Linh Diem Phu

Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Thomas K. Pauley

Second Advisor

Dan Evans

Third Advisor

Suzanne Strait


Turtles are unique evolutionary marvels that evolved from amphibians and developed their protective shelled form more than 200 million years ago. In West Virginia, there are 10 native species of turtles, 9 of which are aquatic. Most of these aquatic turtles feed on carrion and dead plant matter, in the water and essentially "clean" our water systems. Turtles are long-lived animals with sensitive life stages that can serve as both long-term and short-term bioindicators of environmental health. With the increase in commercial trade, habitat fragmentation, degradation, destruction, there has been a marked decline in turtle species. The need for well documented distribution and natural history of “common” aquatic turtles is necessary to help guide management decisions about these turtles and ensure that they remain common.

The main objective of this research was to determine distribution and note any changes in the extent of aquatic turtle populations in West Virginia. This was done by surveying major river systems and examining historical records and field notes. There have been few extensive surveys done on aquatic turtles in the state. Much of the data available have been from individual river populations including the New River and the Kanawha River or as incidental findings that are part of a larger scale project and museum collections. Survey techniques included live capture with hoop traps, catfish traps, fyke nets, and basking traps as well as visual surveys on shore, aboard bass boats and canoes. A total of 10 rivers, one lake, one pond, and two wetland areas were surveyed which resulted in 219 new turtle records and 10 new county records of 5 different species in West Virginia. The efficacy of survey techniques and recommendations based on research findings are also included that may will provide insight into the management of the various populations of aquatic turtles in West Virginia.



Turtles -- West Virginia.

Kanawha River (W. Va.)

New River (W. Va.)