A socio-ecological evaluation of wetlands restoration in favour of the European pond turtle Emys reintroduction and associated biodiversity: a pan-European approach

Emys-R is a 3-year participatory action-oriented research project aiming at defining the most effective, socially supported, ecologial methods to restore wetlands in favour of the European pond turtle reintroduction, and associated biodiversity throughout Europe.

🇺🇦 Emys-R stands with Ukraine! 🇺🇦

24 AUGUST 1991-2023

17 Sept 2023: Emys-R highlighted during the Heritage Day, Munschhausen, France

PhD candidate Kari-Anne van de Zon, Master student Zoé André and Dr Corinne Grac have been representating the Emys-R project during the French national public event Heritage Day – Journée du Patrimoine, at the Center for Introduction to Nature and the Environment, CINE, Munschhausen, France.

15-22 Sept 2023: Last field session of the year on Woerr, France

PhD candidate Johannes Meka and field engineer Sylvia Pardonnet closed the 2023 field season on Woerr site while running their very last field contribution to the Emys-R project, with 1) monitoring Emys and associated biodiversity (concluding, despite a new wild born Emys found, that ponds are more populated by invasive calico crayfish – including the meadow pond :/ – than the camp site by tourists – at least this time of the year); 2) running public outreach to 132 engineer-students from ENGEES for highlightening the relevance of wetland restoration and wildlife conservation; 3) providing support to colleague Ljudevit Luka Boštjančić who investigates Evolution of immunity in Decapods under Dr Kathrin Theissinger supervision at Senckenberg Institute (more here); 4) accompagning our colleague from Ukraine Dr Oksana Nekrasova for her first autonomous nocturnal frogging trip on Woerr for her PAUSE-funded project (combined with her anticipated birthday); and 5) last but not least packing all field material for complete check and fixing before next field season in 2024.

Fair well all!

2 Sept 2023: just arrived, already in the field!

Dr Oksana Nekrasova visited the Nature Reserve Robertsau-Wantzenau for hunting some amphibians…

1 Sept 2023: Oksana Nekrasova has arrived from Kyiv, Ukraine to Strasbourg, France!

Our colleague expert in herpetolology and bioclimatic modelling made it!… from I.I. Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology, National Academy of Science of Ukraine, to IPHC thanks to her successful application to the PAUSE Programme from Collège de France – Agence Nationale de la Recherche. This makes our project stronger thanks to Ukrainian woman power! 🇺🇦

🇺🇦 24 AUGUST 1991-2023: Happy Day of Independence Ukraine! 🇺🇦

The Trident suits Her best! 

23 August 2023: Major step in the eDNA approach

Today was a pivotal day for our Master student Melina Werner and her project « Assessment of passive eDNA sampling from freshwater via DNA traps ». The project aims to investigate whether a new sampling method can be used to detect species diversity in freshwater ecosystems. To achieve this, water samples from the restored wetlands of Neuburg am Rhein will be analyzed using genetic techniques such as PCR and Metabarcoding. Given that there are approximately 2000 (!!!) samples to be processed, Melina is fortunate to have the assistance of a pipetting robot, and the supervision of Damian Baranski and Dr Kathrin Theissinger.

19-31 August 2023: Massive sociological survey in Latvia

Our PhD candidate Patrycja Romaniuk and assistant Diana Tihomirova are running a massive sociological survey, starting in the vicinity of our study site of Silene, in the most southern Latvia, where Emys have been released.

🇱🇻 Welcome Diana Tihomirova! 🇱🇻

Diana joined Emys-R as the assistant of our PhD candidate Patrycja Romaniuk for running sociological surveys in local languages.

19 August 2023: The Woerr study site labelled as « long-term observatory  » by CNRS-INEE

The Woerr site has been awarded as one of the 61 new « CNRS-INEE long term observatory » (out of >240 applications). This is a very timely and promising acknowledgement of all efforts there since >10 years and most specially our transdisciplinary approach thanks to CeA, ONF, LIVE, ENGEES, IPHC and other partners (Parc Zoologique de Mulhouse, Réserve Naturelle Nationale de la Petite Camargue Alsacienne, Station de recherche de la PCA), and hopefully to be extended to Neu Woerr including Landkreis Germersheim, NABU and Senckenberg. The laureates were selected based on the quantity (duration) and quality (diversity) of the existing and forthcoming databases Emys-R is presently collecting thanks to the efforts of each of us.

🇺🇦 17-18 August 2023: More sights of life in Ukraine! 🇺🇦

Oleksii Marushchak still in action in the field, now in the Steppes of Mykolaiv region seeking for reptiles and amphibians during dedicated – and less related, i.e. bat monitoring – field sessions.

🇺🇦 16 August 2023: Life still goes on in Ukraine! 🇺🇦

Our colleague Oksana Nekrasova and our postdoc Oleksii Marushchak went hunting (friendly but successfully) Emys in Rzhyshchiv, Kyiv region.

14-17 August 2023: Four days of reportage on Woerr site with ARTE team

Reporter Suzanne Roser and her team Arndt and Christoph followed Project Manager Kathrin Theissinger and Project Leader Jean-Yves Georges from the field in Lauterbourg-France and Neuburg am Rhein-Germany to captive facility at Speyer Sea Life, catching most relevant moments and highlights from our Emys-R Project, for a 30′ reportage – to be released early 2024.

12-19 August 2023: Emys strike back on Woerr site!

Our PhD candidate Johannes Meka monitoring Emys found new proofs of reproduction in the wild on the Woerr site (despite some extrem weather conditons), witnessing positive sights for the reintroduction initiatives led by our Partner Collectivité Européenne d’Alsace.

7 August 2023: Emys baby boom in captive facility in Speyer SeaLife

First hatchlings of the year in Speyer SeaLife, the captive facility providing Emys for releases in Germany. Eggs are incubated at 30°C for promoting female hatchlings, since sex is temperature dependent in the Emys, with a pivotal temperature of 28.5°C.

Photos by Arndt Hadamek

2 August 2023: Earth Overshoot Day

Humanity has reached Earth Overshoot Day, on 2 August 2023. This is the date when humans have used all of resources that the Earth can bear for the whole year. This means we would need 1.7 Earth planets to sustain our current resource use.

29-31 July 2023: Preparing Emys hatchling monitoring

Jean-Yves Georges and Kathrin Theissinger, with expert support from Charlotte&Matthis, deployed meshed devices – including a small water dip – for protecting the Emys nests identified ealier this year and ran first deep fishing in the Woerr gravel pond for assessing the habitat use of the invasive calico crayfish (more results coming soon).

🇺🇦 27-30 July 2023: New expedition to the Pikuy mountain, Carpathian mountains, Ukraine 🇺🇦

Our postdoc Oleksii Marushchack on an expedition near the Pikuy mountain seeking for promising spawning sites for local amphibians (yellow-bellied toads, newts, salamanders) while making records of local herpetofauna. Eastern slowworms were pretty active despite rainy weather, while several sand lizards were registered basking during short periods of sunny weather. And lots and lots of Bombina variegata in almost every puddle yet facing major risks of crushing on ground roads nearby.

12-19 July 2023: Intense research activity on Woerr

Isabelle Combroux and newly hired Master student Mathilde Velle run a phyto-sociological survey on Vielle Lauter River.

PhD candidates Caro Eichert and Johannes Meka, with assistance from Stefanie Knell, Ina Schäfer and her family, run the field monitoring targeting the Emys turtles – with new evidence of reproduction on site, and the calico crayfish – with first evidence of immigration in the adaptive pond.

🇺🇦 5-6 July 2023: Expedition along the valley of Trubizh River near Yahotyn, Kyiv region, Ukraine 🇺🇦

Our postdoc Oleksii Marushschak took part of a complex expedition including botanists, ornitologists, entomologists and of course – herpetologists. We confirmed that the studied areas are important for conservation of 2 species of newts, relict population of Pelophylax lessonae (which actually was a surprize for us as we didn’t expect to find it there). Separately, an amazing number of nests of Emys orbicularis were found on the plains, some obviosuly hatched whereas other were unfortunatelly ruined by predators. So in the nearest future Ukrainian nature, despite the war, will gain a new object of nature reserve fund (Regional Landscape Park), aimed on protection of aquatic ecosystems and European pond turtles in particular.

Photos by Roman Lysenko

5 July 2023: Second release of the year in Neuburg am Rhein in presence of Federal State Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate for Environment – Katrin Eder

A second release was organised by NABU and SeaLife Speyer in presence of local primary school children,  Katrin EderFederal State Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate for Environment with Peter Sound, and major stakeholders Fritz Brechtel and Uwe Meissner – Landkreiss Germersheim, Herrmann Knauss – Mayor of Neuburg am Rhein, Kathrin Theissinger and Jean-Yves Georges – representatives of the Emys-R Consortium, and massive media coverage! (read more here!)

5 July 2023: Emys field session in Latvia

Our latest registered PhD candidate, Alberts Garkajs, in the field monitoring Emys turtle after their reintroduction in wetlands of Silene Nature Park, Latvia.

4 July 2023: Publication available in pdf

The publication Philippot & Georges (2023) is now available in pdf !  Read more about « Reintroducing a forgotten species in an area neglected by the public: the case of the European Pond Turtle in Alsace (northeastern France) ».

3-10 July 2023: WP1 team in the field in Latvia

Our PhD candidates Kari-Anne van der Zon and Alberts Garkajs are running a second collaborative field session in Latvia with support from  French (Isabelle Combroux, Corinne Grac) and Latvian (Mihails Pupins, Arturs Skute) supervisors.

🇺🇦 1 July 2023: Field in Denyshi Canyon, Zhytomyr Region, Ukraine 🇺🇦

Our postdoc Oleksii Marushchak* in expedition to Denyshi canyon in Zhytomyr region of Ukraine. This place is famous to be the only one in Ukraine inhabited by Armenian and Dahl’s lizards. Both species of these partenogenetic reptiles were introduced to the canyon by soviet herpetologist I. Darevsky in the 2nd part of XX century. They had acclimatized very well and now occupy almost all rocky structures along the canyon, including several nearby villages. This time Oleksii monitored them and collected some specimens for helminths analysis. During the expedition were spotted 1 pond turtle, several grass snakes Natrix natrix and even an eastern slowworm Anguis colchica. The results of this expedition will be included in the dataset of the herpetofauna records in 2023.

*with the EmysAward awarded to him during the 2nd Consortium Meeting in Warsaw for his major scientific contribution to Emys-R 😉 

Emys-R is funded through the 2020-2021 Biodiversa & Water JPI joint call for research proposals, under the BiodivRestore ERA-Net COFUND programme, and with the funding organisations Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR, France), Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF, Germany), State Education Development Agency (VIAA, Latvia), and National Science Center (NSC, Poland).