‘We only have one Earth’

Stu­dents give tur­tles help­ing hand in three-part en­vi­ron­men­tal project

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - NEWS - PJ WIL­SON

Help­ing pro­tect tur­tles – par­tic­u­larly the at-risk Bland­ing’s tur­tle – is a “re­ally cool” way to help the world.

“I re­ally like tur­tles,” Ade­olu Ag­boola said as she and about 20 other high school stu­dents from North Bay took part in a project to keep the tur­tles away from High­way 17 this past Thurs­day.

Stu­dents from Chippewa, Wid­di­field and West Fer­ris sec­ondary schools were out at La Vase Portages Con­ser­va­tion Area to build two tur­tle mounds that will give the tur­tles a place to lay their eggs well away from the high­way.

“This is not what a lot of peo­ple can do,” Ag­boola, a Chippewa stu­dent, said. “It’s a chance to give back and help na­ture.”

Tur­tles like grav­elly places to lay their eggs, and that can lead them to places such as the gravel shoul­ders of the high­way.

“We are try­ing to en­sure they have a safe place to live out their life,” Troy Storms, su­per­vi­sor of field op­er­a­tions at the North Bay-Mat­tawa Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity, said.

He said the tur­tle mounds will pro­vide them a safe place to lay their eggs, well away from the high­way.

Stu­dents brushed away thick grass, placed loads of gravel on the path tur­tles would be most likely to travel.

Field cam­eras will be in­stalled by au­thor­ity staff to en­able stu­dents to mon­i­tor, re­view and re­port on tur­tle nest­ing ac­tiv­ity in the mounds next spring.

Fenc­ing will be placed along the trail so vis­i­tors to the con­ser­va­tion area won’t step on the eggs.

The project got its start at West Fer­ris last year when stu­dents were en­cour­aged to ap­ply for a grant from the Great Lakes Guardian Com­mu­nity Fund. They al­lied with the con­ser­va­tion au­thor­ity for a three-part project.

In the spring, stu­dents will be tak­ing part in shore­line cleanup and restora­tion, while re­cently they com­pleted a nat­u­ral berm be­tween the city yards and the Lau­rier Woods Con­ser­va­tion Area to pre­vent tox­ins from leach­ing into the woods.

The project to pro­tect the tur­tles – par­tic­u­larly the Bland­ing’s tur­tle, which has been re­ported in La Vase Portages Con­ser­va­tion Area – is the third and fi­nal part of the $21,000 project.

Karen Bonds, a West Fer­ris busi­ness teacher who helped guide the project, said one of the big­gest ben­e­fits is that stu­dents have been able to see the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the lo­cal wa­ter­shed and the Great Lakes.

All three parts of the project will in­volve 75 spe­cial­ist high skills ma­jor busi­ness and en­vi­ron­ment stu­dents in wet­land plant­ing, shore­line cleanups, wa­ter qual­ity test­ing and the con­struc­tion of tur­tle mounds.

Stu­dents also will gain First Na­tions tra­di­tional knowl­edge on the im­por­tance of fresh wa­ter and their role as en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ards.

“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,” Bonds said.

“It takes their learn­ing to a new level and helps them build mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with lo­cal em­ploy­ers.”

Jes­sica Kelso, from West Fer­ris Sec­ondary School, said a lot of peo­ple have asked why a busi­ness class would be do­ing some­thing like this.

Part, she said, is be­cause of the eco­nomic im­por­tance of the Great Lakes to the com­mu­ni­ties, province and states sur­round­ing them.

But the other part is “it’s cool to be in­volved in some­thing like this.

“It’s a great op­por­tu­nity to get in­volved, and it’s su­per ex­cit­ing to be here.”

Reid Law­ton, also from West Fer­ris, was in­volved in the project from the be­gin­ning, and said the prime at­trac­tion for him is the chance to help the en­vi­ron­ment.

“We only have one Earth,” he said. “We have to keep it as clean as we can.”

He said the Bland­ing’s tur­tle is now at risk, and he and other stu­dents see it as their role to “try our best to not make it ex­tinct.”

“In late May and June, tur­tles are search­ing out nest­ing sites, such as the fine gravel of road shoul­ders,” Sue Buckle, su­per­vi­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and out­reach with the con­ser­va­tion au­thor­ity, said.

“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 also will be in­volved in mon­i­tor­ing lo­cal wa­ter qual­ity in Chippewa Creek, col­lect­ing sam­ples that will help the au­thor­ity as­sess sed­i­ment which af­fects wa­ter qual­ity, adding to the stu­dents’ learn­ing about wa­ter­shed man­age­ment and strate­gies for the on­go­ing pro­tec­tion of wa­ter qual­ity in the creek.

PJ WIL­SON/THE NUGGET

Ade­olu Ag­boola, left, and Zoey Rosoph, stu­dents at North Bay’s Chippewa Sec­ondary School, pre­pare to fill a wheel­bar­row with gravel, Thurs­day, at La Vase Portages Con­ser­va­tion Area. Stu­dents from Chippewa, West Fer­ris and Wid­di­field sec­ondary schools were work­ing with the North Bay-Mat­tawa Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity to build tur­tle mounds - gravel ar­eas for tur­tles to lay their eggs - at the con­ser­va­tion area.

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