Turtles and tortoises are group of reptiles that can play key ecological roles, serving as both predators and prey, contributing to the cycling of nutrients, and acting as seed dispersers. However, with approximately 58 percent of the world’s 335 turtle species threatened with extinction, turtles are the most endangered vertebrate group in the world. For that reason the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn., invites citizen scientists to help turtles with the launch of the Connecticut Turtle Atlas project.

Connecticut is home to 12 native turtle species that inhabit the state’s woodlands, wetlands, and even the waters of Long Island Sound. Primary threats include habitat loss and traffic-related highway mortality. The Bruce Museum would like to assist in educating the public about turtles and their benefits to the ecology as well as provide actions citizen scientists can take to help them.

The Connecticut Turtle Atlas project runs from April through November and will continue on an annual basis. Participants will collect data on specific locations and abundance of all turtle species found throughout the state. These volunteer scientists will gather the data through the Web and a smartphone app. This information will be used to map distributions, identify important habitats, locate areas of nesting abundance, and detect roadways with high traffic-related mortality. In addition, there will be opportunities to assist with various aspects of turtle research and fieldwork.