Josie Epps recently won a 4-H contest by chasing down one of the world's slowest creatures -- turtles.
The 11-year-old's award-winning project focused on box turtles.
The rising seventh-grader at Columbia Middle School first learned of the turtles while visiting her grandmother near Hitchcock Woods in Aiken.
Her grandmother's neighbor, I. Lehr Brisban Jr., tracks the migration patterns of box turtles for the Savannah River Ecology Lab.
"I was interested in what he does and wanted to study it," said Josie, a Martinez resident.
Josie watched Brisban attach electronic tracking devices to the box turtles, named for the box-shape patterns on their shells, and accompanied him into the nearby woods as he tracked their movements.
"He uses a tracking device that looks like a crossbow," Josie said.
Using her excursions with Brisban as source material, Josie developed a 4-H project she presented to 30 judges in November at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center near Eatonton, Ga.
One of only three Columbia County 4-H members taking part in the District Project Achievement competition, Josie defeated her peers in the Wildlife Division.
Her project included dangers to box turtles' survival -- fish ponds, motorists and fires -- and information on nesting, hibernation practices and migration patterns.
"They mainly stay in one place," she said. "They like to dig into the ground to hibernate."
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