A Western pond turtle, one of Oregon's native turtle species (Courtesy/Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife)
Oregon scientists want your help keeping track of the state's native turtles.
Western Oregon University in partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and several other agencies have launched "Oregon Turtles," a website and app for citizen scientists to track their turtle sightings and help inform state conservation practices.
Biologists are hoping to hear from you about turtles spotted while out and about. That will help the state wildlife agency better assess turtle distribution, habitats and population trends, and make conservation plans, according to a news release from WOU.
GET INVOLVED: Download the Oregon Turtles app for Android or iPhone, or report a sighting online.
The city of Salem is a partner on the project and is hoping to gather data to better understand turtle habitat around the city, said Trevor Smith, spokesman for the parks department.
Researchers are seeking data on both species of freshwater turtles native to Oregon - the Western pond turtle and Western painted turtle - as well as the non-native red-eared slider and the invasive common snapping turtle. Information about identifying all four species is available on the website.
Gareth Hopkins, assistant professor of biology at WOU, has led field work studying turtles at Minto Brown Island Park for about three years and said the city has partnered in supporting that research.
The city is helping develop educational signs around the park to inform the public about turtles and how to report their sightings, Hopkins said.
"While we are hoping that the Oregon Turtles app is used broadly throughout the state, it really had its 'genesis' at Minto Brown, which has acted as a critical 'testing ground' for its use!" Hopkins said in an email.
Smith said the city is hoping to get a better sense of where else in Salem turtles are found.
"Most of the research on native turtles in Salem has been conducted in Minto Brown Island Park, but we know there is suitable turtle habitat dispersed throughout the city. Residents can help us learn more about the distribution of turtles in Salem by downloading the WOU’s free app and reporting observations wherever they see turtles in nature. Look for our native freshwater turtles anywhere you see a pond, lake, stream, or marsh adjacent to an upland area with natural vegetation," Smith said in an email.