Landscape-scale alterations that accompany urbanization may negatively affect the population structure of wildlife species such as freshwater turtles. Changes to nesting sites and higher mortality rates due to vehicular collisions and increased predator populations may particularly affect immature turtles and mature female turtles. We hypothesized that the proportions of adult female and immature turtles in a population will negatively correlate with landscape urbanization. As a collaborative effort of the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN), we sampled freshwater turtle populations in 11 states across the central and eastern United States. Contrary to expectations, we found a significant positive relationship between proportions of mature female painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) and urbanization. We did not detect a relationship between urbanization and proportions of immature turtles. Urbanization may alter the thermal environment of nesting sites such that more females are produced as urbanization increases. Our approach of creating a collaborative network of scientists and students at undergraduate institutions proved valuable in terms of testing our hypothesis over a large spatial scale while also allowing students to gain hands-on experience in conservation science.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation