South Partners with Mobile Botanical Gardens for Gopher Tortoise Day
Posted on April 14, 2022 by Amber Day
University of South Alabama’s Dr. Adam Chupp, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, and Dr. Holly Peterson, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, are co-teaching a service learning course titled “Urban Ecology, Policy and Management.” Students in this course have contributed to a gopher tortoise research and educational outreach project in partnership with the Mobile Botanical Gardens.
The goal of this project is to raise awareness of the gopher tortoise, which is a federally protected, keystone species of longleaf pine forest communities. The students and faculty plan to host a fundraiser auction, “Gopher Tortoise Day,” at the Mobile Botanical Gardens on April 23 at 11:00 a.m., where individuals can pay for the naming rights to the individual tortoises that have been captured, tagged, and released in the garden’s longleaf pine forest. Food, drinks, live music and family activities will be provided.
The revenue from this event will help to fund the preservation of these tortoises and their longleaf pine forest habitat at the gardens. Specifically, the funds will be used to support forest management activities that include controlled burning, mechanical removal of woody species, herbicide treatments to control invasive species, and trail maintenance. Contributions will also be used to support ongoing research aimed at understanding the ecology, population genetics, and long-term viability of the Mobile Botanical Gardens gopher tortoise colony.
Students involved include Hannah Giannini, Victoria Baker, Courtney Williams, Brianna Mandujano, Victoria Tate, Rachel Monk, Aubree Dudley, Shania Hall and Darrien Caudle.
Faculty and students recently received the Gopher Tortoise Day Financial Assistance Award, a Gopher Tortoise Council grant program that supports groups who are promoting awareness of gopher tortoises in conjunction with the Annual Gopher Tortoise Day (April 10). The project has also been supported by the J. Larry Landers Student Research Award, a Gopher Tortoise Council competitive grant program that supports research on gopher tortoise biology/ecology or any other relevant aspect of upland habitat conservation and management within the range of the gopher tortoise. Gopher Tortoise Day is also sponsored by the University of South Alabama Departments of Biology and Political Science and Criminal Justice.