Gopher tortoises

(Gopherus polyphemus)

“…Everything affecting the gopher tortoise’s habitat affects the tortoise and … eventually affects all other organisms in its ecosystem. Efforts to save the gopher tortoise are really a manifestation of our desire to preserve intact, significant pieces of the biosphere.

…We must preserve…the gopher tortoise and other species in similar predicaments, for if we do not, we lose a part of our humanity, a part of our habitat, and ultimately our world.”

—Dr. George W. Folkerts, Auburn University, Alabama

North American tortoises suffer from an upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) that may threaten population viability and that was once considered to be caused by an invasive mycoplasmal pathogen. I have ongoing projects examining variability in biomarkers of URTD across time and space, and how disease presence affects population viability.

I collaborate with multiple personnel across the southeastern US studying this species on state- and federally-owned lands. Recent projects directly related to gopher tortoise conservation include population monitoring techniques, outcomes of habitat management, and development of conservation tools to rescue and restore low-density populations.

I am regionally involved in gopher tortoise education and conservation through the Gopher Tortoise Council , where I serve as the organization's co-chair, which is a two-year term I began in November 2019.