TMCC leeches sent to Smithsonian

Feb 25th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-3: The Science of Place, Tribal College News
By Scott Hanson
CHECKING IT OUT. Turtle Mountain Community College student Jeremy Dumont keeps an eye out for turtles—and leeches.

CHECKING IT OUT. Turtle Mountain Community College student Jeremy Dumont keeps an eye out for turtles—and leeches.

While researching turtles in the summer of 2011, Turtle Mountain Community College (TMCC, Belcourt, ND) student Jeremy Dumont never imagined that he would end up collecting leeches that would be in the Smithsonian Institution. Though he was studying turtles, Dumont knew that TMCC instructor Dr. Deborah Hunter and her students had been studying leech ecology, so he kept an eye out for leeches as he searched the sloughs and lakes for turtles on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. That may be why Dumont spotted leeches attached to a turtle he caught. He added the leeches to a growing collection he had started back at the lab.

Later that summer, Dr. Fredric Govedich and Dr. Bonnie Bain, leech experts from Southern Utah University, visited TMCC for a week to train Hunter and the students on leech identification and rearing. Govedich and Bain were elated to see that the leeches Dumont had collected from the turtle were Placobdella rugosa, a species they were studying. The Placobdella rugosa Dumont and Hunter collected later that summer on vegetation, logs, rocks, and turtles enabled them to collaborate with Govedich, Bain, and others from the Smithsonian Institution, Quinnipiac University, and Yale University to show that Placobdella rugosa, although similar to Placobdella ali and Placobdella ornata, is a distinct species. Their findings were so significant that some of Dumont and Hunter’s Placobdella rugosa are now in permanent collections at the Smithsonian Institution and Yale University.

The next time you are in Washington D.C., you can visit the Turtle Mountain leeches. The research at TMCC was supported by a Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) grant from the National Science Foundation.

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