Dr. Kevin Avilés Rodríguez is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Fordham University in New York. Dr. Avilés Rodríguez’s research focuses on understanding how species respond to urbanization, biological invasions, and extreme weather events. Turtles are an important model to address these questions. Recently turtles have declined due to habitat loss and illegal harvesting by humans. As such, monitoring turtle communities has become necessary to conserve these species. The New England Turtle Project aims to characterize how urban wetlands impact turtle species and to develop new methods to aid turtle conservation. This project stems from a collaboration with Dr. Scott Buchanan, the state Herpetologist at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and a long-term turtle expert.
In 2022, Dr. Avilés Rodríguez and his students visited 27 wetlands across Rhode Island and Connecticut, including locations on WLT properties. Jada Henry is finishing a master thesis evaluating whether painted turtles’ body size, parasite, and shell damage differ between urban and non-urban wetlands. Painted turtles were chosen as their model as they are typically the more common turtle species in wetlands and readily occur in high density at both urban and non-urban wetlands. Ana Gomez’s research uses DNA analyses to infer the geographic source of the invasive turtles, red-eared and yellow-belly sliders, captured in New England. These species have been introduced via pet trade to nearly every continent and are listed as one of the worst invaders. This project aims to document the potential displacement and competition between invasive turtles and turtles native to New England. Dr. Kevin’s team is presently analyzing this data before undertaking future field endeavors. To learn more about Dr. Avilés Rodríguez’s research, visit the following website https://kevinjaviles.wordpress.com/research/.
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