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Yet Another Use for a Bike…

By now, folks have figured out that bicycles can be used for a whole host of activities, from taking kids to and from school to commuting to work, buying groceries or just going out on a date with your sweetie.

But — did you know that bicycles can also be used in the pursuit of SCIENCE? Yep, that’s right…science. My undergraduate faculty advisor turned me on to the following abstract from the Journal of Alabama Academy of Science (Vol. 79, No. 2, April 2008):

ROAD-KILL SURVEY OF ALABAMA RED-BELLIED TURTLES ON THE
MOBILE BAY CAUSEWAY. David H. Nelson and Cynthia Scardamalia-Nelson,
Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Alabama, and Providence
Hospital, Mobile, AL 36688.

A systematic, road-kill survey was conducted (by bicycle or automobile) on the Mobile
Bay Causeway from April 2001 to December 2007 to assess the numbers of Alabama
red-bellied turtles (Pseudemys alabamensis) killed by automobile traffic. A federally
endangered species, Pseudemys alabamensis has been designated as the official “Alabama
state reptile.? A total of 553 Alabama red-bellied turtles were recorded over the seven-year
study: 420 hatchlings, 116 adult females (most gravid), 13 juveniles, and 4 males. A
majority of hatchlings (96%) over- wintered in the nests to emerge during the following
Spring (March-May). Fewer numbers of hatchlings (4%) emerged during the Fall (October
and November) of the same year. Direct hits by hurricanes apparently resulted in fewer
roadside mortalities of hatchlings (as they were drowned or emerged prematurely). The
mortality of adult females (N=116 was greatest (92%) during the nesting season: May,
June, July. Each year, from 5 to 34 nesting females, mostly gravid (mean = 16.6), were
killed by vehicular traffic on the road. Because of the limited availability of favorable
nesting sites in the lower delta, gravid females are apparently attracted to the shoulders of
elevated roadsides where they deposit eggs (and may incur mortality). A chain-link fence
is currently being installed by the Alabama Department of Transportation to reduce the
road-side mortality of turtles along the Mobile Bay causeway. Partial funding was provided
by the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and the U. S. Fish and
Wildlife Service.

The abstract doesn’t go into the details of the study, but I was told that the researcher primarily used his bicycle to make the 14-mile round trips for the survey…resorting to a car only when the weather was bad enough to warrant it.

If you’re interested, that particular issue of JAAS…filled with fascinating science abstracts… is available for download by clicking here (10+ MB PDF).

Now THAT is cool — furthering our understanding of the natural world and finding ways to protect it all from the saddle of a bicycle.

1 Comment

  1. db

    “Oh, the Roadkill You Will Know”.

    A regular bike commuter can quickly become an expert on roadkill.

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