Sudbury·Morning North

Turtle travel research aims to help reptiles cross the road safely

PhD student Sean Boyle won Laurentian University's three-minute thesis competition this week outlining his research around turtle travel.

Laurentian University PhD student wins competition by presenting research in under 3 minutes.

Sean Boyle's PhD thesis examines the routes turtles travel. (Supplied/Sean Boyle)
Master and doctoral students at Laurentian University were given 3 minutes to explain their thesis in competition. The winner was Sean Boyle, a PHD student in the boreal ecology program at Laurentian. Markus Schwabe spoke with him after the competition. 5:46
PhD student Sean Boyle won Laurentian University's three-minute thesis competition this week outlining his research around turtle travel.
Laurentian University PhD student Sean Boyle is the 2014 winner of the university's 3-minute thesis competition. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Boyle, who studies in the Boreal Ecology program at Laurentian, beat out 11 other graduate students by clearly communicating his thesis in under three minutes.

His presentation was called, "A shocking model for mitigation." 
The diagram used by PhD student Sean Boyle where animal trails are compared to electric circuits. (Sean Boyle/Supplied)

Before a panel of judges, Boyle explained his work tracking animals using a method called circuit theory.

"The animal movement through the landscape is like the electricity flowing through a circuit," Boyle said. 

By looking at what causes resistance to travel, such as a mountain or river, scientists can predict the routes animals will travel. 

Boyle has been working in Presqu'ile Provincial Park near Lake Ontario, and hopes his work will help determine where mitigation efforts such as tunnels and fencing may prevent threatened species like turtles from being hit on highways.

Ever seen a three-minute PhD presentation before? Check out the one done by last year's winner, Jasdeep Saggar.


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