Date of Graduation

Fall 2019


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Day Ligon


Turtles are among the most threatened groups of organisms on the planet and as such are in need of protected habitat where healthy communities can be maintained. The reclamation of land that was formerly the site of surface strip mining provides a matrix of reclaimed terrestrial landscapes rich with lakes and ponds that have the potential to function as such habitat. To determine the suitability of these habitats for turtle communities, I compared the turtle communities of strip pit lakes and natural lakes in southeastern Kansas. Of the seven species of aquatic turtle I encountered, Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) were the only turtles that were captured in significantly lower numbers in strip pits. All other turtle species fared at least as well in strip pits as in natural lakes. Species richness and Simpson’s diversity were also at least as high in strip pits as in natural lakes. It is critical in community research that the sampling methods used to assess abundance of different species provide an accurate depiction of community structure. Many sampling methods are biased, and while many of these biases have been investigated, little is known about the ability of turtles to learn to avoid traps. To determine whether turtles learn to avoid locations where they have been trapped, I simultaneously surveyed a strip pit with two sets of traps for 35 days. One set of traps was stationary for the duration of the experiment while the other set was moved and later returned to their original locations. Slider Turtles (Trachemys scripta) were captured at higher rates in the moved group during the second period and Eastern Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus) were captured at higher rates in the moved group during the third period. Both groups of traps provided similar abundance estimates for T.scripta, but the stationary group underestimated the abundance of S. odoratus to a degree that would have misidentified the most common species in the community.


community, turtles, mined lands, Trachemys scripta, Sternotherus odoratus, Chelydra serpentina, Chrysemys picta, habitat reclamation, trapability

Subject Categories

Biodiversity | Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


© Ethan Craig Hollender

Open Access