Students collect data, study UV patterns of box turtles

Three Cornell College students are spending their summer making new discoveries about ornate box turtles.

Anna Jandt Auvil ’18, Lucas Larson ’19, and Gabe Bizovi ’19 are conducting the fieldwork. 

Gabe Bizovi ’19, Anna Jandt Auvil ’18, Lucas Larson ’19 (from left to right)
Gabe Bizovi ’19, Anna Jandt Auvil ’18, Lucas Larson ’19 (from left to right)

“The main goal is to better understand what these guys’ lives are like, where they live, how they live, and how many exist,” Jandt Auvil said.

The group catches turtles throughout the summer. Then, they mark them, collect data, and release them right back where they found them. They’re also watching the population numbers as poachers snatch the turtles.

It is estimated that only a few hundred turtles are still alive in the area.  

This year the long-time research has a new twist: students are using a new ultraviolet visible spectrum reflectance spectrometer. With the spectrometer, they can quantify the coloration of the turtles and see if there are any patterns in the UV range that cannot be seen by humans.  

“A lot of reptiles and other species don’t see like humans do—they have UV vision, seeing UV colors,” Jandt Auvil said. “A lot of times, like,  in monochromatic birds for example, they are actually not monochromatic within their species because they have special UV patterns that will actually affect choosing a mate. We think that also happens with turtles.”