Eastern box turtles, meet the Fayetteville City Council

Fayette County High School student Jonathan Fernandez, center, is joined by science teacher Gini Ann Loeffler and biologist Dennis Chase after a presentation to the Fayetteville City Council Sept. 6 on a months-long study of Eastern box turtles conducted on the city-owned P.K. Dixon off Burch Road. Photo/Vicki Turner.

The results of a months-long study of Eastern box turtles on city-owned property off Burch Road was presented Sept. 6 to the Fayetteville City Council. The study was conducted by students from Fayette County High School.

The study took place on the 300-acre, city-owned P.K. Dixon property and was conducted primarily at the confluence of Gingercake Creek and Whitewater Creek.

The Fayette County High School students studying the Eastern box turtle included Kasmyne Pender, Jonathan Fernandez and Anna Gehring. Biologist Dennis Chase, along with science teacher Gini Ann Loeffler, assisted the students with the project.

Describing the project, Fernandez said the work began in May when the students took measurements and tagged four turtles with radio transmitters. Using GPS units the students were able to plot the migratory patterns of each turtle. The information gained helped the students to study the causes of migration, such as habitat, predator/prey relationships and eating habits, Fernandez said.

Another aspect of the study involved students identifying uncommon plant species found in this region of Fayette County. The identifications were used to determine any correlations that might exist between plant species, turtle migrations and feeding habits.

Jonathan Fernandez focused his study on the identification of a bacteria that breaks down the turtle’s shell and can result in the creature’s death from disease.

Kasmyne Pender in her study focused on the migration of the turtles versus human interaction, and what might be a decrease in migratory patterns exhibited by the Eastern box turtle.

Anna Gehring in her study noted the habits displayed by the turtles and passed than information for use in her mother’s kindergarten class.

Chase after the presentation said the turtle project has received permission from the Ga. Department of Natural Resources to conduct a translocation project for four turtles that have been injured by vehicles and are rehabilitated and released on the P.K. Dixon property.

Chase also noted that Eastern box turtles are the most popular turtle to be kept as a pet. But be prepared for a lengthy relationship since they can live to be more than 80 years old.