First Advisor

Catherine de Rivera

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Management (MEM)


Environmental Science and Management




Turtles -- Nests -- Oregon -- Willamette River Watershed, Turtles -- Nests -- Effect of human beings on, Nest building




Oregon’s two native freshwater turtle species, Chrysemys picta bellii (Western painted turtle) and Actinemys marmorata (Northwestern pond turtle), have seen significantly reduced population sizes since the founding of Portland in 1845, with estimates of up to 90% for A. marmorata. This project examined turtle nesting activity at 25 sites across a range of turtle populations and habitats around the Lower Willamette River Basin. All discovered turtle nesting activity was found in areas of high solar exposure. We found 93% of over 400 nest attempts to have been depredated across the 25 sites, well above most other reported rates. At several sites, many aborted nest attempts were found atop gravel roadbeds, indicating that lack of appropriate substrate is potentially limiting nesting success. The presence of greater than five pedestrians per hour at turtle nesting areas was correlated with a substantial decrease in nesting attempts suggesting that management of recreational activities may play a role in the amount of nesting activity occurring. Hence, site-specific solutions, such as importing substrate, alteration of path locations or seasonal trail closures to lessen human foot traffic disturbance of turtle nesting attempts, are likely to improve recruitment rates of native turtles in the Lower Willamette Basin. Further studies that improve knowledge of population demographics, the impact of human activities on turtles, and habitat needs of juvenile turtles are needed to support long-term self-sustaining turtle populations.


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A project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Environmental Management.

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