Students’ concern for turtles sparks investigation

Turtle traps were found at Lake Ruby next to Lakeside Dining Commons. Two students were worried about the turtles’ safety and decided to investigate why the traps were present.Photo courtesy of: Sad’e Thomas

Alanna Navin

 

It was Saturday afternoon at Lakeside Dining Commons when students Ron Washington and Sad’e Thomas noticed turtles trapped in a net in Lake Ruby.

“We saw people walking by and everyone is not smiling, but they weren’t upset,” Washington, junior information technology major, said. “After the third or fourth person, we went outside and we saw the traps and wondered why [someone was] doing this.”

It was a net trap and it had a wooden stake in the ground with a rope around it, Thomas, freshman psychology major, said.

“I was upset because I like the turtles and I always take a window seat to watch the turtles while I eat at Lakeside,” Thomas said.

The turtles in Lake Ruby are in no immediate danger, but seeing the turtles trapped concerned the students, which urged them to take action and investigate as to why traps were place in the lake.

Thomas started by asking her professors if they know why the turtles were caught. Some did not know why and others suggested that the biology department was testing the waters.

Thomas then went to the police station only to find that no incidents of turtle traps have been reported. Later, she went to the Center for Wildlife Education.

The Wildlife Center was disturbed by what Thomas found but could not do anything because they do not have jurisdiction over the lakes or surrounding areas.

“It’s a biology class in the biology department tracking the turtles for research,” Aquila Rhodes, child development major and employee at Wildlife Center, said.

Rhodes’ boss said a zoology class and vertebrate class set the traps.

Employees of Wildlife Center said that by the way the traps look, it looked like a biology experiment taking place. Thomas went to the biology department the same day to look for more information.

Representatives of the biology department said that they did not set any traps and they would not allow harm to come to the campus turtles by their actions. The department then referred Thomas to the Physical Plant and she was then referred to Environmental Safety.

“The University has a contractor to monitor the ecology of the bodies of water,”according to an email sent by Francois Song, director of Environmental Safety Services. “There must have been some population control whereby they remove certain aged turtles and transfer them to another body of water.”

Song stated in the email that he will keep an eye on Lake Ruby in case of any other out of the ordinary incidents and thanked the students for their concern.