Western Pond Turtle Workshop: Ecology and Conservation

image002Western Pond Turtle Workshop: Ecology and Conservation

This fall the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of The Wildlife Society is organizing a revival of the Western Pond Turtle Workshop: Ecology and Conservation at Sonoma State University on Saturday, October 24, 2015. The western pond turtle is an aquatic turtle native to the Pacific states. Although the range of the turtle is widespread north to south, the species is in decline in many areas. Turtles in Washington are endangered and in Oregon they are considered Critical Species. In California the turtle is a Species of Special Concern. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering protection under of the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Western Pond Turtle Workshop is designed to provide professional biologists with a background on conservation issues of the western pond turtle, recent research findings, and practical understanding of field methods. Participants will learn how to identify turtles, their life history and habitat requirements, taxonomy, potential causes of declines, survey techniques, regulations and permits, and management plans. The workshop will include presentations by expert researchers, and introduction to the Handbook on the Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Western Pond Turtles, and a short field trip to an on-campus pond where turtle identification, handling techniques, visual surveys for basking turtles, and trapping techniques will be demonstrated. A tentative schedule is provided below.

To learn more about the event and to register, please visit the chapter website at: http://tws-west.org/sfbay/event/western-pond-turtle-workshop-ecology-and-conservation/

Discounted registration fees are available to S.F. Bay Area Chapter members, and to early registrants (by September 24th). Registration fees include morning coffee, lunch, and afternoon snacks.

Time Topic Presenter
8:00 Check-in Registration
Introduction Dave Cook
History & Natural History
Natural History, Ecology and
Conservation of Western Pond
Turtles: A 50-year Odyssey
Bruce Bury
Ecology of the Western Pond
David Germano
Rangewide Molecular Analysis
of the Western Pond Turtle
(Emys Marmorata): Cryptic
Variation, Isolation by Distance,
and their Conservation
Phillip Spinks
To “Turtle”: The Extent of the
Historical Terrapin Harvest in
California (1863-1931)
Matthew Bettelheim
Western Pond Turtle Conservation
Issues, Efforts, and Needs: A
California Department of Fish
and Wildlife Perspective
Laura Patterson
Federal Listing Status of the
Western Pond Turtle
Arnold Roessler
Head-Starting Pond Turtles in
Northern California and the Role
of Zoos in Conservation Action
Jessie Bushell /
Margaret Rousser
Survey Techniques
Handbook on the Ecology,
Conservation and Management
of Western Pond Turtles
Bruce Bury,
Hartwell Welsh,
David Germano,
and Don Ashton
Threats to the Species
Ulcerative Shell Disease in Western
Pond Turtles in Washington – A
Review of What We Know, What We
Don’t, and Where We’re Going
Katherine Haman
Ecotoxicology of Western Pond
Erik Meyer
Advances in Natural History
Nesting Behavior, Nest Site
Fidelity, and Temperature Dependent
Sex Determination in a Northern
California Population of Western
Pond Turtles
Nicholas Geist
Drivers of Nesting Behavior in
Emys marmorata
Wendy St. John
Effects of Natural Incubation
Temperatures on the Viability and Sex
Determination of Western
Pond Turtles (Emys marmorata)
Nicole Christie
The Enigma of Few Juveniles in
Turtle Populations: Is it lack of
recruitment or our inability to
detect them?
Gwen Bury /
Bruce Bury
Turtles on the Trinity River:
Research Update
Don Ashton
Basking Behavior and Thermal
Profiles of the Western Pond Turtle
(Actinemys [Emys] marmorata) on the
Free-flowing South Fork and Regulated
Main Fork Trinity River, California.
Jamie Bettaso
Field trip/survey techniques (SSU pond)  
5:30 End

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Make Every Butterfly Count at the Antioch Dunes (2015)

Throughout August and September this year, wildlife biologists at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge will be conducting their annual Lange’s metalmark butterfly counts to determine the health of this rare butterfly species.

The Lange’s metalmark butterfly (Apodemia mormo langei) can only be found at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge in Antioch, California. There, this butterfly’s life revolves around its host plant, the Antioch Dunes buckwheat. Adult butterflies are short-lived and weak fliers, relegating them to this relict 67-acre pocket of sand that was once part of a greater dune complex that connected the San Joaquin River to dunes in the Central Valley and beyond. After years of sand mining at the Antioch Dunes, today the Lange’s metalmark butterfly is nearing extinction.

That’s why refuge staff need your help censusing the butterfly population. Butterfly counts are scheduled once a week (typically, Wednesday unless so noted), every week, until counts zero out sometime in September:

  • August: 5, 12, 19, 25 (tues)
  • September: 2, 9, 16, and if they are still active, 23

Newcomers and veterans alike are welcome to participate, but you must be 18+ years or older. Training begins on site at 9:30 AM, and the counts continue until 4 PM. Volunteers are cautioned to wear layered clothing in anticipation of the unpredictable cold, wind, or listless heat; sturdy shoes/boots and long pants (jeans) for uneven terrain and spiky weed seeds; sun-protection (e.g. sunblock, sunglasses, hat) and plenty of water; and your lunch.

If you are interested in volunteering for the Aug-Sept. butterfly counts, please contact Susan Euing (by email at susan_euing@yahoo.com or by phone at (510) 521-9717). If you leave a message, please leave your name, phone number and email address, and Susan will contact you as soon as possible to confirm.

For more details and directions, visit the refuge website:

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that writing about the Lange’s metalmark butterfly and the Antioch Dunes for Bay Nature magazine in 2005 was the genesis behind my children’s book, Sardis and Stamm. You can read more about the book – and order a copy for your shelves – here:

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Vintage Views: California

This majestic California grizzly bear in a Sierra setting is just one of the many iconic vintage images of California I’ve accumulated in association with the Vintage Views: Mount Diablo project I’ve undertaken with my wife (see Sarah Anne Photography). One by one, I have been carefully digitizing these assorted California ephemera to immortalize them on a more permanent medium.

Inside this particular bulletin, dated 1916, the editor notes:

The detached phrase on the front cover of this BULLETIN refers to the quadruped depicted, and to the scenic setting of which the bear is the center-piece… all are “Of California.”

Now, through the (bio)accumulation Etsy storefront, you can own your own Marvelous Mount Diablo woodcut engraving or a nostalgic wintery scene of Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome as 12X18 inch wall art, mounted on either Styrene suitable for matting and framing or infused directly into a sheet of aluminum metal to capture a sense of modern minimalism.

Metal Print
Metal prints are presented as a stand-alone image infused (printed) directly into a sheet of aluminum, providing a luminescent quality. The finished metal print includes a float-mount hanger affixed to the back of the image, floating the print ½ inch off the wall.
Price: $100

Styrene Mount Print
Styrene prints are mounted on white 2mm warp-resistant Styrene known for durability and strength. Styrene prints are ready to be matted and framed, or can be displayed on an easel.
Price: $45

To see all of the vintage wall art available to date, visit: https://www.etsy.com/shop/bioaccumulation


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Elkhorn Slough: 2015 Burrowing Owl Workshop

BUOW WorkshopThe Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program is once again sponsoring the Burrowing Owl Workshop 2015 for the second year running with presenter Dr. Lynne Trulio (Department Chair, Environmental Studies, San Jose State). The workshop, slated for Friday, August 14, 2015 at Michaels At Shoreline (the Shoreline Golf Links clubhouse) in Mountain View, CA, will provide a comprehensive review of the species’ biology and conservation efforts with both classroom lecture and field training. Among the topics covered in the classroom are natural history, species identification, distribution/movement, habitat requirements, threats, survey methods, methods for assessing potential project impacts and approaches for avoidance and minimization, and management and regulatory requirements. In the field, participants will learn to survey for active burrowing owl burrows; identify and distinguish burrowing owl burrows; identify and sex adults; identify and age chicks; determine appropriate human disturbance buffer distances; and view examples of burrowing owl nesting and foraging habitat enhancement measures. Space is limited, so act now! This year’s registration deadline is July 21st. One of the pluses the Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program provides is free online access to workshop materials and related peer-reviewed papers. Make sure to check it out here!

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Cornell’s All About Birds Lab: Merlin

Since 2012, when the Cornell Lab of Ornithology first reported the development of Merlin™, an online bird identification tool, Cornell’s All About Birds Labs has been hard at work adding bells and whistles to Merlin’s know-how. Through collaboration with Visipedia, this summer The Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced the debut of their new computer vision technology app, Merlin Bird Photo ID. And wouldn’t you know it, the app does exactly what its name suggests – identifies birds in photographs.

Using the online Merlin Bird Photo ID tool is simple. Just drag and drop an image of any one of 400 North American bird species, identify when and where the photo was taken, drag a box identifying the bird from any background noise, and then click on the bill tip, eye, and tail tip to give Merlin a hint.

Digging through some crummy bird photos I have taken over the years, I decided to put Merlin (and my photography) to the test to see how well it performed.


Photo #1
Location: Concord, CA
Date: 7, March, 2015


Discussion: Having seen these fellows in my yard all spring, I knew beforehand that this neighborhood regular was a western bluebird (Sialia mexicana), but because I maxed out the zoom feature on my old cell phone, the photo was left with a watercolor-esque dappling that I thought might confuse the computer vision algorithm’s at work here.

I was right.

Merlin’s best matches led with a male hooded merganser (breeding male) and an adult American robin. Hopefully, anyone with any sense would know enough to dismiss those outright and click through to “More Results.” Still, even after fiddling with the settings several times (knowing that the first time I attempted to identify this bird a week ago, I remember western bluebird falling within the first ten suggestions, this time around western bluebird was Merlin’se 23rd choice.

Clearly, the caveat that “high quality images of birds in typical poses work best” holds true here.

Photo #2
Location: Bakersfield, CA
Date: 4 November, 2011


Discussion: When I first caught a glimpse of this bird in flight at a distance in the Wind Wolves Preserve north of the Grapevine, for a moment I thought I might have seen something a little more exotic like a prairie or peregrine falcon; but deep down, I’ve always known this was an American kestrel (Falco sparverius). Merlin confirms it.


Photo #3
Location: Clearlake, CA
Date: 20 June, 2010


Discussion: If you look closely, you’ll see this photo isn’t exactly fair – there aren’t one, but two birds awkwardly posed against the tree in this pine-oak woodland. When I first saw this pair of woodpeckers, what was most remarkable about them – second only to the outlandish ruckus they and their fledglings were raising at the time – was their remarkable size. Seeing as how pileated woodpeckers (Hylatomus pileatus) are the largest woodpecker in the United States (second only to the presumed extinct ivory-billed woodpecker), their size is one of the primary traits that makes them so easy to identify in the field.

But, Merlin doesn’t know how big the bird in my photo was. Nevertheless, pileated woodpecker is Merlin’s first and only suggestion.


So despite my clumsy attempts at wildlife photography, Merlin Bird Photo ID pulls through in a pinch, even if it needs hand-holding when tricky photographs are at issue. In truth, that’s no different than catching a fleeting glimpse of a hooded sparrow and trying to narrow down your choices between a dark-eyed junco and a spotted towhee. Whether you are flipping between bird IDs suggested by Merlin or flipping between pages in your field guide, in the end it comes down to the birder to make the final call.

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