DOINews: BLM-California: Young Scientist Studies Desert Tortoises, Applies Findings to Wildlife Management

Last edited 09/05/2019

Two months ago, the Bureau of Land Management California Desert District Office was honored to receive a request from a young man we had met several years ago at an environmental education event. Nine-year-old Thomas needed a science project for school and wanted to choose a topic about public lands. Thomas has become interested in public lands and has developed a fondness for the native reptiles that he has met through the BLM.

After consulting BLM biologist Larry LaPre, BLM public contact representative Barbara Croonquist and his parents, Thomas decided to title his experiment "What Color Flowers do Desert Tortoises Prefer to Eat?"

Tortoise surrounded by different-colored flower petals.

Rounding up several desert tortoises was no problem. Soon, Thomas and Tonka, Lacey and Piggy - the intrepid three-year-old captive born tortoises - embarked on their first journey into the world of science.

Tortoise inside a cardboard box lined with different colored flower petals

Thomas performed his experiment several times using white, pink, red and yellow colored hibiscus and rose blooms to determine if the animals would choose one color over another. On two separate days, all the tortoises were given the opportunity to bask in piles of the flowers and pick their favorites.

Tortoise walking toward a doorstop lined with different-colored flower petals.

Tortoise facing a row of different colored flower petals and choosing to eat the red ones.

Based on his findings, the little tortoises actually seemed to have a preference for the red-colored flowers. In a conversation between Thomas and Dr. LaPre, Thomas discovered that it was important to know what tortoises eat. "If the BLM was to perform restoration work in tortoise habitat such as in an area disturbed by campers, rock slides or solar farms we would want to make sure that we planted plants that the tortoises would eat." Thomas stated in his report, "I think my experiment will help tortoises around the world because it will inform people who are helping tortoises to make better choices." We couldn't agree with you more Thomas. Congratulations on a job well done!

Story by Barbara Croonquist, public contact representative, BLM California Desert District; photos by J.A. Robinson, BLM

June 17, 2014

Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment