Archive for category Western Pond Turtle
It has been some time since my last contribution to the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles‘ journal, Herpetological Review (see also SSAR’s facebook page), so I was honored when I was asked to contribute a retrospective on the late herpetologist and artist Dr. Robert (“Bob”) Cyril Stebbins (March 31, 1915—September 23, 2013) for the column, “Art in Herpetology.”
Hot off the presses in the second issue of the 2017 volume (page 472-473), The Herpetological Art of Robert Cyril Stebbins looks back at the life and career of a man whose contributions to the field of herpetology are still not only celebrated, but put to work on a daily basis as biologists young and old pick up their copy of Stebbins’ field guide, A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians, and thumb through the pages to identify this or that lizard, check a species’ range, or compare a specimen to the carefully illustrated plates within.
In the process of preparing this piece, I had the opportunity to handle Dr. Stebbins field notebooks and original intricate illustrations at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Bancroft Library, and had the pleasure of speaking with Professor Emeritus David B. Wake, former Director and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and Theodore Papenfuss, research specialist at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, about their experience working alongside this venerable herpetologist. But nothing says more about Dr. Stebbins’ passion for herpetology than his artwork.
Full Citation: Bettelheim, Matthew P. 2017. Art in Herpetology: The Herpetological Art of Robert Cyril Stebbins. Herpetological Review 48(2): p 472-473.
This summer I had the honor of being invited to give a presentation on western pond turtles at the Napa County Library as part of the Wild Napa lecture series, a monthly event put on collaboratively by the Napa County Resource Conservation District, the Napa County Library, and Friends of the Napa River. This is a presentation I’ve given before, but this time I was surprised when I was asked in the eleventh hour whether they could record the talk to share with the public. The result is the video I’m pleased to link to below.
Fortunately for me, after two minutes and change, I fade out into a shadowy figure. Better yet, I bring out a live western pond turtle at the end of the presentation. But with a running time of an hour and fifteen minutes, I can’t blame you if you skip to the end; unless, that is, you are trapped in an elevator, or camping on a sidewalk in line for the next Apple smartphone release or American Ninja Warrior tryouts. So no worries if you don’t watch the whole thing – I think we can all agree the promise of seeing a live turtle really only works in person.
Here’s the teaser, followed by the video:
Imagine a time in California’s history when California cuisine was truly a natural, grass-roots effort. Not the vegetarian dives, nor the seasonal menus of Chez Panisse fame, but a living-off-the-land sort of lifestyle: succulent frog legs, a seabird-egg custard, or a piping-hot bowl of terrapin soup. It’s true; at the turn of the twentieth century, the west coast’s lone native turtle – the western pond turtle (or terrapin as it was once known) – once featured prominently on menus throughout San Francisco for soups and stews.
Join wildlife biologist Matthew Bettelheim to explore the history and natural history of the western pond turtle. This trip through time will roughly follow the discovery and description of the western pond turtle by first Russian explorers and later European naturalists in the 1800s, then Native American accounts of collecting the turtle for sustenance and ceremonial purposes, and next the extensive terrapin harvest at the turn of the twentieth century centered around the San Francisco market. In addition to the colorful stories that surround the rich and as yet untold history of San Francisco’s terrapin trade, we will also examine the western pond turtle’s present struggle to persist in what little remains of its former west coast range and review the growing body of natural history data and contemporary research before peering into the future of turtle conservation.
This spring, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and The Wildlife Project are back at it, sponsoring the Rare Pond Species Survey Techniques Workshop, March 19-20, 2016 at the Laguna Environmental Center, Santa Rosa, CA. Workshop instructors Dave Cook and Jeff Alvarez will cover aquatic survey techniques for California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), California red-legged frog (Rana draytoni), and western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata). After-hours field trips will provide hands-on experience with all three species, including dip net sampling, spotlight surveys, and visual encounter and trapping.
Dave and Jeff, whom I’ve known for years, are experienced herpetologists who have logged inestimable hours in the field between them studying these species. Their knowledge is priceless, but the workshop worth every penny.
This spring, the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation and The Wildlife Project are sponsoring the California Tiger Salamander Terrestrial Ecology Workshop, March 18, 2016 at the Laguna Environmental Center, Santa Rosa, CA. Workshop instructors Dave Cook and Jeff Alvarez will cover the terrestrial ecology, land use management, and regulations of the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), as well as a review of the species’ biology, upland habitat use, and migration patterns; the theory and design of roadway under-crossings; pitfall trap arrays design; Agency-approved survey protocols; and implementing and monitoring land use management practices. The afternoon will consist of field trips that will provide training and hands-on experience. A pitfall trap and fence array will be constructed by attendees. Three CTS tunnel systems along roadways will be visited and discussed. Instructors for this workshop include Dave Cook and Jeff Alvarez. An afternoon field trip will provide training and hands-on experience with the species, as well as pitfall trap array construction and a visit to three roadway under-crossings.
In recent years, the western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) has shown signs of decline along the Pacific Coast, especially at either end of its range in Washington and Oregon to the north, and in southern California. Among the threats currently facing the species today include upland nesting and aquatic habitat loss/conversion; water diversion; drought; disease transmission and competition from invasive species like the red-eared slider; and predation from non-native species like the American bullfrog and large-mouth bass.
In July 2012 the Center for Biological Diversity filed an Endangered Species Act petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, appropriately called the Petition to List 53 Amphibians and Reptiles in the United States as Threatened or Endangered Species Under the Endangered Species Act, including the western pond turtle as one of the 53 candidate species. After review as part of an (extended) 90-day Findings process to determine if there is enough information to warrant further review, on April 9, 2015 the USFWS announced in a proposed rule that there is sufficient evidence to suggest the western pond turtle’s situation warrants a formal status review, and will undergo the subsequent 12-month Findings process for consideration as a federally Threatened or Endangered species in all or portions of its range (see also the CBD’s press release, here).
Those individuals with scientific and commercial data or other information pertinent to the potential listing of the western pond turtle should submit all information before TOMORROW, June 9, 2015 in accordance with the instructions provided in the proposed rule.