Blanding’s Turtle Monitoring and Headstarting

GWC, in partnership with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, has been monitoring and managing the Blanding’s turtle population at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, MA since 2003. Though still one of the largest populations of this Threatened species in MA, there are 60% fewer Blanding’s turtles at Great Meadows than in the early 1970’s. Working with schools, Zoo New England, and the New England Aquarium as well as many volunteers, we radio-track turtles, protect their nests, raise (“headstart”) hatchling turtles for nine months, and then release them back into their native habitats. We are also working to improve Blanding’s turlte habitat in the area. We have demonstrated that our headstarted juveniles survive and thrive at high rates after their release and, in time, we are confident that the Great Meadows Blanding’s turtle population will be fully restored as one of the largest in all New England.

>>> Watch our video to learn more about the Blanding’s turtle project
2014 Project ReportBlanding's Turtle Headstarting ManualNHESP Fact Sheet 

Spadefoot Toad Headstarting

Since 2009, we have partnered with Ian Ives of Mass Audubon to help restore the rarest frog in Massachusetts, the eastern spadefoot toad, to areas of its former range. Once widespread in southern New England, spadefoot toads have declined as their breeding pools have been destroyed and perhaps as pesticide use poisoned their tadpoles. To date, Mass Audubon, with our support, has constructed nine new breeding sites for spadefoot toads and two wildlife sanctuaries on Cape Cod.  We have reintroduced headstarted spadefoot toads from Sandy Neck on the Cape into these sanctuaries, where we are closely monitoring the toads’ growth and survival. In 2014, we will be conducting a study at Sandy Neck that will allow us to more clearly define the habitat characteristics that eastern spadeoot toads seek out when choosing breeding pools.  With this information, we plan on expanding our reintroduction program elsewhere in Massachusetts and perhaps in New England.

Learn more about spadefoot toads
2013 Project Report  •  Wetlands Restoration Helps Amphibians - Mass Audubon Article  •   NHESP Fact Sheet 

Bridle Shiners

The bridle shiner fish are one of the rarest fish in Massachusetts. Their populations have plummeted from threats such as non-native predatory fish, stream channelization, runoff from roadways, and poor water quality. GWC is researching how bridal shiners have managed to survive in a few heavily urbanized streams in Bedford and Burlington, MA. We are training volunteers to monitor water quality and estimate population densities. 

Several schools, as well as the New England Aquarium and Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm have started captive breeding programs to aid in possible future reintroduction programs.

Learn more about Bridle Shiners
NHESP Fact Sheet

New England Blazing Star and Native Pollinators

New England Blazing is native wildflower in the aster family that used to widespread across Massachusetts. It grows on dry, sandy fields and grasslands.
Wildflowers like the New England blazing star provide vital forage to our native pollinators, such as bees, wasps, moths, and butterflies. Many native pollinator species are on the decline due to habitat loss. By planting native wildflowers in your backyard, you can help provide habitat for both New England blazing star and pollinators.

NHESP Fact Sheet

Marbled Salamanders

Marbled salamanders are rare and declining throughout Massachusetts, particularly in Essex and Middlesex Counties, where they have nearly disappeared entirely. Middlesex Fells, which is a large tract of natural habitat only five miles from Boston, used to be home to marbled salamanders, but they were extirpated due to habitat loss, logging, and habitat fragmentation. The last recorded sighting there was in 1932. Since then, however, the forest has grown back and biologist Matt Gage has documented more than 100 vernal pools in the area, many of which might provide excellent breeding habitat for the marbled salamander. On their own, however, marbled salamanders, now scarce in northeastern MA, have no chance of crossing the highways that ring the Fells and repopulating the area. That’s where we hope to come in.
Working together with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Friends of the Fells, and Zoo New England, GWC has proposed capturing young marbled salamander larvae from the Blue Hills, headstarting them to metamorphosis (as we do with spadefoot toads), and releasing them into suitable pools in Middlesex Fells or other locations in northeastern Massachusetts. Pending permission from the state, we hope to begin a survey of marbled salamanders in the Blue Hills and a feasibility study of our Fells reintroduction plan in spring 2015.


Britton’s Violet

These small but attractive violets, once described as carpeting the banks of some Massachusetts rivers in purple, have disappeared from most of their range in the eastern United States. Loss of wet meadow habitat and competition with introduced plants, such as glossy buckthorn, have been major factors in the decline of Britton’s violet. Together with noted expert on this species, Sally Zielinski, GWC has begun monitoring and managing small Britton’s violet populations in Concord, MA. Together with other conservation groups, we hope to expand our work so that we can help restore populations of this Threatened species in eastern Massachusetts.

Learn more about Britton’s Violets
NHESP Fact Sheet