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Below The Surface

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Baby Spiny Softshells at ECHO

Two of the 35 new baby Spiny softshell turtles enjoying their temporary winter home at ECHO. Doing well in transitioning to their new captive diet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lake Stewardship - Mudpuppy Stewardship

On October 1st, the Lamoille River, just below the Peterson Dam, was treated with lampricide, a pesticide, 3-trifluoromethyl-4-notrophenol, also known as TFM. Over the next two days, after the application of the chemicals, biologists surveyed the river downstream of the application site. In addition to numerous dead Sea Lamprey, over 500 dead mudpuppies were found.

In the maintenance of aquatic systems, manipulations can be made, chemicals can be added to address a particular issue, but while addressing that specific issue, they may alter characteristics of the water that may subsequently cause other problems, which might not be obvious. Chemicals can act as environmental stressors, which, while they might not immediately cause mortalities, can compromise animals physiological condition and leave them susceptible to naturally occurring environmental pathogens (even in captivity) that otherwise healthy animals can endure.

At ECHO, we avoid using chemicals in our aquatic systems. For example, we use Burlington municipal water in our aquatic displays. Burlington municipal water typically contains a chlorine level of 3-5 PPM (parts per million). At that level, it could kill many of ECHO’s aquatic and amphibious animal ambassadors. Rather than use sodium thiosulfate to dechlorinate, we aerate and circulate the water to accelerate the degassing of the chlorine. Once dechlorinated, usually within two to three days, the water can be added to ECHO’s exhibits.


At ECHO, we maintain two exhibits of mudpuppies. With their aquatic lifestyle and their external gills, they are particularly susceptible to chemicals and changes in water quality. If we exposed them to chlorinated water or other chemicals, while we might not immediately kill them, the environmental stressor could compromise the mudpuppies ability to fend off pathogens. We would treat their symptoms, but If we didn’t determine our water quality issue, we’d wouldn’t eliminate the ultimate cause of the problem; we’d be unable to maintain a healthy population of mudpuppies. At ECHO when we treat animals for illnesses, we scrutinize our animal husbandry to ensure that we are providing the best possible environment for the collection.

The stewardship we apply to our captive collection, is the kind of stewardship that benefits the Lake. When chemicals are applied to address an issue, when we manipulate a system, we have to scrutinize the “husbandry” of the entire system, the entire Lake, to ensure we are providing the best possible environment for all of the Lake and the Basin. At ECHO we maintain clear, clean water in our displays to ensure the health of the collection. In the Lake, at times the water and the issues are murky, we don’t always know what goes on “Below the Surface.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Softshell Turtles - Neonates arrive at ECHO

It's fall in Vermont. You can tell by the snow, that in most other parts of the nation comes in the winter. You can also tell because the Eastern Spiny Softshell turtles that hatched a little late in the season have arrived at ECHO.

Each year, Steve Parren, the Coordinator of Vermont Fish and Wildlife's Natural Heritage and Non-Game program, monitors the beaches where softshell are known to lay eggs. Any eggs or hatchlings that Steve finds late in the hatching season are collected and transferred to ECHO for 'over-wintering.


More than thirty baby turtles arrived on October 14th, each not much bigger than a quarter.

They'll be kept at ECHO until sometime in June when they'll be released where they were found.

Spiny softshell are a threatened species in the state of Vermont. Come down to ECHO, meet these guys and learn what you can do to ensure their survival in the Lake during one of the animal encounters with animal care staff Tessa and Brian.