A Conservation Prioritization Framework for Protecting and Restoring Lake Champlain’s Shoreline Turtle Community
February 1, 2022 to January 31, 2024
This research project is motivated by the loss and degradation of the turtle community along the shorelines of Lake Champlain and provides tools to better manage species and inform conservation decisions by state, federal, and non-profit organizations. Partners include the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, Lake Champlain Land Trust, Winooski Valley Park District, and Lake Champlain Sea Grant Watershed Alliance.
Turtles are sensitive indicator species of threats on both land, where they nest, and water, where they forage and overwinter, which makes them valuable focal taxa in shoreline conservation. The Lake Champlain basin is home to a diverse and unique turtle community, ranging from common species like painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) to less common species including the northern map turtle (Graptemys geographica) and the spiny softshell (Apalone spinifera), a state threatened species that motivates this work.
Researchers will identify characteristics that influence nesting beach suitability for three turtle species, including painted turtle, map turtle, and spiny softshell; synthesize information to develop and map nesting habitat suitability models for each species; and develop an on-the-ground scorecard of restoration potential for spiny softshells and apply the scorecard to important historic but currently unoccupied spiny softshell nesting sites.