Whittier Tech Students Raise Endangered Blanding’s Turtles in Partnership with State

Whittier Tech Environmental Club members, from left, Madison O’Neil, Thomas Morris and Aiden Dupre, all of Haverhill, are among club members taking a leading role in the care of the turtles. (Courtesy photograph.)

Students at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School are raising two baby turtles during this school year through a state program that seeks to protect endangered species.

Pinky and Shelldon are Blanding’s turtles, which live in freshwater and are considered among the most endangered turtles in the northeast. They arrived at Whittier Tech in October through a program operated by the state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. The Parker River Clean Water Association in Byfield, supported by grants from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program and the Mass Environmental Trust, collected hatchlings along the upper Parker River for care.

“The turtles have quickly become part of the Whittier community. The students love them,” Superintendent Maureen Lynch said. “The real benefit is that our students are seeing how they can take an active role in saving our environment, and in ensuring that an endangered species will grow and eventually thrive.”

Pinky and Shelldon live in Science Teacher Ryan Burke’s room in a tank with shallow, clear standing water and abundant aquatic vegetation, replicating their natural habitat. Students clean the tank once every two weeks. Students also record the turtles’ growth and weight, and share data with other participating schools.

In their first month at the school the turtles have grown to 6 millimeters and 10 grams, due to their care and feeding by students and staff.

“They are clearly very comfortable here at Whitter,” said Burke, who is advisor to the Environmental Club, which has taken a leading role in the turtle project.

Pinky and Shelldon will be returned to the state in the spring. They will be released back into the wild where they will be tracked and monitored by the state.

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