One of the many gopher tortoises that call USFSM home.

‘Gopher Tortoise Day’ coming to USF Sarasota-Manatee

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: April 02, 2019

SARASOTA, Fla. (April 01, 2019) – USF Sarasota-Manatee students are invited to learn about the campus’ gopher tortoises during Gopher Tortoise Day on Wednesday, April 10, from noon to 4 p.m., in the Information Commons.

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Dr. Edie Banner

Students can view a video, “The Queen of Red Hill,” about conservation efforts at the Archbold Biological Station in Highlands County, enjoy refreshments and learn about USFSM’s own gopher tortoise population.

The reptiles are considered threatened in Florida, and when the campus was constructed more than a decade ago, six acres were set aside as a tortoise conservation area.

Thanks to a grant last year from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, a group of USFSM students led by organic chemistry instructor Edie Banner, PhD, are working to improve the tortoises’ habitat, remove nuisance plants and add vegetation ideal for foraging.

During the session, Banner and her “Tortoise Team” of student volunteers will be on hand to discuss their work and answer questions about gopher tortoises.

Visitors can view research posters about the burrowing animals and watch “The Queen of Red Hill,” which tells of a gopher tortoise estimated at more than 60 years old, and efforts to protect the species. Also, Banner will meet with students interested in joining the Tortoise Team.

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