a dental scaler (ie a small blade on a stick)
It has been an incredibly long time since my last post and I must admit I feel rather guilty about this.  I’ve been trying to work out exactly how I want to use this space and in doing so have failed to use it for anything. To remedy this I have now given myself a target of writing a post at least every other week, either an update of the project or a commentary on other work in the field.  I think one of the things I can take from the first few months of my masters is the importance of keeping things moving.  Letting things slide is all too easy!  

Since my last post I have spent much of my time going through the literature on tortoises and stable isotope analysis, contacting vets to talk through sampling procedures, and contacting breeders and zoos to discuss the project and source samples.  I’ve also looked at import and export data and paid visits to the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) and a major importer of tortoises,so I can better understand the current state of the tortoise trade in the UK.  Most recently I have set up a survey to find out what tortoises in the UK are fed – and how much variation there is in diet (the technique I am using depends on what tortoises eat and where their food is from in the world).  Results from the survey should give me some idea of how representative my samples are -  If you own or have recently owned a Hermann’s, spur-thighed, or Russian tortoise I would be very grateful if you could take a few moments to complete it here!   

Perhaps the biggest recent development has been that I now have twenty imported tortoises that died in transit to the UK sitting in a freezer in the lab.  I will be taking scrapings from the upper and lower surfaces of the shell (the carapace and the plastron) using a dental scaler and will be taking these up to the laboratories in York  

So in a few weeks I will be so much closer to having some data to analyse (I hope)!

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