Published on Wed, 05/22/2019 by Nature Conservancy of Canada

Carapace: a conservation success story

Caroline Gagné

By Caroline Gagné, Program Director for Western Quebec, Nature Conservancy of Canada

On World Turtle Day (May 23), the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) will kick off a third season of Since its launch across Quebec in 2017, the popularity of this online tool, which allows citizens to report the presence of turtles on roads, has been growing. Caroline Gagné, NCC’s program director for western Quebec, explains how this innovative program came about.

Building on initial success

It all began in spring 2015 when our partner and volunteer Daniel Toussaint, a biologist at the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs at the time, launched a public appeal. His request was simple: seek the cooperation of residents of the Outaouais and Laurentian regions in reporting the presence of dead turtles or snakes along roadsides. His objective was to identify the main sites for fatalities and, as a result, better protect species that are at risk or likely to be designated as threatened or vulnerable. 

This initiative enabled us to record nearly 70 cases of turtle deaths on roads in the Outaouais and Laurentians. Given the success of this approach, I thought that we should pursue the effort, but I could not handle the dozens of calls from the public during the summer season, as I was busy collecting data in the field in the Outaouais. 

However, we had to find a way to do it no matter what, as the need was critical. This was confirmed in a meeting with experts studying turtles in Quebec; we needed to increase our road fatality data on turtles to better assess the issue and find solutions. 

Seeking the perfect tool

Blanding's Turtle

Meanwhile, our latest Blanding’s turtle inventories had required a lot of resources for limited results. There were several full-time biologists in the field for two weeks, and only a few turtles had been seen in our live traps. Was there a way to involve people who live near turtle habitats and see turtles every day?

We needed a tool that was accessible to everyone and that was available online. The tool shouldn’t require registration or the creation of a profile, as these can discourage people. One thing led to another, and I ended up discussing the project with a webmaster friend. He said, “Anything is possible! Send me your content and I’ll build you a dream tool, Caro-pace!” (“Caro-pace” was what he called me whenever we talked about turtles). From that play on words, the name of the project was born: Carapace. The carapace of a turtle refers to its hard upper shell, which serves as protection, and protecting turtles is exactly what I wanted to do. 

In June 2016, the Carapace platform was finally launched in the Outaouais and helped us compile about 100 observations in this region and in a few others in Quebec and Ontario between June and October 2016. Given its popularity outside of the Outaouais region, I took steps to extend its use to all of Quebec in the spring of 2017. In three seasons, more than 2,760 turtles have been reported on Carapace, and the work will continue for years to come!


blandings_turtle_-_photo_by_ncc.jpgBlanding’s Turtle - photo by NCC (JPG)1.07 MB
caroline_gagne_-_photo_by_claudine_laurendeau.jpgCaroline Gagné - photo by Claudine Laurendeau (JPG)2.02 MB