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