MSHA 'son' on television show about detailed study of turtles

  Christopher O'Bryan, 15, son of Don O'Bryan, director of Physician Recruitment at Mountain States Health Alliance, has completed work on a Turner South television show, "The Natural South."
  Chris O'Bryan has been a junior park naturalist at Steele Creek Park in Bristol, Tenn., since fall 2002. A home-schooled student entering ninth grade, O'Bryan has been conducting research on the spiny soft shell turtle under a grant from the Howard Hughes Foundation through East Tennessee State University.
  The Turner show will be aired on Saturday, Aug. 21, at 10 a.m. His part of the show takes up about half of the presentation, O'Bryan said. "They filmed me at Steele Creek Park while I conducted my research of trapping turtles, etc.," he said.
  O'Bryan explained his study project: "I (am) studying population dynamics to find the approximate number of eastern Spiny Soft Shell Turtles in the (Steele Creek) lake and to identify possible subpopulations," O'Bryan said. He used Steele Creek Park Nature Center's four hoop traps for capture and conducted a site analysis, which is a detailed physical observation study on basking behavior of the species, he explained.
  "At each site, both population and basking survey sites, I take notes of water temperature and condition, a secchi disk reading, which displays the clarity of the water, and record the depth of its location. When catching the turtles, I take the following measurements: maximum carapace (top shell) length, width of carapace, maximum plastron (bottom shell) length and length and width of tail and right hind foot. I also mark on my data sheet unusual characteristics and/or deformities of the carapace and/or plastron," O'Bryan added.
  He said there is little known about this turtle in general and that almost nothing is known about the species in Steele Creek Park. "My research will be important in the management of the reservoir and the management of the future of this species in the park," he said.
  O'Bryan has a permit from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency specifically for trapping this turtle. The agency provided a graduate student to lend supervision and suggestions on his research this summer.
  The project was first suggested by Kevin Hamed, former manager of the Nature Center. Hamed, along with Wallace Coffey and Alex Coley, current Nature Center manager, serve on a committee that planned the study. Christy Gaia and Corey Brown of the staff at Steele Creek Park assisted.
  O'Bryan has also been honored by the ETSU Biological Sciences Department as a summer Howard Hughes Research student, working with Dr. Tom Laughlin of the department. "This is a considerable honor for me," O'Bryan said.
  O'Bryan is a member of both the Tennessee and Virginia Herpetological societies and the Bristol Bird Club. He is secretary of the Shady Valley Ruritan Club, a Life Boy Scout and recently served as Senior Patrol Leader. His goal is to pursue a career in a natural history field, preferably in herpetology.
  O'Bryan will present his study findings to the public upon completion of his work.