Conserve Wildlife Blog

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Rallying the Troops for North America’s Tiniest Turtle

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

by Christine Healy, Wildlife Biologist

Female bog turtle basking. Photo Credit: Eric Sambol

I recently found myself walking along a set of railroad tracks in Union County, returning to my car after assessing habitat for an upcoming coverboard study. I stepped off the tracks at the sound of an approaching cargo train and prepared to wait it out in silence, when a gentleman appeared from the underside of a bridge a little way up the tracks. He looked like he had been swimming or fishing, though where- I had no idea. Probably in some secret location known only to lifelong residents, keenly aware of what the landscape has to offer, and the many ways in which its changed. When he learned I was a biologist, he proceeded to tell me about all the wildlife that he sees during his various excursions; coyotes, foxes, eagles—but when he got to turtles, his smile faltered, and he lamented the fact that “the Muhlenberg’s have gotten hard to find”. He certainly wasn’t wrong about that.

Despite early recognition as an endangered species in New Jersey, population estimates for Glyptemys muhlenbergii, more commonly known as the bog turtle, are less than half what they were in 1974 when they were first listed. This is certainly not for lack of trying; conservation-minded groups and individuals have been working hard to reverse this trend for decades. The bog turtle may be North America’s smallest turtle, but ensuring that they stick around to retain the distinction is no small feat. It takes an army, which is why CWF is so excited to be joining forces with New Jersey Audubon, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and US Fish and Wildlife Service in a 5-year Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Through this agreement, funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), part of the USDA, we aim to restore crucial wetlands within the Upper Salem River Watershed, an important stronghold of the species.   

CWF’s primary role in this collaboration will be landowner outreach. This is critical work because much of the remaining habitat for bog turtles occurs within the boundaries of private property, so landowner participation is vital to the conservation and management of the species. NRCS and FWS offer several programs to make initial restoration work and land preservation in perpetuity both feasible and economical for landowners, however, they aren’t always widely known options. Using satellite imagery and historic records, CWF helps locate parcels with potentially promising habitat and educates interested landowners on the possibilities. We’ve had much success with this method, particularly in northern New Jersey, and look forward to expanding our reach. With the public on board, we are optimistic about the future of our state reptile. 

2021 Species on the Edge 2.0 Social Media Contest Winners Honored with Virtual Awards Ceremony

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

by Ethan Gilardi, Wildlife Biologist

On June 24, CWF staff and PSEG Foundation representatives logged onto Zoom to celebrate the winners of the 2021 Species on the Edge 2.0 Social Media contest. Viewers watched as CWF Executive Director David Wheeler and Wildlife Biologist Ethan Gilardi congratulated the winners, with special comments made by CWF Board of Trustees President Steve Neumann and PSEG Environmental Policy Manager Russell Furnari.

Winners had time to speak about their inspirations, aspirations, and love of wildlife while accepting their awards. Whether they plan to continue onto a career in wildlife conservation/education or not, we are incredibly proud of this group of talented high schoolers.

CWF would like to wish them the best of luck on their future endeavors!

Click on the embedded video above to watch the ceremony on the CWF YouTube Channel.


2021 Species on the Edge 2.0 Social Media Contest Winners

What is Species on the Edge 2.0?

The fun and educational Species on the Edge 2.0 Social Media Contest capitalizes on high school students’ expertise with social media platforms and provides them with the opportunity to showcase their talent, creativity, and love of nature.

Students create their own original content (for example: video, text, photograph, computer graphic) or utilize existing Conserve Wildlife Foundation content to create a series of posts focusing on one of New Jersey’s vulnerable species that CWF helps protect.

Missed the Virtual Awards for

CWF’s Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest

for New Jersey 5th Graders?

View the ceremony on our YouTube channel now!

CWF In The News: Climate Change Among Factors Affecting the Horseshoe Crab and Shorebird Population

Monday, July 5th, 2021

by Ethan Gilardi, Wildlife Biologist

An overturned horseshoe crab in the tide. Photo by Miguel Martinez and Joseph Bierman.

South Jersey Climate News recently took a deep dive into the relationship between horseshoe crabs and shorebirds on the Delaware Bay, and how global climate change has impacted this already delicate bond between species.

CWF biologist Larissa Smith was interviewed for the piece, providing context about what we are doing to help the horseshoe crabs and shorebirds through the Shorebird Stewards Program.

The article does a wonderful job explaining the precarious position NJ’s summer shorebirds find themselves in, detailing their arduous migration from South America to New Jersey to the Arctic and back, as well as explaining how and why our shorebirds and horseshoe crabs find themselves in peril.

Follow the link below to also find a video of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Employee and volunteer Shorebird Steward Ariel Poirier, who shares some of her experiences with the program and explains what it means to be a Shorebird Steward.

Read more on South Jersey Climate News.

Green Philly: How one organization is saving endangered animals in New Jersey

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

The blog Green Philly interviewed Conserve Wildlife Foundation executive director David Wheeler for this profile on CWF’s work protecting and restoring at-risk wildlife species across New Jersey and beyond.

Wheeler notes, “The project that is really inspiring is our work in Delaware Bay at the mouth of the Delaware River, dividing Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. This estuary holds one of the largest gatherings on the East Coast of migratory shorebirds and horseshoe crabs. These shorebirds fly from as far away as Tierra del Fuego and come to this region in massive numbers to feast on horseshoe crab eggs, which is an ancient creature that has swum before the dinosaurs and has survived five mass extinctions. They then head up to the Arctic for a hemisphere-wide migration, and Delaware Bay is the centerpiece of that.

“Horseshoe crabs have been declining severely, so shorebirds have also been declining severely. Our scientists and teams of volunteers have helped to stabilize these populations and prevent further decline. This is not only tremendously valuable to the ecosystem built around horseshoe crabs because it feeds fish, Diamondback Terrapins, and birds. Horseshoe crabs also provide something called lysate through their blood, which is the single way to test vaccines for a toxin, including the COVID vaccine. It’s such an amazing story and it all comes back to this prehistoric creature.”

Click here to read more.

Associated Press Video: Bald Eagle Cameras Reveal Diverse Personalities

Friday, June 25th, 2021

by David Wheeler, Executive Director

The Associated Press released a video story exploring how the rise in popularity of live streaming bald eagle nest cameras has revealed the diversity of personalities and behaviors of the U.S. national symbol.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation executive director David Wheeler and New Jersey Eagle Project volunteer Kevin Buynie are featured.

Watch the video above to learn more!