Success Stories

Gould summers with turtles

Breanna Gould holds an Eastern Box
Turtle. As a Student Summer
Scholar, Gould studied the species to
find reasons it's population is declining.

While some students spent time on the beach in the summer, others were deep in academic research.

Senior biology major Breanna Gould was among the participants in the Student Summer Scholars Program, which provides funds for a student and faculty mentor to conduct research throughout the spring/summer term.

Gould said her faculty mentor, Jennifer Moore, assistant professor of biology, suggested a project to investigate the genetic diversity of Eastern Box Turtles, a species of special concern. Gould studied the reasons why the turtles experienced significant losses of genetic diversity. The Eastern Box Turtle is listed as a species of special concern in Michigan because the turtles, once found in 31 counties, are now only found in 18.

Gould conducted an initial genetic analysis, which included searching for box turtles in the Manistee National Forest, marking each individual and collecting tissue samples.

She then brought the tissue samples back to the lab and extracted the DNA, sequenced each genetic fingerprint and then analyzed them to understand subpopulation structuring. The subpopulation data will help conservationists understand how to best manage the population, whether they should manage the species as a big group or as separate smaller groups.

Gould found, tagged and analyzed 117 turtles, ranging from small hatchlings to mature adults.

“Every member of a community has a special role in that community,” Gould said. “Conserving the diverse species on our planet is so important to the well-being of our ecosystems. We should respect our planet; everything is so complexly connected, one little change can result in a big change in the future.”

Moore said Gould’s research will provide invaluable information for the conservation of box turtles in Michigan and elsewhere.

Gould said she was grateful for the experience. “The program gave me the first step I needed to make my future goals more than just dreams or ideas, but actual possibilities. I had the room and resources I needed to see something I was passionate about from beginning to end,” she said.

Student Summer Scholars is housed in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, visit

by Austin Langlois

This story was filed with the tags: Academic Excellence, Scholarships, Science, Undergraduate Student