turtle in tank
Shelley is an alligator snapping turtle, one of the marvelous creatures you can see at Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium

When you think of Belle Isle in the Detroit River, you may think of picnics, kayaks, fishing and birds. Add Shelley, a social alligator snapping turtle with a playful personality. You won’t find Shelley on a rock in the Detroit River, but she can been seen plodding along happily in her custom terrarium in Detroit’s historic Belle Isle Aquarium. For the second year in a row, Shell has partnered with the Belle Isle Conservancy to increase access to the beloved aquarium and support conservation efforts on Lake Okonoka, located on the far eastern side of the island.

Shell in Michigan

“Shell has a large presence in Detroit and Southeast Michigan," said Heidi Massey-Bong, Shell Global Manager of Sponsorship, “from our many retail gas stations, to the blending plant at River Rouge, to support of the Detroit Grand Prix here on the Isle and the NASCAR races in Brooklyn.”

“We wanted to show our thanks to Detroit and support our many partners. I can’t think of a better way than to support the educational and conservation work of the Belle Isle Conservancy,” she added.

“Plus, Shelley the snapping turtle is a great mascot,” she adds with a grin.

Shelley is an alligator snapping turtle, native to southern Louisiana. While you can’t tell the sex of a turtle just by looking at it, the team at Shell decided it looked like a “Shelley” and the name has stuck with Shell employees and Belle Isle Conservancy staff.

grasslands on the island.
Native grasses reduce erosion and help the water quality of the island lakes.

The benefits of reconnecting waterways

This is the second year that Shell has funded Belle Isle Conservancy access programs to the Belle Isle Aquarium and conservation work around Lake Okonoka, led by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“Shell’s support has been critical to developing a wet meadow composed of native forbs and grasses near the lake,” said Michele Hodges, President & CEO of the Belle Isle Conservancy.

“Together with reopening the lake to the Blue Heron Lagoon and Detroit River with new bridge and culvert structures, habitat for birds and fish, and island visitor experiences will be greatly enhanced.”

Jewel of the Detroit River

The Belle Isle Conservancy works with the Friends of the Detroit River to maximize projects on the island.

“All of Belle Isle is truly unique,” said David Howell, Friends of the Detroit River Chairman.

“Right next to Lake Okonoka is the largest remaining stand of wet-mesic flatwoods, a highly diverse assemblage of plants offering habitat to a wide range of wildlife. This unique ecosystem once covered much of southeast Michigan but has nearly disappeared due to agriculture and urban development. We appreciate Shell's help in restoring the Isle's southeast shore to a much-needed coastal wetland, while keeping it accessible to people.”

You don’t have to look far to see the conservation work on the island. Just ask Steve Oprea, a Detroit-native and member of Shell US Social Investment who now lives in Houston, Texas.

“I remember coming to the park with my family in the 70s,” says Steve.

He credits the Belle Isle Conservancy and Friends of the Detroit River with making it all happen.

“They’ve done the boots-on-the-ground work, and I’m glad to see how the conservation work benefits people and all native creatures – and visitors like Shelley.”

Learn more about this project and nearly 400 others on the interactive conservation project map.

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