Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Students raise concerns for campus turtle population amid record low temperatures

Breyona Mitchell

Earlier this month, many UT students expressed concern for the on-campus turtle population as Austin experienced below-freezing temperatures. 

During an arctic blast, students found the turtles absent from the pond north of the Main Tower. According to David Hillis, director of the UT Biodiversity Center, the self-sustaining population of two to three dozen turtles is well-equipped to handle cold temperatures.

“It is great that students are concerned, but as local species, our turtles are well adapted to our local weather conditions,” said Hillis, the Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor of Natural Sciences, in an email. “These species live in areas that are far colder than Austin, without any harm in the winter.”

Hillis is the current chair of a committee that oversees the turtles. He said during the winter, the turtles spend most of their time in the mud at the bottom of the pond and rarely need to come up to the surface to breathe because of their lowered metabolism. 

Azra Pleuthner, a human development and family sciences junior, said the turtle pond was one of the reasons she decided to attend the University. She said students worry about the turtles because they are a big part of campus culture. According to Hillis, the turtle pond predates his arrival at the University in 1987.

“We kind of form a little bit of an attachment to the animals because they’re always there during stressful times and good times in school,” Pleuthner said. “It might sound silly, but students bond with them by sitting there and watching them, so it makes sense why so many people were really concerned about them.”

The Texas Ecology, Evolution and Behavior Club encourages students to explore aspects of their environment. Environmental science senior Coleman Odom said the club helped him get involved with a special turtle pond project that includes taking habitat samples. 

“We started on random sunny days, going out and going to the turtle pond on campus and doing some sampling,” Odom said. “We’d grab a bunch of turtles, weigh, measure and collect swab samples around them to do DNA tests on little microhabitats on the shells.”

Other than for biological research, Odom said students love the turtles because it reminds them to slow down and enjoy their surroundings. 

“You see the turtles in the pond, and you can see how there are a lot of different sizes and shapes of turtles, and they don’t fight – they just kind of get along,” Odom said. “When you watch them, it’s easy to take in a little bit of that and learn that it’s okay to be chill.”


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About the Contributor
Breyona Mitchell, Associate Comics Editor
Breyona is a sophomore english and studio art double major from Houston, Texas. Currently, they work as the associate comics editor and has previously drawn for the paper as a senior artist. They love playing video games with their friends.