Leatherbacks, Kemp’s ridley, Hawksbill, Eastern Box, Green Sea and Blanding’s are just a few of the many species of turtles Morris Animal Foundation has helped since 2000.
In all, Morris Animal Foundation has funded 27 studies to improve the health of turtles. Nearly half the grants have been funded through the Foundation’s Veterinary Student Scholars Program, a highly competitive grant program that provides veterinary students the opportunity to become involved in mentored research that enhances the health and welfare of companion animals and wildlife.
With so many outstanding veterinary schools located near suitable turtle habitats, such as the Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Appalachian waterways and the lakes and ponds of the Midwest, it’s easy to see why so many students are drawn toward research aimed at helping the lives of turtles. In fact, Jekyll Island, a small island off the coast of Georgia, alone has been the setting for numerous student and established investigators working to help sea turtles.
Last summer, Kelly Rockwell, a second-year veterinary student at the University of Illinois, examined whether the endangered Blanding’s turtle plays a role in the prevalence and spread of Leptospira spp., an emerging zoonotic infectious disease. Rockwell worked alongside her mentor, Dr. Mark Mitchell, a previously funded investigator who completed a study on box turtles in 2012. Rockwell’s work with turtles sparked a passion for research that could affect the rest of her career.
“This summer was an incredible opportunity for me to perform my own research project and gain more insight into the field of research. Prior to this project, I was interested in pursuing a career in research, specifically wildlife epidemiology. This experience absolutely ignited that desire and I am incredibly excited to pursue this goal,” Rockwell says.
From hatching failures to ecotourism impact to habitat infringement, turtles in North America and beyond face some very serious issues. Whether it’s a coastal sea turtle or the box turtle in a backyard pond, Morris Animal Foundation–funded researchers and our veterinary student scholars are doing their very best to help turtles thrive.
By: Allen Byrne