Although I’ve lived in Jamestown for a number of years, last Tuesday was the first time I’d seen a spiny softshell turtle up close. It was just basking in the sun with a shiny shell and body that sort of resembled a large gray pancake. I was pretty excited to see this goofy-looking turtle in the Chadakoin over by the Gateway Center. Spiny Softshell turtles are just one unique species that lives along the Chadakoin River here in Jamestown, and this species of turtle is one of several species that will be monitored by the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s Project Wild America program this summer.
My name is Heather Zimba. I’m from Jamestown and am currently studying environmental science at SUNY JCC. I was recently fortunate to be hired as a Project Wild America crew leader along with Adolf Zollinger. As PWA crew leader’s we will be leading a group of high school students in conducting conservation projects along the Chadakoin River this summer.
Our PWA crew will be observing and documenting the populations of various species, including the spiny softshell turtle and common musk turtle. Some of our other projects will include: conducting water quality tests, sampling for micro-plastics in the Chadakoin and holding several educational events in the community.
Through our observations and surveys we are hoping to gain more knowledge about our native and invasive species along the Chadakoin. We are planning to collect data that can be used to gauge species populations, distributions and health. We are also planning to use macro-invertebrate surveys and water samples to test and give an indication of the water quality of the Chadakoin River. Once we have collected this data we will communicate our results to the public and city officials to increase their awareness of the Chadakoin River’s ecosystem.
In preparation for our surveys and fieldwork, Adolf and I have been training and reviewing protocol that we will be using to conduct surveys. Last week we reviewed Water Assessment Volunteer Evaluator (WAVE) protocol and attended an invasive species training, which included training using iMap Invasives, a database used to map out invasive species. We have also visited and selected various field sites along the Chadakoin, including McCrea Point Park, Panzarella Park, the Riverwalk, Chadakoin Park, Millrace Park, and the Levant (where the Chadakoin turns into the Cassadaga) where we will be conducting our surveys.
We have selected eight high school students from the area to participate in the PWA program. This year’s applicants are all high achieving, well-rounded students. I believe we are going to have a great group to work with and carry out the various projects we have planned. I am very excited to be involved with this program and I look forward to going out and studying the Spiny Softshell turtle population and various other species along the Chadakoin, and then sharing this information with the community.