Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Science


Substantial threats to reptile species biodiversity have become apparent in the last few decades. This is partly caused by significant losses in grasslands and their associate prairie-wetland ecosystems. One Midwestern prairie-wetland species, Blanding's Turtles (Emydoidea blandingii), are at risk of extirpation due to habitat loss, fragmentation, and increased predator populations. Consequently, significant head-starting efforts, a form of reintroduction conservation using captive-reared and then released turtles, have been conducted to recover populations of E. blandingii in northeastern Illinois. However, the success of these programs both locally and range-wide have not been fully quantified. Unfortunately, many approaches to guaging success involve long-term monitoring, which requires resources many institutions may not have. Hince the demand for utilizing short-term approaches has risen. Several ways in which success can be determined in the short-term is to establish whether reintroduced animals have proper physiological health and functioning ecology after release. I designed a study that would effectively measure the change in blood biochemsitry, as well as spatial and thermal ecology of E. blandingii juveniles post captive-rearing. My objectives were to: 1) use blood biochemistry to examine the health and physiology of recently-released juveniles through their active season; 2) compare the health and physiology of recently-released juveniles to formerly-released juveniles; 3) investigate spatial and thermal ecological responses of captive-reared and released juveniles through seasonal movement areas and thermal profiles during brumation (i.e. overwintering period) for comparison with natural populations; 4) fill gaps of knowledge in this severely understudied juvenile life stage of E. blandingii. Physiological analyses indicate there are seasonal variation in blood biochemistry of recently-released juveniles; that these values correspond well to blood biochemistry found in similar turtle species. However, there remains variation in blood biochemistry between the most recently- and formerly-released juveniles. Significant differences in seasonal movement areas were detected between the spring and fall compared to summer and annual estimates, with area size being largest in the summer. Lastly, thermal profile analyses indicate thermal stabilization during brumation as well as active thermoregulation, similar to other closely related species. Overall, the juvenile turtles from the head-starting, captive-rearing program are adapting well to being released into novel environments at the physiological and behavioral level. Future studies however should concentrate on the environmental variations of both the site and seasonal weather patterns to further elucidate the mechanism that may explain the variation I have found in this study.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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