National Science Foundation Fellow uses ultrasound to research bog turtles

October 20, 2009

Blacksburg, Va. - N. Danielle Bridgers of Suffolk, Va., a fisheries and wildlife sciences graduate student in the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources, has been awarded a 2009 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship.

She has focused her master's research on the nesting habits of bog turtles in southwestern Virginia under the direction of advisers Carola Haas, associate professor of wildlife ecology, and Dean Stauffer, professor of wildlife science. The information she obtained from ultrasound images helps her pinpoint when female turtles will be ready to lay their eggs.

Bridgers' research goals are to examine and document the nesting ecology of bog turtles in southwestern Virginia and to evaluate the potential factors limiting nesting and hatching success. Her research includes assessing the effectiveness of using diagnostic ultrasound to examine the ovarian cycle and clutch characteristics of bog turtles.

"Ultimately, I hope that this project will contribute to our understanding of how habitat characteristics, as well as the alteration of habitat, affect the population viability of bog turtles," she said. "This information will help identify critical bog turtle habitats and aid in creating effective management practices for this threatened species."

Bridgers shares the results of her research on bog turtles with the Virginia Department of Inland Game and Fisheries, which uses the information to try to protect this endangered species.

The award acknowledges master's and doctoral students who have done outstanding research in science or engineering and have the potential to make substantial developments in their fields. Each fellowship provides three years of funding, including a tuition supplement and a $30,000 annual stipend.

"I never imagined myself as an NSF fellow," said Bridgers. "It is definitely an encouragement. I now have confidence to pursue my Ph.D. and follow my research interests."
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Bridgers was recognized as the Fisheries and Wildlife Graduate Student Association's Member of the Year for her work organizing the fisheries and wildlife orientation and her efforts to encourage high school students in the Baltimore area to attend college. She also serves on the Dean's Team of Student Ambassadors for the College of Natural Resources and is a peer mentor for the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program. Bridgers completed her undergraduate degree in biology at Virginia State University.

The College of Natural Resources (http://www.cnr.vt.edu/) at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top three programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. Areas of studies include environmental resource management, fisheries and wildlife sciences, forestry, geospatial and environmental analysis, natural resource recreation, urban forestry, wood science and forest products, geography, and international development. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.

Virginia Tech

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