Students see science in action with rescued turtle on Symmes Nature Trail | Environment
SYMMES TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - Symmes Township Elementary students are tracking a turtle that was released to the Nature Trail.
The Bruner family, including Mom and Dad Stephanie and Joe and son third-grader Pierce, his brother Grant, a sixth-grader at Edwin H. Greene Intermediate, and sister Alexandra, a first-grader at Symmes, rescued a turtle on the side of the highway a few years ago.
When the turtle was rescued, the family marked him with red nail polish for tracking purposes and released him on the Symmes Nature Trail, behind Symmes Elementary.
“We are really fortunate to have a beautiful extension of nature in the backyard of Symmes Elementary. The nature trail offers tranquility, education and beauty all in one,” said Anne Van Kirk, Symmes Elementary principal. “It was originally created in 1992 by Symmes staff members and parents, and for the last five years Steve Reinke, Symmes science teacher, has been committed to ongoing expansion and improvements to the trail.”
The Bruners have hiked the trail on numerous occasions looking for their friend, but so far, there’s been no sighting.
But that hasn’t diminished Pierce’s desire to find and rescue other turtles.
Last summer, his wish came true when a client at his parents’ veterinary hospital brought in a young Eastern box turtle with a fractured carapace (shell) that was found on interstate 275. The injury, likely the result of being hit by a car, is typically fatal. However, one of the emergency doctors with expertise in exotic animals repaired the carapace with surgical tissue, glue and surgical mesh, but his rehabilitation would be long. So, the recuperating turtle went home with the Bruners to recover. In a nod to the car accident that brought them together, Pierce named the turtle Autto (pronounced “Otto”).
Pierce and Joe housed Autto outdoors in a special framed habitat and fed him a natural diet as they observed his wound for infection or rejection of the mesh. Autto thrived over the next two months, but it became clear that he would need to be released before fall.
“Our kids have a really clear understanding of wildlife versus pets. We keep pets and we release wildlife,” explained Stephanie. “Autto’s outcome and release were predetermined from the beginning. Wildlife release is a celebration of that animal's accomplishment; we try not to focus on our loss. The Symmes Nature Trail offered us a terrific opportunity to provide Autto with a new, safe environment and to provide Symmes students with an outdoor science lesson.”
So, Joe contacted Reinke about releasing Autto on the nature trail as a science project as Reinke’s classes utilize the trail regularly, conducting studies and collecting stream biotic index data to report to the Environmental Protection Agency. It was the perfect place to provide refuge to Autto.
“We have many animals, small and large, on the nature trail and I am grateful that the Bruner family elected to have Autto relocated to our property,” Reinke said.
Before Autto’s release back to nature, Reinke and Joe investigated several types of tracking mechanisms and decided to give Autto his own URL for student reports of his sighting. Monitoring the turtle’s movement on the trail brings science to life for the students.
Reinke set up the URL, the vets epoxied Autto’s URL to his newly intact carapace and Autto was ready to become a living piece of the trail.
Pierce and Autto appeared on the Symmes morning announcements to discuss Autto’s rehabilitation, upcoming release and tracking mechanism. Then, Stephanie escorted Pierce, Autto and eight second-grade Symmes students to the nature trail to find just the right place to release Autto.
“Pierce and I talked to the Symmes second-graders who accompanied us on Autto’s release journey about where would be a perfect new place for him,” Stephanie explained.
They released Autto in a moist forested area with underbrush and access to water, perfectly suited to his needs.
Anyone who sees Autto is asked to contact his URL (www.snipr.com/syturtle) and report his sighting.
“This is a unique learning experience that does so much more than lecture students about science and nature. At Symmes, students see science active in nature every day,” said Stephanie. “Hopefully, soon, they’ll see Autto, too.”