Trinity Graduate Published in Journal Amphibia-Reptilia

Melina Korfonta ’25

Exec. News Editor

Through the extensive and eloquent study of red-eared slider turtles, alumna Eleanor Tate ’21 and Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Biology Amber L. Pitthave been published in Amphibia-Reptilia, a leading European multi-disciplinary journal, devoted to many aspects of the study of reptiles and amphibians, also known as herpetology. 

Based upon a senior thesis that Tate wrote over her years at Trinity, the environmental science major focused her research on the red-eared slider turtle.  Tate, originally from Pennsylvania, is the first author credited on the publication, “Factors Contributing to the Range Expansion and Population Increase of a Native Generalist Species.”

Having an immense interest in environmental science far before her studies at Trinity, Pitt recognized Tate’s engagement first during the class Global Perspectives on Biodiversity and Conservation. Tate was then encouraged to continue her study in environmental sciences by Pitt who then became Tate’s adviser and, now, co-author. 

As a first-year student at Trinity, Tate took her studies beyond campus, traveling to the Galapagos Islands with Pitt and the Environmental Science Program. As a sophomore, Tate was offered a spot on Pitt’s summer research trip to Ozark County, Missouri, in 2019. While in Missouri, Tate and Pitt snorkeled in the North Fork of the White River to further analyze how various turtle species interact within an ecosystem. These species were broken down into “generalist” and “specialist,” where “generalists” can survive in multiple different habitats and “specialists” can only survive in a specific, healthy habitat.

While studying at the University of Florida, Pitt began her own work on the North Fork of the White River as a graduate student. With this study in Missouri spanning over 50 years, it is the world’s longest study on river turtles, according to Pitt. Continuing the study during their 2019 trip to Missouri, Tate and Pitt were accompanied by Myles Little ’21, who is now also another co-author on the Amphibia-Reptilia publication in addition to Trinity physics and environmental science laboratory manager, Joseph J. Tavano and Max A. Nickerson from the University of Florida. 

When it came time to write her senior thesis, Tate decided to take an independent study with Pitt to continue the research they had done in Missouri. Pitt then mentored Tate, helping her narrow down specific topics and concepts within their research. This allowed Tate to start analyzing data and compiling their research to ultimately formulate her senior thesis, “Eleanor came up with a game plan and implemented it, figuring out a pathway to connect her courses at Trinity with her future research interests,” commented Pitt. 

Ultimately, Tate decided to write her senior thesis about the red-eared slider, a generalist species she encountered in Missouri. This was due to the fact that this species had not been found in the study area previously; however, it was abundant at the time Tate began participating in the study. The research Tate accomplished contributed to the overall understanding of how change in habitat affects different populations and how species interact with each other, especially when dealing with freshwater areas. 

Presenting her thesis at the end of her senior seminar, Tate later reflects on her study saying, “I was taking the data and analyzing it to understand what it was telling us…It is really important because not too many people are studying how freshwater turtle populations interact.”

After her time at Trinity, Tate endured over a year and a half of peer review editing on her future publication. With Pitt’s previous experience having published works in scientific journals, she aided Tate through the tedious process saying, “I think what makes this special is that oftentimes students graduate, and they’re done with their research, but Eleanor really ensured that this research made it to the finish line in terms of getting published officially, even after graduating.”

Currently, Tate is an environmental scientist at a consulting firm in Meriden, Connecticut. At this consulting firm, Tate institutes property transfers and environmental site assessments, “My job is taking my academic writing at Trinity and turning it into professional writing.” 

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