Biology Students and Professors Hold Gopher Tortoise Day At Mobile Botanical Gardens

Conor Merrick | News Editor |

Photo by Michael Dunn | Photographer

The hot weather didn’t stop hundreds of locals from showing up to the Mobile Botanical Gardens to celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day on April 23.

A fundraising auction held at the event gave attendees a chance to get the right to name the tortoises. The idea to organize gopher tortoise day was started by students and professors here at South.

Attendees also got a chance to see the tortoises up close and learn from students and professors at South’s biology department, who have been tracking and researching the longtime Mobile natives. Assistant professors Dr. Adam Chupp and Dr. Jason Strickland led guests through the Pineleaf Forest, located in the gardens, on a tour. Chupp explained how the fundraising auction would help support not only the tortoises but the forest itself. 

“We’re auctioning off the naming rights to the 10 tortoises that we’ve captured and tagged in this longleaf pine forest out here,” Chupp said. “That’s what’s raising money for the management of this longleaf pine forest going forward.”

Dr. Chupp and his co-professor Dr. Colleen Peterson along with eight students from their urban ecology policy and management class and graduate students Dawn Canterbury and Darrien helped organize the event. Strickland explained how students and faculty got together to make the event happen.

“So this was put together by Dr. Adam Chupp and his colleague,” Dr. Strickland said. “They’re working together with a class and the class put this together as a student learning class as well as to get the community involved to help the Mobile Botanical Gardens out.”

After tours, guests had the option to play in a trivia game and enter a raffle to win prizes before auction winners were announced. Assistant professor of animation John Hill and his family were some of the lucky guests who won the rights to name the tortoise they bid on. 

“We’re naming it Gamara,” Hill said. “It’s a giant japanese kaiju that is the friend of children.”

Other names given to the tortoises included The Flash and Don Quixote. Some of the bids to name the protected species of tortoise stretched over the $200 mark.