There are over 300 kinds of turtles and tortoises. More than half are threatened with extinction. They sit at the forefront of a biodiversity crisis; their habitat is plowed, bulldozed, and drained. They are collected for food and for pets. Because turtles and tortoises take more than a decade to mature, their populations are slow to recover. Most baby turtles never survive to adults.
I studied a few of the last Ornate Box Turtle strongholds in Illinois. The tiny parcels of sand prairie they inhabit are few and far between. The baby turtle in the photo is one of only a handful of hatchlings I found in three years of searching.
How many Ornate Box Turtles are left in Illinois?
How long will their small and isolated populations persist?
What can we do to ensure their future?
This image is a semi-finalist in Image of Research, an annual multidisciplinary competition celebrating the diversity and breadth of graduate student research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. To see all the semi-finalist images and to vote for your top three (deadline is March 22), visit the 2021 Image of Research Exhibition.