Got an email from a geneticist last week about a big box turtle project with local connections. My own project actually spun off of my volunteer work to collect tissue samples from box turtles for a university geneticist. That geneticist is mentoring a doctoral candidate who is solving problems about how North American box turtles break out into distinct species. That student is reviewing tissue samples that I’ve collected over northern Georgia, indeed in our own watershed, among many others as he completes his PhD work. Genetics is fascinating, particularly as it has revealed that two organisms that appear very similar can actually represent two separate species. Box turtle speciation has been a big challenge for herpetologists, so it’s really neat to think that Gilmer County is contributing to the process of answering those questions.