By Elisabeth Sorrows and Lydia Lichtiger
Dr. Jim Berry, who has been collaborating with John Iverson for over 40 years on mud turtle research, came to measure turtle skulls in the Joseph Moore Museum, which houses an extensive mud turtle collection. Dr. Berry received his Ph.D. in biology and wrote his dissertation on mud turtles. Mud turtles specifically interested him because he grew up collecting them in southern Florida, and because no one else was studying them. After a number of years of research and dealing with conservation legislation, he was told that he should look at working as a lawyer. He became an environmental lawyer. He is now a retired lawyer and is enjoying teaching biology. He has written The Environmental Law and Compliance Handbook and Wetlands: Guide to Science, Law and Technology.
Jim studies the skull morphology of turtles and the environment the turtles live in. Some of his research has found that a group of mud turtles that live in temporary water bodies in the southwestern US and northern Mexico have flat and lightweight skulls.
He came to measure the skulls because they get more reliable data when one person measures all of the skulls. It is an extensive process, particularly for one person, as they take around 25 measurements of each skull. He has worked to put his work online for others to see but has not been able to use other museums online databases because they have not studied the specific turtles skulls that he is interested in.