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Zoo New England receives grants to support Hatchling and Turtle Conservation Headstarting Program

Thanks to generous grants from the Yawkey Foundations and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we’re bringing New England wildlife into the urban classroom, empowering Boston-area youth to play a hands-on role in the protection and ultimate survival of local species. The Yawkey Foundations and IMLS have given $25,000 and $24,391 respectively in support of Zoo New England’s Hatchling and Turtle Conservation Headstarting (HATCH) program.

Through the HATCH program, school children have the opportunity to get outdoors and directly help in the recovery of one of the Commonwealth’s rarest wild animals, the Blanding’s turtle. Participating schools give tiny turtle hatchlings a “headstart” on life by raising them in a protected classroom environment until turtles are bigger, stronger, and better prepared for survival in the wild.

Biologist-educators from Zoo New England’s Grassroots Wildlife Conservation program provide classroom presentations and field trips built around students’ participation in the program. Once turtles reach about 9 months of age, students travel to a local wildlife refuge to release their turtle back into its native habitat. Based on program research, these headstarting efforts give each turtle egg and hatchling about a 30 times better chance of surviving to reach adulthood. In addition to turtle care and feeding, students use STEM-based skills to monitor turtle growth, weight and study environmental factors that affect the turtles. Data collected by students are used to continually refine and improve our husbandry protocols and to better understand the influence of various factors on hatchling growth rates.

Through this grant funding, the Zoo is able to offer HATCH programs at more schools and with more children. Specifically, the grants allow us to directly engage Boston’s urban classrooms in our local turtle conservation projects.

“The Yawkey and IMLS grants will allow us, for the first time, to bring our hands-on turtle conservation programs to hundreds of elementary school students in Boston,” says Dr. Bryan Windmiller, Zoo New England’s Director of Conservation. “All our participating students learn, by doing, that they have the power to be stewards of wildlife species that live in their own cities and towns.” For more information or to register your Boston-area school for the program, please contact our Education Department at education@zoonewengland.org.