Turtles May Have to Dodge Balls, But D.C. Study Confirms They Thrive in Golf Course Ponds

by Bill Giduz
Linnea Witczak showing a snake to a young boy
Study co-author Linnea Witczak '11 helps a youngster appreciate a snake at the biology department's annual Herpetology Day.

A July 10 article on the National Geographic web site reports on a Davidson College study recently published in the Journal of Herpetology about the value of golf course ponds to turtles and other wildlife.

Professor of Biology Michael Dorcas said the research study confirms that properly managed golf courses can provide crucial habitat for turtles, birds and insects in urban settings where such habitat might not be available otherwise. In fact, the study asserts that in some cases the golf course habitat is better for turtles than some farm ponds and park ponds. The article says, "The findings are only the latest of a growing number of studies showing that golf courses -- long derided by environmentalists for heavy use of water and pesticides -- can provide valuable wildlife habitat in a rapidly urbanizing world."

The study was financed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's "Wildlife Links" program, and led by Steve Price, biology research coordinator at Davidson from 2004 through 2012. Price is now a professor at the University of Kentucky. The research was conducted at local golf courses -- primarily River Run and Northstone.

Other major collaborators on the research were Dorcas's current research coordinator Jackie Guzy, and Lynea Witczak '11. Guzy is leaving Davidson this summer to pursue a Ph.D. with former Dorcas student J.D. Willson '02 at the University of Arkansas. Witczak now works in a primate lab in Atlanta, but continues to collaborate with Dorcas on some terrapin research.

For more information contact Bill Giduz, Director of Media Relations, at 704-894-2244 or