Education is the foundation for successful conservation. Educating about specific species, their natural history, and their care enables both those in the field and those working with captive populations to understand the animals they are trying to save. Additionally, general education about the plight of turtles and tortoises increases awareness which can help create a stronger support system for organizations working to conserve them.
In-situ and ex-situ conservation work together to provide the best conservation outcomes. While in-situ conservation could stand alone, the support of captive assurance programs along with in-situ programs provides for a complete conservation effort that can conserve habitats, boost populations, and save eco-systems.
Research, both of captive and wild populations, is the only way to truly learn everything we can about turtles and tortoises. Research helps us identify populations which are in need of conservation, find the best conservation methods for each population, and fine-tune our husbandry practices for the animals captivity.
Developing apps; writing articles; designing educational materials about natural history, care, and data-keeping; and educating through effective use of social media and technology.
Presenting talks at meetings, conferences, classrooms, and other venues around the US to share husbandry, experiences, and research.
Maintaining captive, genetically diverse animals for the purpose of developing assurance colonies, often in collaboration with other organizations to make these programs as diverse as possible.
Collaborating with other organizations to create new research and in-situ conservation projects and supporting existing projects lead by other organizations.
Want to help? Get involved now!
Donate now or become a member to support theTurtleRoom’s education and conservation work! Or, contact us to see how you can “get your hands dirty”.
Steve Enders is the President, Executive Director, and Founder of theTurtleRoom (tTR), a husband, teacher, athlete, and musician. He has well over a decade of experience with turtle husbandry and has worked with more than 45 different species. As President and Executive Director, Steve has overall strategic and operational responsibility for tTR’s staff, programs, expansion, and execution/achievement of its mission and goals. He also takes on various roles on individual projects within the four departments of tTR. Some of these include co-leading turtle surveys with Andy Weber in Pennsylvania, acting as Project Manager for assurance colony projects in the Graptemys (Map Turtles) and Sacalia (Four-Eyed Turtles) genera, and designing applications and educational resources. Additionally, Steve is in charge of anything technology-related at tTR and designed both tTR’s website and internal database application.
Steve first got into the turtle hobby in 2005 by chance, quickly falling in love with turtles, thanks to Digger the female Chrysemys picta picta (Eastern Painted Turtle) he rescued from a window well just weeks after graduating college. In 2009, Steve was hooked on the hobby after purchasing his first two hatchling turtles. These events and his friendship with Anthony Pierlioni led to a passion for education and conservation, the founding of theTurtleRoom in 2011, and transition to a non-profit in 2018.
Steve lives in Lancaster County, PA with his wife Lisa, many turtles, and three cats. He teaches math at a local high school. Steve completed his Master of Education Degree in Mathematics in 2018 and holds two Bachelor of Art Degrees in Music and a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate (the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree) in Mathematics. When Steve is not working on projects for tTR, he can be found teaching, relaxing with Lisa, watching sports (especially St. Louis Cardinals baseball), playing music, or building Star Wars LEGOs.
Anthony Pierlioni was the “Best of 2017” Editor’s Choice for “Chelonia Personality of the Year” by The Reptile Report. As the Senior Director of theTurtleRoom (tTR), Anthony oversees educational efforts, including video and audio media production, like The Pondcast. He also authors educational resources for the site and works with other organizations (AZA and TSA) and privately to develop quality, detailed captive breeding programs of carefully selected turtle and tortoise specimens in an effort to meet theTurtleRoom’s conservation goals. Anthony has also written a book on the Geoemyda genus, published by Living Art Publishing in 2016 as part of their “Turtles of the World” series, and several articles in magazines including REPTILES, The BATAGUR, Testudo (Italian), and RADIATA (German).
Anthony has a B.A. from Rhode Island College and works in management for VCA Animal Hospitals. He also travels around the Northeast training new hires to VCA as a Certified CATapult Trainer. Anthony played basketball through college in Rhode Island and after college in Italy.
Anthony currently specializes in Asian species, particularly those in the Geoemyda, Cuora, Sacalia, and Mauremys genera, with several of these animals being a part of their respective AZA Studbooks and SSPs for their species. His group of C. flavomarginata is part of the TSA Taxonomy Management Group for the species. Anthony also keeps several smaller tortoise species and many cold tolerant North American species.
Anthony lives in the Northeast with his wife, Shannon, and daughters, Cambria and Maddalena. He and his family are often on the move, giving turtle presentations at schools, nature and science centers, herpetological societies, and conferences.
Chris Leone is the Director of Animal Husbandry for theTurtleRoom and has worked with chelonians for nearly 3 decades. He is the owner of Garden State Tortoise, a breeding and rescue facility in southern New Jersey. Although Chris’ main passions are Mediterranean tortoises and North American turtles, he has kept and bred a wide range of species belonging to all five continents chelonians are found on. He has also authored many articles, care-sheets and profiles on the subject globally. Videos are another strong point for Chris and he has released several on the captive husbandry of select species and he has appeared on various news segments and TV spots. Chris is the permit holder and coordinator for the Terrapin Nesting Project and Terrapin Nesting Project: Leeds Point which conduct conservation work for the Northern Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin terrapin). In addition to his involvement in chelonian conservation and preservation, he aids zoos and organizations in New Jersey with the majority of turtle and tortoise rescues that occur.
Andy Weber serves as Director of Field Programs for theTurtleRoom (tTR). He is in charge of project development, logistics, fieldwork, and permitting. Together, Andy and Steve (tTR Executive Director) co-lead turtle surveys in Pennsylvania. He is also becoming more involved with the Terrapin Nesting Project: Leeds Point, which is led by Casey (tTR Protocol Manager / Field Project Manager) and Chris (tTR Director of Animal Husbandry) Leone in New Jersey. He also hopes to see other field projects get off the ground.
Andy lives in Honesdale, PA with his wife Jess, daughter Laurel, turtles, cats, and dog. Andy works for the National Park Service at Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, with part of his job also helping with long-term ecological monitoring at several other National Park units in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Andy received Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees from Penn State University in Wildlife Technology and Wildlife and Fisheries Science, respectively. After college, he attended Tennessee Technological University for his Master of Science in Biology, where his work focused on sampling methods and basking behavior of turtles in a small lake.
One of his favorite things to do is to get out and explore nature with his family. They love to visit state parks, forests, and other natural areas. Andy and Jess are trying to raise Laurel to have an appreciation for nature, with a strong emphasis on turtles of course!
Lisa Enders is a CPA with twelve years of public accounting experience. She is currently a Tax Manager with a large regional public accounting firm in Pennsylvania. For the last six years, she has been the Treasurer of a local organization with an annual budget of more than $600,000. Lisa is also currently pursuing a Master of Taxation Degree from Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.
Lisa was introduced to turtles when she met her husband, Steve, and for the last decade has continued to be lured in by the unbearably cute little hatchlings. Her favorite species are Geoemyda spengleri (Vietnamese Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle), Sacalia quadriocellata (Four-Eyed Turtle), and Sacalia bealei (Beal’s Eyed Turtle). In her spare time, Lisa enjoys spending time with Steve, reading, knitting, crocheting, gardening, and snuggling with their three cats.
Casey Leone serves as Operations Manager for theTurtleRoom. Her responsibilities include providing support for the Directors, assisting with organizational management, and overseeing protocol creation and data collection. Casey is a zoo keeper and agriculture specialist at Six Flags Safari, working with many different species both marine and land. Using positive reinforcement, animal training plays a large role in her position at work. She is able to work hands on with a wide array of species that include Giant Anteater, Giant Aldabra Tortoise, Macaws, Brown Bear, Coatimundi, Barn Owl, and many more. In combination with her love for animals, Casey will also be designing and maintaining a large garden, using recycled material, to both feed and enrich the lives of many different species at the safari.
She also has a background in horticulture having worked as a floral and landscape designer for several years. Casey is accomplished in various horticulture and landscaping disciplines as well as managing and caring for a large vegetable garden and greenhouse. She has also helped design, maintain, and install a large themed topiary display for the annual Philadelphia Flower Show.
At home, she is second in command at Garden State Tortoise, with her husband Chris. Together they maintain over 50 different species and subspecies of turtles and tortoises from around the globe. Her current project is raising Chelonoidis nigra and Aldabrachelys gigantea.
Andrew Hermes is the creator of Arizona Tortoise Compound where he is 100% dedicated to the captive care and breeding of over 40 different tortoise species/subspecies and also works with a handful of freshwater turtle species. Continuing to learn and better himself as a tortoise caretaker, Andrew is an active member in the tortoise community by contributing to many different tortoise organizations, rescues, forums, and captive tortoise breeding efforts. He participates in AZA Studbooks and SSPs, and has set up an adoption program to rescue and rehome native Arizona Desert Tortoises (Gopherus morafkai). Here at theTurtleRoom, Andrew is a Board Member and his day-to-day title is Special Projects Assistant. His duties include caring for animals, writing educational content, and assisting the Executive Director and department heads with other behind-the-scenes efforts such as fundraising. Articles written by Andrew can be found in REPTILES magazine, Radiata Journal, TortoiseForum.org, and ReptileApartment.com. Furthermore, Andrew is a member of the Turtle Survival Alliance, Turtle & Tortoise Preservation Group, and The Turtle Conservancy. Visit him and his amazing chelonians at arizonatortoisecompound.com.
Ben is a Husbandry Specialist with more than 20 years of captive husbandry experience across countless chelonian species. His main responsibilities for theTurtleRoom (tTR) include working to develop quality, detailed captive breeding programs of carefully selected turtle and tortoise specimens in an effort to meet tTR’s conservation goals and providing images and knowledge towards tTR’s educational efforts.
Turtles have been a part of Ben’s life for more than twenty years. Growing up in Northeastern Ohio, Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) were the first to be cared for. They were typically kept for a few weeks before being released or escaping to freedom. Between high school graduation and leaving for college, Ben’s interest in turtles was rekindled by the gift of a hatchling Midland Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata). As his passion and attention turned more towards herpetology, Ben dropped his studies in graphic design and illustration after a few semesters.
Then, in 2002, shortly after starting work in the Memphis Zoo herpetarium, Ben was urged to pursue and publish a regional studbook; Indotestudo forstenii (Forsten’s Tortoise) was the chosen species. After leaving the Memphis Zoo in 2007, Ben has maintained focus and has privately established a very diverse group of both wild collected and captive born I. forstenii. He has now been working with them and breeding them for well over a decade and has unmatched success. Currently, Ben is participating in the AZA regional studbooks for Indotestudo forstenii, Manouria emys (Asian Giant Tortoises), and Heosemys spinosa (Spiny Turtle).
Ben also uses his expertise to lead husbandry efforts with many other highly endangered species; his crowning victory is the successful husbandry and incubation of Heosemys depressa (Arakan Forest Turtle), a feat which few have been able to achieve. When not caring for his turtles and tortoises, Ben enjoys spending as much time with his family as he can.
Scott is a Conservation Husbandry Specialist for theTurtleRoom. Scott has been working with reptiles and amphibians since childhood. His keen interest in chelonians started early and he was lucky enough to have parents that donated their time taking Scott looking for herps in the field, scouring every pet shop in the New York area and visiting zoos, museums and aquariums. Scott was inspired by the writings and work of Gerald Durrell at a young age and recognized the value of assurance colonies and captive breeding as an active ex-situ conservation tool. Scott has a degree in Biology and worked as a wildlife educator at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ.
Some of Scott’s current projects include Razor-backed Musk Turtles (Sternotherus carinatus), Southeast Asian Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis kamarona), Yellow-margined Box Turtles (Cuora flavomarginata), Spot-legged Turtles (Rhinoclemmys punctularia), Home’s Hinge-back Tortoises (Kinixys homeana), Pancake Tortoises (Malacochersus tornieri), Eastern Snake-necked Turtles (Chelodina longicollis), Roti Island Snake-necked Turtles (Chelodina mccordi), Parker’s Snake-necked Turtles (Chelodina parkeri) and African Dwarf Mud Turtles (Pelusios nanus). His group of C. flavomarginata is part of the TSA Taxon Management Group for the species.
Scott is a member of The New York Turtle and Tortoise Society, the TTPG and the TSA. His avocation is to do his part in the conservation of endangered chelonians. Scott is also a founding board member of The Anxiety and Depressions Initiative, a 501c3 organization that promotes the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle while living with anxiety, depression and related disorders.
Kevin is an Educational Resource Developer for theTurtleRoom. His work includes writing articles, writing code for applications being developed, and helping develop other educational resources. Kevin has a special passion for the turtles native to Africa and is also the Communications & Fundraising Officer for the African Chelonian Institute. Kevin holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science from Universite de Bourgogne and is currently in the first year of his PhD studies at the University of Arkansas, also in Computer Sciences. He has combined his passion for turtles with his studies by developing a software called Digital Chelonian Log, available for free (it is still a work in progress). Even when he isn’t working for ACI, tTR, or on his PhD, Kevin is still reading articles or books about turtles.
Kevin’s interest in turtles began at age 8, when he got his first turtle by chance, a Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). At this point, he was becoming very curious about turtles and acquired his second turtle, a Yellow-Bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) a few months later. However, when his family moved from France to Martinique, he had to give away both turtles.
In just a couple years, another friend gave Kevin two more Trachemys s. elegans and his interest continued to grow. Thanks to Kevin moving back to France, he had to acquire new turtles after the move. At this point, the Trachemys species were banned in France as an invasive species, and he discovered the Pelusios species (African Mud Turtles). He bought three Pelusios castaneus hatchlings and began a desire to learn as much as possible on the husbandry, education, and conservation of African species.
Kevin is a member of the Turtle Survival Alliance and Federation Francophone pour l’Elevage et la Protection des Tortues (FFEPT) and is very active in the chelonian community, particularly in forums and social media such as: numerous facebook groups, Forum Tortues, Terrapin-Info.co.uk, TurtleForum.com, and TurtleTimes.com (theTurtleRoom) where he can be found under the username skwateur.
Kevin Minto is the Video Production Coordinator for theTurtleRoom. He is responsible for creating and producing (with the help of other team members) the educational content that you see on theTurtleRoom’s YouTube channel and also provides support to the Senior Director. Kevin was introduced to turtles at a very young age from his older brother who kept them as pets. Growing up there were always turtles in and out of the house. Having spent twenty years filming and editing skateboarding, he now brings his passion for film to chelonians. Kevin primarily works with Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin ssp.) and North American Box Turtles (Terrepene sp.). Kevin’s passions outside of turtles are his family, skateboarding, biking, kayaking, hiking and film. Kevin lives in the Northeast with his wife, two daughters, three dogs, and their bale of turtles.
Rodney Lewis is the Copy and Photo Editor for theTurtleRoom (tTR). His love of chelonia was sparked through researching tortoise husbandry prior to adopting a Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) with his wife. During his research, he identified there were many tortoise and turtle stories that were dispersed across the internet. Combining his love of technology with his newly kindled love of Chelonia, Rodney began to aggregate the links to the stories via Twitter for other Chelonia enthusiasts. This brought him to the attention of tTR who requested his expertise in starting the World Turtle News (WTN), where he has overseen the team and production of the WTN blog for 3 years.
Having helped establish the World Turtle News, Rodney has recently moved into the role of Copy and Photo Editor bringing together his strong communication skills with his love of photography. Rodney is particularly keen on street photography using the backdrop of London City where he works. He can be found on instagram as @justscreaming.
Unusually for a Brit, Rodney is a keen baseball fan and follows the New York Mets.
Rodney has had a long career in London City as a Unix administrator in the banking sector. Rodney moved to Unix administration for the Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences at King’s College London in 2012. A role that he enjoys immensely as IT support in the academic field allows him to build bespoke solutions and flex his IT problem solving muscles.
Rodney lives in Chelmsford, Essex, UK with his wife Becky, two cats and the Hermann’s Tortoise Kaiju that sparked his love of Chelonia.
Liam Whitmore is a zoologist and conservationist from the UK and is currently studying for his Ph.D in Ireland. Liam obtained his MSc Zoology with Conservation from Bangor University, Wales before proceeding to study marine turtles.
He has always had a fascination with the natural world and tries to experience as much of it as possible, whether that’s through his travels, work or wildlife photography. After knowing the career path he wanted to take in zoology/conservation, Liam then took a keen interest in reptiles, particularly turtles and tortoises after starting to research and read about them in his own time and during his degree. He also ventured to Greece to aid in Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) conservation work as an intern during Summer 2018 which further spurred his ambition to work with turtles full time.
Through a lot of luck, Liam is now studying marine turtles for his Ph.D with the main focus on marine turtle fibropapillomatosis (FP). FP is a tumour forming disease afflicting all seven marine turtle species but affects Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) most. He splits his research time between Ireland and Florida.
Speaking of reptiles, Liam also keeps a Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) and Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) at home, which forms one of his hobbies. He also is an amateur wildlife photographer and is in the midst of creating his own website to showcase his photography. He also plans to share his photography/blog through social media (@liams_nature), which he also sees as an interesting hobby.
His admiration for Chelonia and his aspiration to share various conservation issues are partly the reason for him wanting to join theTurtleRoom (tTR) as an editor, where he can combine two of his passions and share various Chelonia-based conservation/stories/issues through their “World Turtle News” blog.
Michaela Wiersema has been a staff member of theTurtleRoom (tTR) for several years and contributes to the Education Department through authoring various articles, and the Animal Husbandry Department where she cares for important assurance colonies. Michaela has been an avid reptile enthusiast for as long as she can remember and has been keeping multiple species for over a decade. As a young child, she would catch and care for crickets, praying mantises, and other insects to satisfy her urge to study wildlife. The majority of her free time was spent herping in the woods, marshes, and bogs, frequently emerging covered in mud with a six foot long snake in hand.
Her passion for chelonians in particular began about ten years ago when she was gifted with a newly hatched Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina). This fueled a love for the Terrapene genus that eventually expanded to many other species. She currently works with Indotestudo forstenii (Forsten’s Tortoise) and Manouria emys emys (Asian Brown Forest Tortoise), and has worked with over thirty other chelonian species. She plans to eventually maintain species of the Cuora (Asian Box Turtles) genus within her personal collection, with a special interest in Cuora mouhotii mouhotii and C. m. obsti (Three-Keeled Box Turtles). Michaela has also been a guest speaker at several reptile events as well as a regular author for REPTILES magazine.
Michaela is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in Biology with the goal of applying to medical school in the future. She has been riding and training horses for ten years, and enjoys the sport of eventing aboard her equine companion. A dedicated marathoner, she runs over fifty miles per week and has won both the Harlingen Marathon and the Brownsville Half-Marathon. She currently lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
Matt McCann is a Communications Specialist for theTurtleRoom (tTR) and is responsible for writing and researching content for the website, fundraising, and other organizational communications projects. Matt is an ecologist specializing in threatened and endangered reptiles and amphibians in the Northeast and currently works as a Science, Research, and Policy Associate with the nonprofit Delaware Riverkeeper Network. In this role, he provides direct support for the organization’s monitoring and advocacy programs. He is responsible for water quality data analysis, ecological assessments, mapping, and coordinating a network of volunteer pipeline monitors to better protect the waters that flow through the Delaware River Basin. He also conducts policy research and identifies key information related to local, state, and federal activities that affect the environment to assist the organization’s advocacy and legal efforts.
Matt has a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management with a concentration in Fish and Wildlife Management from American Public University and lives in South Jersey with his wife, Emily. Matt’s interest in turtles began at a young age when he often spent time exploring a small pond across the street from his house. Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta picta), Northern Red-Bellied Turtles (Pseudemys rubriventris), Common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina), and Red-Eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) would sometimes wander into the neighborhood during nesting season. Matt would always help the turtles find their way back to the pond and make sure they didn’t get hit by cars. That passion stayed with him and lead him to a career in environmental conservation.
Zachary works as a Social Media Educator for theTurtleRoom (tTR) and also cares for several animals in tTR’s assurance colonies. He is also part of tTR’s collaboration with the Turtle Survival Alliance on captive conservation.
Zachary’s passion for reptiles started as a small boy in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia in front of the television watching and admiring the legendary Australian herpetologist, Steve Irwin. Throughout middle school, he would feed and care for a biology teacher’s Red Eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), Eastern King Snake (Lampropeltis getula), and various large South American Cichlids. Boyscout camping trips filled many of Zachary’s childhood weekends and summers; scouting for native Georgia herpetofauna was always first on his list of things to do!
Chelonians truly became his focus in high school when he read a book about turtles and their inner anatomy which greatly increased his appreciation for them and where he learned about their true plight in today’s world.
Some of Zachary’s breeding projects include Vietnamese Pond Turtles (Mauremys annamensis), Yellow-Margined Box Turtles (Cuora flavomarginata), Malayan Box Turtles (Cuora amboinensis kamaroma), and Black Pond Turtles (Siebenrockiella crassicollis). He also has a large passion for amphibians and has many exotic Caudata, Ranidae, Hylidae, and Dendrobatidae under his care.
Volunteering at the TSA Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina, attending The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and High Museum of Art, and scouting for great places to eat are a few of the things Zachary finds joy in on his down time.
Matt Knight is a Staff Writer for theTurtleRoom’s Education Department, which includes contributing to World Turtle News. Since 2011, his love for turtles has become a full blown passion around which his life is centered. Conservation and education are close to his heart, and he spends much of his time keeping up with the world of turtles. A long-time fan of theTurtleRoom, now he is excited to be part of the team and help serve its cause on a professional level by helping to share knowledge and spread awareness of the many plights that turtle species face around the world.
On a personal level, Matt has spent years keeping or caring for various turtle species. When he discovered the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in 2012, he realized that his life was about education, conservation, and wildlife rehabilitation. He currently lives in middle Georgia and is the proud keeper of a North American Wood Turtle (Dr. Rockso, Glyptemys insculpta), a Yellow-spotted Amazon River Turtle (Pookie, Podocnemis unifilis), two rescue Russian Tortoises (Frederica and Abigail, Testudo horsfieldii), a rescue Red-Eared Slider (The Beans, Trachemys scripta elegans), and an awesome rescue dog named Fritz. Whether a member, volunteer, or supporter, he has regularly attended events aimed at educating the public about the awesomeness of reptiles. He has helped operate rescue efforts to rehome animals both scaled and furry, volunteered at the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE) wildlife rehab in Georgia as both an ambassador enrichment handler for their non-releasable residents and a team leader, and held the position of Educations Docent at both the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll Island. He spends much of his free time writing, exploring the internet and web design, tinkering with 3D modeling and printing, building and maintaining habitats for critters, and doing what he can to encourage passion for life in others.
John is the Creator and one of the original Co-Hosts of The Pondcast. John has been a reptile enthusiast for his entire life, starting with Sunday trips to reptile shows with his father as a boy. He has worked with various species throughout his life including many species of snake, gecko and turtles. Most recently he has worked with the Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin), Mata Mata (Chelus fimbriata) and Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria).
In college, John bred Bearded Dragons and Leopard Geckos, and also lived with various wild animals such as Anthony Pierlioni. He played Basketball for four years while receiving a degree in American History from Rhode Island College. After school he coached college basketball for three years and then moved to Brooklyn, NY to pursue a career in standup comedy/writing, before coaching some more college basketball, and working in other careers since. Throughout life John has been very passionate about raising awareness for issues related to human interaction with all types of fauna, especially our little cold-blooded friends. This passion helped spark creation of The Pondcast and guides his preparation and research for every episode.