Protecting wood turtles on farms

Guest post by Simon Greenland-Smith, Wood Turtle Strides project manager and MES alum 2014

An elusive wood turtle found is a good day.

An elusive wood turtle found is a good day (photo: Simon Greenland-Smith)

Working with species at risk almost never provides instant gratification. Wood Turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) are a long-lived, slow-to-mature species that have a bad habit of getting struck by farm equipment, often not making it to reproductive age. This has led to a steady decline in their populations in Nova Scotia and beyond. The same traits make their recovery a particular challenge.

Since August 2016, a collaborative team (Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, Environment and Climate Change Canada and many other organizations) has been working on a novel approach to Wood Turtle conservation in Nova Scotia. Wood Turtle Strides is a program design to encourage farmers to sign stewardship agreements and implement Beneficial Management Practices that will help avoid striking and killing Wood Turtles. Uniquely, Wood Turtle Strides offers financial incentives to farmers that are designed to help farmers meet their production goals while also meeting their conservation goals. Time after time through surveys, interviews and other social science methods, we have learned that both these goals are important to farmers and striking a balance between them is a concept that resonates strongly with farmers. For instance, farmers can receive ‘per-hectare incentives’ to raise their mower blades above the maximum height of the turtles, increasing their chances of survival to reproductive age. Currently, Wood Turtle Strides has 7-9 enrolled farmers, but we are hoping to attract around 30 farms and sign incentive-based stewardship agreements worth over $100K (CAD).

Found one!

Found one!

Wood Turtles live a slow life, and working toward their conservation can be equally slow, but finding Wood Turtles alive and well in the wild can be particularly rewarding. It certainly keeps the energy high among the Wood Turtle Strides team!

For more info on Wood Turtle Strides visit farmbiodiversity.ca/strides. Also, keep an eye out for our new Wood Turtle animated video which will be available (along with two other great animations on biodiversity-friendly farming) on our extension  YouTube channel (Kate says, “we have a YouTube channel?”).

NB Citizen Jury informing Scotland

Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Roberts, ClimateXChange Postdoctoral Fellow at Strathclyde University, for letting us know that the NB Electricity Futures Citizen Jury we ran in October 2015 was included as a case in a policy brief they published. The brief, Experts and evidence in public decision making, was released this month in hopes it will inform  the consultations that have been recently launched by Scottish Government on the theme of climate change and energy. We are thrilled at this news of offshore research impact.

New wood turtle stewardship program announced at ASFWB

A wood turtle found by Grade 9 students from Middleton, out with Katie McLean from CARP and Simon Greenland-Smith, in September 2016.

A wood turtle found by Grade 9 students from Middleton, out with Katie McLean from CARP and Simon Greenland-Smith, in September 2016 (photo: Simon Greenland-Smith).

MES alumnus and lab project manager Simon Greenland-Smith was in Summerside, PEI, last week for the AGM of the Atlantic Society of Fish and Wildlife Biologists (ASFWB), announcing our exciting new project on wood turtle habitat on agricultural lands. Simon is working for the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, with funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Species At Risk Protection of Agricultural Lands (SARPAL) envelope. That work is a natural extension of our work on biodiversity-friendly farming, and is aiming to develop and evaluate a pilot program to eliminate risk to wood turtles in farmland areas also defined as critical habitat for them. SARPAL is designed to avoid situations like the federal government got into out west with the sage grouse. We are drawing on a rich base of ecological expertise about wood turtles in the province within government (e.g. NS Department of Natural Resources, Canadian Wildlife Service) and NGOs like the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) and the Mersey-Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI). We have already done some advocacy work around farm practices to support wood turtles, such as our animated extension video on modified harvest practices in which a wood turtle sports a pompadour haircut (this only makes sense if you watch it). This is a great opportunity to engage directly with farmers in ways that share the costs of, and ease other transitional barriers to, stewardship actions.

Lab alumna on Quirks & Quarks

Ellen Whitman identifying post-fire understory vegetation in Northern Alberta.

Ellen Whitman identifying post-fire understory vegetation in Northern Alberta for her PhD at the University of Alberta.

Exciting to hear Ellen Whitman, MES 2013, on CBC Radio 1’s Quirks &Quarks this past weekend, talking with Bob McDonald about her summer field season on post-fire impacts in the north. She did a great job, and touched briefly on her work with Eric Rapaport and I on her Masters working on fire at the peri-urban fringe of Halifax. She is now working on her PhD in Mike Flannigan’s lab at the University of Alberta, looking at fire regimes and adaptation under short-interval fires, combining field observation and remote sensing. Exciting to hear about her progress, and rather awe-inspiring to hear her expertise, so eloquently and smoothly delivered during the 15-minute segment.

If I were NB Power …

The previous post received a constructive reply from George Porter, head of the Mactaquac project for NB Power. He gave responses to some of the explicit questions I asked (excerpted with permission):

Q             Who would own the land uncovered if the dam was removed?‎

A             NB Power owns the vast majority of this property and is taking no position at this time as to what it would do with the land after a dam removal.  Should the dam be removed, NB Power anticipates that an extensive multi-party planning exercise would be undertaken to establish an appropriate approach to land disposition, development, and use.

Q             How might post-dam remediation proceed and how long does it typically take to stabilize and green up?

A             This is explored in detail in the draft Comparative Environmental Review report posted online September 21, 2015. Chapter 9 is available for you here.

Q             What is left down there, in terms of infrastructure, cultural sites, or sediments (and their associated environmental legacies such as chemical residue or toxins from upriver industry and agriculture)?

A             Some of these subjects are being explored by the Canadian Rivers Institute. As their research is completed it is being made public on their website.

Q             How do the First Nations communities feel?

A             It would not be appropriate for NB Power to unilaterally assess and articulate how the first nations feel about the project.‎  Since 2013, NB Power has been engaging with First Nations in a separate and deliberate process to ensure their rights and interests are considered in advance of the recommended path forward.

He also invited further explanation of my critique, as well as suggestions for how to improve the process. I sat down on the weekend to reply. Here is the full text of my response.

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