Date of Graduation

Summer 2013


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Day Ligon


activity, automated radio telemetry, nesting behavior, ornate box turtle, temperature dependent sex determination, Terrapene ornata

Subject Categories



The ornate box turtle (Terrapene ornata) is a small emydid terrestrial turtle that has experienced declines throughout its wide geographic range. In an effort to provide supporting research for a reintroduction program at the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in northern Illinois, I investigated the ecology of this cryptic species. I developed a method that uses automated radio telemetry to identify nesting activity, allowing me to non-disruptively collect eggs from a species in which nests are notoriously difficult to find, and to monitor the nesting activity of many more animals than would otherwise be possible. Nest searches revealed that some females in this population nest underground, a behavior that may have important implications for the sex ratios of this temperature-dependent species. Data loggers placed into nest cavities revealed that underground nesting did not affect mean incubation temperatures, but the behavior reduced thermal variation of incubation temperatures. Automated telemetry was also used to quantify activity patterns in this population, and revealed that relative humidity, precipitation and turtle reproductive status affect turtle activity, and that thermal extremes restrict activity on both daily and seasonal scales in this northerly population. Activity levels were lower during an unusually warm summer.


© Charles Tucker

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