Life can be tough for a turtle...evading predators, dodging cars.
That's why students from three Near North District School Board high schools are working with the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority to help preserve and protect the watershed and related endangered wetland species.
As part of this Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund stewardship project, 75 Specialist High Skills Major Business and Environment students will be involved in wetland planting, shoreline clean-ups, water quality testing and the construction of turtle mounds. Students will also gain First Nations traditional knowledge on the importance of fresh water and their role as environmental stewards.
"We are delighted to have students from our high schools working with the North Bay-Mattawa Conservation Authority on this stewardship project to help preserve and protect our ecosystems and Blandings Turtles,” said spokesperson Karen Bond with West Ferris Intermediate Secondary School.
“These students are expanding their classroom learning to include an authentic, real-world experiential learning project related to the Great Lakes and our local watershed. It takes their learning to a new level and helps them build meaningful connections with local employers," she added.
The students will also spend a day in Laurier Woods Conservation Area planting native shrubs and trees to prevent erosion and runoff, helping clean the water in neighbouring wetlands and provide important habitat.
Prior to the planting, Katherine Sarazin, Chair of the North Bay Indian Friendship Centre will traditional knowledge on the importance of the Great Lakes and water to our communities.
On October 4, students will build two large artificial nesting mounds in the La Vase Portages Conservation Area to support the local Blandings Turtle population. Field cameras will be installed by NBMCA staff to enable students to monitor, review and report on turtle nesting activity in the mounds next spring.
Prior to the construction of the mounds, the students were visited by NBMCA’s Valerie Murphy and Reilly Henderson to learn more about Blandings Turtles, the importance of available habitat to support this endangered species as well as the history of the La Vase Portages.
“These artificial nesting mounts will provide the turtles with a safe place to nest, away from roads which endanger adult turtles and their hatchlings,” said Sue Buckle, NBMCA’s Supervisor of Communications and Outreach.
“In late May and June, turtles are searching out nesting sites, such as the fine gravel of road shoulders. This is when people most often see turtles. Roadkill is a major cause of turtle mortality, especially at this time of year. Even worse, many of the turtles killed or injured are females on their way to lay eggs. It’s fabulous the students will develop an appreciation for protecting these turtles,” she added.
Chippewa staff and students will also be involved in monitoring local water quality in Chippewa Creek, collecting samples that will help NBMCA assess sediment which impacts water quality, adding to the students’ learning about watershed management and strategies for the ongoing protection of water quality in the creek.