That’s not a walking pile of dirt. It’s a common snapping turtle carrying an unusual load! She’s one of the turtles tracked by Task Force Turtle. This organization in Maryland works with students—from middle school through college—to study turtle ecology and biology, with a special focus on migration.

This particular turtle spent two weeks hiding from the heat in the mud of a dried-up lake. When she emerged, she had a thick crust of dried dirt and grass stuck to her back. She weighs about 13 pounds by herself, but the dirt on her back weighs even more: 18 pounds! Even so, she carried this heavy load effortlessly. “She was just trucking along,” says Task Force Turtle researcher Aaron Krochmal. “Turtles live life in the slow lane!”