Nest of Terecay
Flooding of nesting grounds
Photos by Tibisay Escalona and Andres Roseinchein
A major goal of my research has been to investigate how the biotic and abiotic environment influence choice and patterns of nest site selection, and how nesting decisions affect offspring phenotype and fitness, which are both important components of reproductive success and central for management decision of endangered species
As a PhD student at the University of Missouri St Louis, I dedicated my research to understanding the reproductive biology of the South American freshwater turtle Podocnemis unifilis or "Terecay". I investigated which factors (abiotic and biotic) influenced nest site decisions and if such selection had consequences for fitness as measured by hatching success. I looked at the relationship of reproductive traits (different-sized females, clutch and egg size) and how factors that influenced reproductive success may change within and among nesting sites and seasons.
Parallel to this study I conducted a survey to provide information on the use of this species of turtle for local and commercial food by inhabitants of the area, and assessed the sustainability of current harvest levels.
Finally, the participation of local inhabitants as research assistants in my field work led to the initiative of a community-based turtle conservation project.
Nesting grounds used by Podocnemis unifilis in the Caura River Basin, Venezuela (photos above) and release of hatchlings into the wild (photos below).