Dr. John Roe Publishes Second Box Turtle Paper with Undergraduate Researchers

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Maria Chavez, Dr. John Roe, and Kristoffer Wild find spotted turtles in the field
Maria Chavez, Dr. John Roe, and Kristoffer Wild find spotted turtles in the field

For five years, Dr. John Roe and his team of undergraduate researchers monitored Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina) in fire-managed sites in Weymouth Woods State Park and in unburned sites in Lumber River State Park.  The team used radiotelemetry, as often as weekly from 2012 to 2017, to track 36 turtles in Weymouth Woods and 29 turtles in Lumber River State Park, while periodically measuring turtle body size.

Roe and his undergraduate co-authors Kristoffer Wild and Maria Chavez analyzed the data for differences in survivorship and body condition, and they have just published their findings in the peer-reviewed journal *Forest Ecology and Management.  Box turtle survivorship varied considerably across burn units in Weymouth Woods, with lowest survivorship occurring in the most frequently burned areas.  Annual survivorship in the fire-managed system was roughly 5% less than that of box turtles in the Lumber River State Park.  Surprisingly, growth rates did not differ within or among sites, and annual survivorship in the fire managed system was similar to survivorship in stable populations of box turtles. 

They concluded that various mortality factors, aside from fire, may have contributed to their findings, and that fire season and sex influenced survivorship, with female turtles experiencing greater mortality than male turtles.  Their work, in combination with Roe et al. (2017), is the most detailed study of box turtle vital rates and behavior in natural systems managed with fire.

Dr. John Roe is an Associate Professor in the UNCP Department of Biology, where he teaches undergraduate courses in Field Zoology and General Zoology, while mentoring students in field and laboratory research. Alumnus Kristoffer Wild ('13) was a RISE Fellow while at UNC Pembroke. He earned a M.S. degree in Biology at Austin Peay State University.  Maria Chavez is currently majoring in Biology at UNCP.  She has presented her box turtle research at several conferences.

*Roe, J.H. Wild, K.H., and Chavez, M. 2019. Responses of a forest-dwelling terrestrial turtle, Terrapene carolina, to prescribed fire in a Longleaf Pine ecosystem. Forest Ecology and Management 432, 949-956.

Roe, J.H., Wild, K.H., Hall, C.A., 2017. Thermal biology of Eastern Box Turtles in a Longleaf Pine system managed with prescribed fire. J. Therm. Biol 69, 325–333.