It was three summers ago when I was first introduced to the Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera). I was in the back of Twan Leenders’ (RTPI President) car along with a couple of my Jamestown Community College professors with eyes peering through binoculars, attempting to get a better look. Having seen these turtles in more “remote” locations along Conewango Creek and the Allegheny River, I never expected these turtles to be in such an urban center. Growing up my perception of the river, like most others, was that the Chadakoin was too developed and too dirty to support life such as these incredibly odd creatures. However, I was pleasantly surprised that day, and have been more and more surprised each day I have spent on the river since then.
As I now walk the Riverwalk with our Youth Ambassadors, I am taken back at how nature is staking its claim within the city and poking through cement walls, abandoned buildings, old train tracks and more. Where nature gets its hold, it takes over what was originally its’ own. Amazingly enough, I have noticed that nature not only takes over man-made structures, but also takes over man as well.
While we have worked along the river over the past couple of weeks we have been immersed in nature’s beauty and uniqueness surrounding the Chadakoin River corridor. It’s been a joy to see each of our students gain a deep interest and understanding of the habitats and species within the area we are studying. I think nature has begun to take our students over and I am excited to see what they learn from it as we continue our work together.