The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Keeping up with turtles: Morenci graduate Melissa Gallatin studies turtles for a research project

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Melissa Gallatin shoves off from shore in a bright yellow kayak as her research partner, Craig Myers, takes a look across Crooked Lake, northwest of Onsted.turtle_sitting

They’re actually earning college credit for this.

“It’s nice to say our classroom is however many acres there are here,” he said, “and our homework is to go kayaking.”

It’s not like that every day, but for two to three hours three times a week, this is where they’re studying. Since early September, the Adrian College seniors have made the trip to visit three ponds in search of turtles.

Species, sex, size, weight, distinguishing marks, location—there’s a variety of data to be collected. It’s all part of their senior research project for environmental science majors.

A session last week starts off with the usual routine: Gallatin, a 1999 Morenci High School graduate, calls out the maximum and minimum temperatures since their last visit.turtle_map

“On a day after it’s been sunny we find a lot more,” Gallatin says.

That’s because the majority of the 18 traps they’re using are basking platforms. Turtles love to lie in the sun and the wire traps—supported by foam “swimming noodles”—provide a great location.

They set off in a paddle boat across Butter Ladle Pond to check the first trap and inside is a female painted turtle. Gallatin points to the lines on the top of the shell.

“I’d say she’s at least three years old, maybe four,” she guesses. “It’s sort of like growth rings in a tree.”

That’s not an accurate aging technique, but it gives an approximation.

This specimen has no distinguishing marks, other than the two notches cut into the shell. Those were added the first time it was caught. The students carry a file to make small cuts at the edge of the shell. Now it has a number.turtle.closeup

Flip a turtle onto its back and look at the scutes—the small sections of the shell that fit together like a well-constructed jigsaw puzzle. Each scute represents a number as shown in a master plan of a turtle shell. A notch here and another over there represents turtle no. 79. Another cut added in the right place would make it turtle no. 179.

Some shells will show teeth marks from a past skirmish. One turtle has a scar across the face and the students know it well because he’s frequent visitor.

“We were catching him at least once a week for a month,” Gallatin says.

As they head off to the second trap, she explains that the painted turtle is by far the most common species found in these ponds. There’s been one Blanding’s turtle and a few musk turtles.

“We’ve been told there are spiny soft shell turtles here but we’ve never seen any,” Gallatin said.turtle_kayak

The biggest painted turtle found weighed in at about a pound. The Blanding’s was about three pounds. All pale in comparison to a snapping turtle. At another pond, Myers’s kayak was once bumped by a giant snapper. His surprised reaction was easily heard on shore.

The second and third traps were empty—activity is decreasing fast as cold weather sets in—and there’s a strong fishy odor as Myers lifts the fourth trap out of the water. There are two reasons for that.

First, there’s a sardine can, just slightly opened, at the bottom of each trap for bait. Second, there’s thick muck at the bottom of the pond. Myers once stepped off the paddle boat to free it from the muck and promptly sank almost to his neck.turtle_trap

The students are soon hiking through the woods to Miller Pond where Myers enters a kayak to check traps. Gallatin talks about the project while she awaits her partner’s return.

“We’re looking at population growth, movement and the overall health of the population.”

They’re checking growth and weight changes of the specimens that are re-caught. They’re looking for turtles that have migrated from one pond to another. They’ll try to determine if there’s any correlation between weather conditions and growth.

“We’ll wrap up our pond visits soon and turn to putting data into the computer for analysis,” Gallatin said. “Hopefully next semester someone will take it over. Maybe someone will take a different spin off it and look at other factors.”turtle.blanding

Myers returns without a single find, so they head off to the third site, Crooked Pond, where Gallatin will take a turn in the kayak. It’s the biggest body of water of the three, requiring the most paddling and the most wind and waves.

There’s not much of a breeze today and she makes good time.

While she’s gone, Myers talks about the time their professor, Dr. Craig Weatherby, almost jumped overboard in pursuit of a water snake. Another day Myers saw a frog being eaten by a water snake. Occasionally they’ll find a catfish or bluegill in a turtle trap. A heron took off from the shallow water when the students first arrived. There’s quite a parade of wildlife.

“A lot of the experience isn’t what we see in the traps,” Myers said. “It’s the fish and the deer and the cranes and the hawks….”turtle_scale

The visit this day produced only a single specimen. So far, there’s never been a day without at least one turtle, but that series will soon come to an end.

“We figure we’ll be all done by Nov. 1,” Gallatin said. “The temperatures will become consistently cold enough that they’ll all be hibernating.”

“And we’ll be consistently cold enough that we’ll want to stop,” adds Chris, as the sun lowers in the sky.

When that time comes, it’s farewell to the open air classroom and back indoors to work at a desk.

    – Oct. 30, 2002 

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