Defense Date

2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Derek M Johnson

Abstract

Spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) use a complex of wetland and terrestrial habitats for survival and reproduction. Precipitation expands and creates larger and more numerous ephemeral pools available to spotted turtles on the landscape. In this study, I investigated the effects of precipitation on movement patterns and ephemeral pool usage by spotted turtles in southeastern Virginia. I conducted a 4-month capture-mark-recapture study alongside a telemetry study to estimate population size and to quantify movement of spotted turtles across the landscape during the breading season. A change point analysis was used to detect discrete changes in turtle behavior and whether changes in behavior were related to precipitation events. Synchronized increase in population size estimates and changes in movement behavior are consistent with the hypothesis that spotted turtles either synchronously emerged from hibernation and/or synchronously immigrated to breeding aggregations in ephemeral pools. The changes in movement behavior in most of the spotted turtles was correlated with a large precipitation event. Spotted turtles within this study were never observed aestivating, likely due to the abnormally high levels of precipitation in spring 2018, which maintained ephemeral pools inundated with cool water. The foregoing of aestivation along with a steep late season decline in survival probability suggests that after the breeding season spotted turtles dispersed out of trapping plots. Distances traveled by spotted turtles were significantly longer on days with precipitation, suggesting that precipitation increased connectivity of wetlands. This study demonstrates the causal effects of within-season variation of precipitation on spotted turtle movement and aestivation behaviors.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

5-13-2021

Available for download on Tuesday, May 12, 2026

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