Dr. Harden has been involved in numerous and diverse teaching and community outreach programs and she has worked cooperatively with various stakeholders to strengthened partnerships between academic institutions, state/regional agencies and organizations via collaborative workshops and invited presentations.
The Harden Lab is currently conducting research on the physiological health of captive-reared hatchling and juvenile endangered Blanding’s Turtles at captive-rearing programs in Illinois. With this project, the lab is collaborating with and educating regional stakeholders (e.g. Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Brookfield Zoo, Cosley Zoo, McHenry County Conservation District, Lake County Forest Preserve District) on potential long-term impacts of head-starting and translocation programs. This research will contribute to the gap in knowledge concerning the effects of captive-rearing efforts on their health and survival and allow for better recommendations regarding captive-rearing procedures. Read about the Harden Lab in the Benedictine University’s Spring 2017 magazine Voices, The Daily Herald: Blanding’s turtles get a boost in DuPage, or NCTV17: Forest Preserve Releases Endangered Turtles.
Dr. Harden’s PhD research has provided much needed data on spatial ecology and seasonal shifts in habitat use that may be used to predict the potential for human-terrapin interactions. Interactions with coastal fisheries, in particular, are thought to be a significant source of terrapin mortality contributing to population declines. Data gained through this study were relayed to fisheries managers so that they may make scientifically sound management decisions to prevent terrapin bycatch in fishing gear. Throughout her PhD, Dr. Harden collaborated with local fisherman to collect terrapin distribution data, which was used by policy makers during the review of the NC Blue Crab Management Plan to help protect terrapins while sustaining the fishery. For more information on my terrapin research and blue crab fisheries, check out this Coastwatch article: Mapping the Overlap: Terrapins & Crab Pots in the Lower Cape Fear Region, this North Carolina Coastal Federation article: Looking for Answers to Help Terrapins, or this 2013 StarNews newspaper article Diamondback terrapins subject of UNCW student’s research.
From 2009-2013 Dr. Harden was the chair of the Southeast Diamondback Terrapin Working Group, a regional group of the national Diamondback Terrapin Working Group. December 2009 she organized a regional terrapin workshop in Wilmington, NC for conservationists, educators, policy makers, researchers, and citizen scientists in order to effectively raise awareness, expand knowledge base, and facilitate communication and collaboration related to terrapin conservation.