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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens, New York, USA

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Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Queens, New York, USA
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Registered: August 2011
City/Town/Province: inwood
Posts: 1
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On December 21st 2010, I received the most exhilarating email. As a mere Lawrence High School Student, I had been selected from a group of applicants to assist on a project during the summer of 2011, at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel, New York. The project has been running for almost two decade, and I was thrilled to assist on a College level project, little did I know I would be offered to run my own experiment from a sub-section of the project. I acquired an interest in ecology during a Biology class I had taken in eight grade, and decided that ecology would be my future career path. Following this decision I elected to take Advance Placement Biology, Advance Placement Environmental Science, and to take a leadership position in my schools Environmental Club and Model Congress. In Model Congress I chaired the Environmental Affairs Committee, and won "Best Speaker" in the Environmental Committee in East Meadow my Junior year. As the PR representative of Environmental Club I helped gain the permission of school administrators to start a plastic bottle collection and start a display in one of the show cases entitled "Plastic Bottles Used In Our School During a Semester." As President the following year I helped raise money and construct a green house on the campus for the science classes to use for plant studies. I decided to spend my summer working on this project due to my love of ecology, environmental science, and my concern for the wildlife due to the influence of the urban areas near and around Jamaica Bay. This work has proven to me that I am on the right path for my future and this project has made me more committed to this field of study.
The area where I conducted my field work at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (a unit of Gateway Recreation Area) in Broad Channel, Queens, New York. The area encompasses 9,155 acres, and consists of a multitude of habitats, such as salt marsh, freshwater ponds, upland fields, and woods. The entire area is within the limits of Queens, a borough of New York City. I worked near the West Pond in the park, it is surrounded by a gravel trail of approximately 1.5 miles, and an area referred to as Terrapin Trail. Terrapin trail is off limits to the public during the summer due to the terrapins nesting season, but as a volunteer I was permitted access to the area. The trail is a dry, downward slope, leading to the salt water marsh of Jamaica Bay. This is the access point primarily used by the Terrapins when coming up from the water to nest on land, the Terrapins then return to the area when they are regressing back to the water. This area is important to protect because it is home to many species that would have been eradicated by urban development.
The project started as a simple mark recapture study of Malaclemys terrapin, which are commonly known as Diamondback Terrapins. Over a decade the project was passed from one professor to another till it was given to Dr. Russell Burke, a biology professor at Hofstra university. The project evolved into a larger project that became the basis for about a dozen college projects and four high school projects each year for the past five years. During the nesting season this year we collected about seventy nests for humane scientific study, and protected about thirty other nests. The nest are prayed upon by the North American Raccoon, Procyon lotor, a species induced to the area by urban development. Due to previous statistics we have estimated we save about one of every ten nests from raccoon predation. The thirty nests were protected by wire cages that surrounded the nests. Out of the thirty cages put into the ground, one was removed by racoons, thus the cages had a success rate of 96%. Each nest usually has approximately 13 eggs, thus the project protected about 377 potential Diamondback Terrapins. Each Terrapin that hatched from the cages were then marked with a small digital marker used for a sub-projec to track the new Diamondback Terrapins after they hatch. The hatchlings are commonly attacked by the North American Raccoon and some birds. These tags supply useful data in the up coming years to show how frequently the hatchlings are preyed upon.
The seventy nests we collected for study were sent to Hofstra University under the care of Dr. Peterson and Artie Calichio. The fifty that then went to the Desiccation Tolerance tests conducted by Artie Calichio were offered to me for a habitat choice experiment, to prove or refute data collected showing that the hatchlings burrow into the ground and go into hibernation after emerging from the nest, a trait only known to occur for this species of Terrapin and none of it's relatives. My research has shown that most hatchlings attempt to go into high salinity water, only to retreat into a lower salinity environment latter, and no physical features show a predisposition to surviving in a higher salinity. However, if the Diamondback Terrapins really did burrow into the ground and go into hibernation after emerging from the nest the test would show them retreating into the land environment, but they were recorded to be retreating into low salinity water. About 1.5% of all the hatchlings tested returned to the Land environment. The results from this particular experiment will help conversationalist protect Dimondback Terrapin hatchling's from predators and could refute a scientific myth about this species of Terrapins. This project is particularity important to protecting the ecosystem of Jamaica Bay and protects a native species from a invasive species introduced to the area by urban development.
Date: January 4, 2012 Views: 6223 File size: 16.8kb, 928.4kb : 2816 x 2112
Hours Volunteered: 164
Volunteers: 7
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 to 22
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