When we first started trying to catch the Spiny Softshell turtles, we didn’t really know what to expect. It seemed like it would be easy enough, but we soon learned just how elusive these animals are. Despite our best efforts, we have yet to catch one specimen of this interesting reptile. However, we can honestly say we’ve learned a lot since our first few days in the river, and have developed a technique that seems promising. In fact, this whole experience has been an eye-opener for us, and we have come away from it with a new viewpoint on the Chadakoin and nature in general.
Griffin: One thing that I knew from the beginning of the project was that I would enjoy it, and I really have. We have only spent six weeks on the river but I have definitely learned a ton about the river in our backyards and the species that live in and around it. I’m excited to hopefully inspire people to take a closer look at the nature right in the middle of the city. Also, even though we were short of catching a Spiny Softshell Turtle, we have learned about them from simply observing them and trying to catch them. They’re very fast and seem to always be on alert, like they knew we were coming for them. It would have been exciting to catch one, but we did everything we could. Overall, this summer was a huge learning experience for me and I had a lot of fun as well.
Matt: Growing up, I always had an interest in nature, and I loved to observe wildlife. This project has helped me to develop my interest and stewardship of the environment. In order to utilize our natural resources, it is also necessary to protect them. The Chadakoin River is no exception, as it is a hidden treasure right in the middle of Jamestown. Previously, I never would have considered it to be treasure; I was under the misconception that it was highly polluted and that it only had carp in it. However, I learned that this is not true, as the river is teeming with a plethora of species. Therefore, it is important to teach people to respect it and to be good stewards, too. I am glad that I was able to be a part of this project, and I am confident that it will continue to be successful in the future.
Adolf: When two of my high school teachers first showed me the application for this project, I was immediately interested. Now that there is only a few days left, I can honestly say I learned even more than I expected. Despite living in WNY for my entire life, there are some species of plants and animals present here that I had no idea existed. Even more important than learning about the huge variety of species in the area, was getting to see how unique of an environment the Chadakoin provides. At first glance, it looks like a small river that just so happens to run through Jamestown. However, once you have the opportunity to explore it, you will soon realize how much habitat it provides. Besides the rocky, faster moving part that passes by many of the residential areas in Jamestown, water from the Chadakoin allows healthy wetlands to exist near McCrea Point. It really has been fantastic to be able to learn more about the wildlife and natural beauty that can flourish so close to highly developed parts of the city.
Hailey: This summer has been full of new and exciting experiences. In the beginning everything started out slow, getting used to the area and building the traps. After becoming acquainted with the Riverwalk area, and eventually the water itself, we began to really get into our main goals for the summer. Unfortunately, catching the turtles that we were expecting to catch did not happen. Overall, having this experience and being able to join RTPI on this turtle hunt has been amazing. It has opened up my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities in the science field. I now can identify plants and animals that I couldn’t before, I am also able to teach friends and family a little more about the environment the next time that we go on a hike, go camping or go on an adventure outside.
Jeremy: The past six weeks have contained some of the most interesting days of my life. The natural world has always been an interest of mine. As a young lad I looked forward to our family nature walks. Discovering new trails, plants and sights instilled within me a lust for adventure. Finally, through this program, I have been provided the opportunity to be on the other side of the adventure. I, along with the other youth ambassadors and our supervisors, have been the individuals tasked with preserving this adventure. Although we might not remember many, if any at all, we learned of the many different species of plant, tree, bird and animal. We studied the health of a forest with the help of forester Jeff Brockelbank and examined the importance of repopulating different fish species in the lake. We found and studied all the varying species within the presumed unlivable Chadakoin river and learned that it is not nearly as dirty as people believe. It is difficult to express how the information and experience gained through the past few weeks is invaluable as it can be applied at any moment when out in the wild and I hope to never stop learning about the natural world around us.
Erros: I have seen the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History’s logo before and I have faint memories of coming to the institute as child on multiple different field trips, through my school and other programs. I think the association I made between the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History and animals, insects, birds, and nature in general is what made me spark the interest in the logo on the application and eventually deciding to pick one up. That decision in that split moment is what enabled me to get to where I am now, studying nature with all my curiosity and being paid to do something I love. I’m proud to be a part of this wild project and participate in all of the adventures we have been in. I like to be able to find myself identifying damselflies one day and then get a notification telling me to go to this spot on the river to hunt down these smart and slippery ancient dinosaurs the next day. Even though we have had little luck with getting our hands on the Spiny Softshell Turtle I am still very optimistic. I believe that we can out smart these almost fossils and do what humans have been doing for millions of years, use our immense brains to checkmate these turtles and equip ourselves with our resourceful tools to do so. We have done a lot this summer and I feel accomplished with our project, but these turtles will be our final test to see who has really learned something, and I believe will pass with flying colors.