Ashford University Students Assist with Endangered Turtle Project

University receives grant funding for turtle conservation project

Two biology students from Ashford University recently helped the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with a project studying endangered box turtles. 

Dr. John Zimmerman, professor, applied for and received a grant from the IDNR’s Wildlife Preservation Fund that allowed Michael Handley from Clinton, and Erika Fisk from Washington, IL, to work on the project titled “Conservation & Management for the Imperiled Ornate Box Turtle in Northwest Illinois.” 

“Michael did some radio-tracking and data collection, while Erika helped organize and enter the data into appropriate formats,” Zimmerman said. “She also compiled and helped write the final report.” 

Zimmerman said the proposal helped “fund continued radio tracking of ornate box turtles at two Illinois Nature Preserve sites which include the Ayers Sand Prairie Nature Preserve and Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie Nature Preserve.” The $5,500.00 grant was for equipment, student personnel and student travel. 

Handley worked from October 2011 to April 2012, devoting 33 hours to the project; he also donated some volunteer time. His time was spent radio-tracking the turtles at both locations and doing some data entry work. 

Fisk devoted 43 hours of time in December 2012 and is continuing to help finish the report. She was involved in data organization, data entry, data conversions and helping assemble and write the final report. 

In conjunction with the project, Jeramie Strickland, wildlife biologist assigned to the USFWS’s Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Refuge, gave a presentation about the ornate box turtle project in the Thomson-Savanna, IL area to Zimmerman’s BIO318 Ecology class. 

About Ashford University

Ashford University is defining the modern college experience by combining the heritage of a traditional campus with the flexibility and effectiveness of online learning. The University provides a vibrant learning community where high-quality programs and leading-edge technology create a dynamic, immersive and stimulating learning experience. Ashford University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association ( The University offers practical and progressive associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs online, as well as bachelor’s degree programs at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. Ashford University – where heritage meets innovation. For more information, please visit or call Shari Winet Rodriguez, vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.