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Sinister Seduction: Pitcherplants and Their Prey

Svelte and stately or squat and trollish, pitcherplants beguile not only bugs but humans. Their carnivorous habit fascinates, especially since they have no moving traps. More than 100 species of pitcherplants occur on four continents – Asia, Australia and the Americas. Each species has tubular leaf traps that collect rainwater and Continue reading “Sinister Seduction: Pitcherplants and Their Prey”

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Georgia’s Misunderstood Mollusks

Emily Ferrall is a seasonal staff member working with DNR’s Nongame Conservation section.

The Nongame Conservation section sure knows how to keep busy! I have spent many hours over the past few months sampling rare species with DNR biologists. This means I get to help with everything imaginable—from gopher tortoise sampling to monitoring bat populations. Although it is hard to pick a favorite, sampling freshwater mussels is at the top of my list!

Growing up, I couldn’t have told you much about mussels besides the fact that people eat them. Even in college I didn’t learn very much about this group of animals, so my time spent sampling them this summer was eye-opening. Continue reading “Georgia’s Misunderstood Mollusks”

A Thrilling Turtle Season

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Shell on Sapelo. (Sara Weaver/DNR)

As part of #7Days4SeaTurtles, DNR sea turtle technician Sara Weaver has been posting about her work this week on Sapelo Island.

I have had a very busy summer (and I’m sure most of the other turtle technicians and staff in Georgia would say the same). A successful nesting season for the turtles means more work for us, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s been exciting to learn about sea turtles while I’ve been here, and even more thrilling to watch the females nest on the beach in the middle of the night. And being able to see that a nest has hatched successfully gives me a lot of hope for the effectiveness of our sea turtle research and conservation programs. Continue reading “A Thrilling Turtle Season”

Taking Inventory of Nests

Sunrise_SapeloSound_DNR_2016As part of #7Days4SeaTurtles, DNR sea turtle technician Sara Weaver is posting about her work this week on Sapelo Island.

Today was a longer day than usual. I’m generally finished with work before the hottest part of the day arrives, but that wasn’t the case today. I had three new nests, one nest hatch and I conducted my first nest inventory on my own.

I have definitely had much more challenging days, but since nesting season is wrapping up, I’m used to it being a little slower. We have a total of 205 nests now on Sapelo.

The inventory was really fun. I enjoy doing them because it’s neat to see how well a nest hatched. In this nest, 124 eggs hatched, two dead hatchlings remained in the nest and 16 eggs didn’t hatch. This nest is on the higher end for total eggs, so the inventory took a bit longer than it usually would.

One of the nests that I relocated today had 155 eggs in it, which is quite a large nest. The female’s crawl was also wider than normal though, so she was a big turtle. We normally expect about 80-150 eggs per nest. Our largest nest on the beach has 177 eggs!

#7Days4SeaTurtles is a weeklong outreach by the DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division to raise awareness of sea turtle conservation.

Loggerhead tracks and a nest on Sapelo. (Mark Dodd/DNR)

On a Day off, Nest Survey Details

As part of #7Days4SeaTurtles, DNR sea turtle technician Sara Weaver is posting about her work this week on Sapelo Island.

Today was my off day so Mark Dodd, DNR Sea Turtle Program coordinator, came in to survey the beach. He found two nests, which brings Sapelo to a total of 202.

Today was my first grocery shopping trip in a month. I forgot ice cream, but got a buy one, get one free deal on medium bags of M&M’S. 🙂

Since I was off today, I’ll describe what it’s like to find a nest. Continue reading “On a Day off, Nest Survey Details”

Marking and taking a single egg for genetics research from Sapelo’s 200th nest. (Sara Weaver/DNR)

Record Nest Follows Full Moon Vigil

As part of #7Days4SeaTurtles, DNR sea turtle technician Sara Weaver is posting about her work this week on Sapelo Island.

Last night and this morning were especially fun. I took my tent out to Cabretta beach to camp alongside a nest that was showing signs of hatching (the sand over the nest was collapsing). Continue reading “Record Nest Follows Full Moon Vigil”

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An Easy Day and New Life

As part of #7Days4SeaTurtles, DNR sea turtle technician Sara Weaver is posting about her work this week on Sapelo Island.

Today was an especially easy day on patrol at Sapelo Island. Nesting season is coming to an end, and this morning I did not have any new nests to mark.

However, I did have five nests hatch, and I even got to watch a hatchling make its way into the ocean (pictured).

Most of my day was spent checking predator activity around every nest. As part of a predator study, I record all of the tracks around each nest (most are from raccoons and ghost crabs). And if a nest is predated, or preyed on, I have to count the eggshells.

On Sapelo, when a nest hatches, we leave it alone for 10 days because we do not want to interfere with the hatching process. After 10 days, we conduct a nest inventory, where we dig up the remainder of the nest and determine how successful the nest was.

#7Days4SeaTurtles is a weeklong outreach by DNR Wildlife Resources Division to raise awareness of sea turtle conservation.

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A Sea Turtle Tech’s Summer on Sapelo

Hi, my name is Sara Weaver, and I work on Sapelo Island as a Georgia DNR sea turtle technician. I’ve been interested in turtles since December 2014, when I visited Costa Rica and got to work with olive ridley hatchlings. After that, during my undergraduate at Purdue University in Indiana, I focused a lot of my wildlife projects on sea turtles. This is my first job since I graduated in May, and I love it!

My day starts at 5 am. Continue reading “A Sea Turtle Tech’s Summer on Sapelo”

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Plant Partnerships Spur Hope for Battlefield Survivor

It’s understandable if on May 13, 1864, Confederate troops camped along a shady slope near Resaca paid little attention to the scattered plants flowering white and blue across the forest floor. The men were bracing for a massive Union attack that would break at dawn the next day, the first major battle in the Atlanta Campaign.

Yet while the battle is history, that population of large-flowed skullcap lives on. And because Resaca Battlefield is owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and managed by Gordon County, this rare herb that is federally listed as threatened has more than a fighting chance where Civil War armies once raged.

Large-flowered skullcap is found in the wild only in northwest Georgia and southeastern Tennessee. Named for the helmet-like upper lip that curls over the flower’s lower lip, this member of the mint family can reach 2 feet tall but it is neither hardy nor prolific. Only one-in-four seeds are fertile, on average. Threats include logging, development and competition from invasive and even native woody plants, such as poison ivy.

DNR technician Nate Thomas, who discovered the Resaca Battlefield population, said a prime large-flowered skullcap site in Georgia is one with more than 100 plants. Resaca has 300-plus. “This is one of the state’s premiere sites,” said Thomas, who works for the agency’s Nongame Conservation and Game Management sections.

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DNR’s Nate Thomas shows a large-flowered skullcap at Resaca Battlefield. (Rick Lavender/DNR) At top is a large-flowered skullcap in bloom. (Nate Thomas/DNR)

The fact that the state owns the land and Gordon County is ready to help both factor into that rating. The county worked with Thomas on Continue reading “Plant Partnerships Spur Hope for Battlefield Survivor”

Rabun Gap-Nacoochee students, from left, Jordan Webb, George Underwood, AJ Nowack and Alex Haiss thrill at the sight of the hellbender. (Johnathan BySura/Rabun Gap-Nacoochee)

Nest Boxes, Rabun Gap Students Offer Hellbenders Helping Hand

Eastern hellbenders will get new homes and other help through a six-state project powered by a federal grant and – in northeast Georgia – middle and high school students fascinated with the giant salamanders.

A Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies proposal awarded a $500,000 competitive State Wildlife Grant last week aims to evaluate how effective nest boxes are for hellbenders, find more populations through environmental DNA and probe the species’ vulnerability to climate change.

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The hellbender caught and released during recent school field trip. (Johnathan BySura/Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School)

Hellbenders may be North America’s largest sally, topping 2 feet long. But sedimentation and other changes to the cold mountain streams they call home threaten these bellwethers of water quality. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must decide by fall 2018 whether to federally list eastern hellbenders.

Work proposed in the grant will involve Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Yet Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School sixth-graders, Georgia DNR and The Orianne Society got a jumpstart when a stream-focused field trip in the Upper Little Tennessee River watershed May 10 turned up a hellbender. Continue reading “Nest Boxes, Rabun Gap Students Offer Hellbenders Helping Hand”