Posts Tagged 'diamondback terrapin'

Terrapin Hatchlings Are Ready for School!

It’s that time of the year again! Students from across the country are packing-up their backpacks and getting ready to go back to school. At the Aquarium, forty-five hatchling turtles are also getting ready for their first day at school.

terrapin hatchling

Through the Terrapins in the Classroom Program, hatchling diamondback terrapins are collected from Poplar Island in late summer and then placed in partner schools around the state. Students and teachers are charged with caring for the little turtle all school year. They collect growth data, observe behaviors, learn animal care techniques and research the natural history of the species. In late spring, the students release the terrapins back onto Poplar Island.

The hatchlings are quarter-sized right now, but throughout the year they will more than quadruple in size. Scientists are studying the impact of this ‘headstart’ on adult terrapin populations around Poplar Island.

The Terrapins in the Classroom Program provides a unique, hands-on opportunity for students to form a meaningful connection with an animal that lives in the Chesapeake Bay. As students wave goodbye to the terrapins, they begin to understand how they are connected to all aquatic animals and how their actions can impact the Chesapeake Bay.

This school year hundreds of students will do their part by helping to care for a terrapin in their classroom. You can do your part by planting a wetland, helping clean-up waterways, and practicing terrapin-safe crabbing!

National Zookeeper Appreciation Week: Elizabeth Schneble

In celebration of National Zookeeper Appreciation Week, meet one of our Aquarists, Elizabeth Schneble!

beth schneble

How long have you been at the Aquarium?   

I have been working in the Fishes Department for a just a little over 6 years now.

What interested you to pursue your current career path? 

I studied wildlife conservation and resources in college, and during my studies I interned here for the National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program and the Fishes Department simultaneously. I absolutely fell in love with the animals, the fast-paced environment, and the wonderful staff, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. As a bonus, I have always had a passion for conservation, the environment and the National Aquarium’s mission. Conservation programs provide the perfect platform for me to work with both.

Can you briefly describe for us what your typical day looks like?

In one word: “busy!” I take care of our Maryland Mountains to the Sea gallery, and my day starts around 7:30 a.m. I spend the first part of my day cleaning and preparing the exhibits for our guests and feeding the animals. Once the exhibits are clean and ready for opening, I work on cleaning the backup enclosures and feeding the animals in backup. The rest of my day is spent between working on various projects around the department, helping out and participating with other staff in diving and cleaning duties, and maintaining the life support systems on my exhibits. I also manage the wonderful aquarist assistant volunteers in Fishes Department. We currently have over 40 volunteers in the program. In the few moments I have time to sit at my desk, I catch up on emails. I am also planning the local collecting trips. The collecting season lasts approximately 6 months each year and I work very hard to plan trips to collect local animals, quarantine them and move them onto exhibit to share with our guests.

What is your favorite Aquarium memory?

I was able to participate in a lionfish collection trip in the Bahamas in 2011. I spent a week diving on the coral reefs conducting fish diversity surveys and collecting lionfish. It was by far the most rewarding and amazing aquarium experience I have had.

What is the next big project you’re working on?

I am currently building a backup turtle tank to house part of our collection of local turtles, including the diamondback terrapins and wood turtles.

What is your favorite animal?

That is a tough one, but at the moment I would have to say the diamondback terrapin! They are one of the most unique and beautiful turtle species, in my opinion. Plus, they have such interesting personalities and behaviors. How can you not love them?

Stay tuned to the blog this week to meet more of our amazing staff!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Catch Crabs, Not Terrapins

Save the Terrapins

Crab feasts are a summertime tradition here in Maryland. There’s nothing like gathering around a picnic table with family and friends to spend time together, eating, drinking and picking crabs!

With Memorial Day Weekend marking the opening of Maryland’s crab feast season, the National Aquarium and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources want to remind recreational crab pot owners to obey the law and by doing so, to help save the Maryland State reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

The diamondback terrapin lives exclusively in the tidal salt marshes of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coastal marshes. This brackish-water habitat is also home to the blue crab.

Each year recreational crab pots unnecessarily claim the lives of terrapins. Terrapins are lured into crab pots by the same baits used to attract blue crabs. However, unlike blue crabs, terrapins must rise periodically to the surface for a breath of air. Terrapins trapped in a fully submerged crab pot will eventually die from drowning.

Waterfront property owners are legally allowed to crab with a maximum of two recreational crab pots. Maryland regulation requires that each entrance funnel of all recreational crab pots must be equipped with a with a turtle excluder called a Bycatch Reduction Device (BRD). A BRD is a gate that allows crabs to enter the pot, but keeps the larger-shelled terrapins out.

A BRD will prevent almost all terrapins from entering a crab pot.

Recreational crabbers can purchase BRDs where crab pots are sold, and some retailers sell pots that already have the device installed.

Bycatch Reduction Devices

Metal and plastic BRDs

If you are unable to locate BRDs, contact the National Aquarium Conservation Department at conserve@aqua.org.

Installing a Bycatch Reduction Device

Thoughtful Thursdays: The Nature of Learning

In early May, the Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) spent two days at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge engaging students in activities focused on climate change and its effects on the diamondback terrapin.

Partnering with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, students were led through activities including a wetland planting promoting terrapin habitat, a GPS scavenger hunt to illustrate field monitoring techniques, and a nature walk along the butterfly garden, surveying the local bird population.

Prior to this field trip, Aquarium staff visited the students in their classrooms as part of an introduction to climate change, as well as terrapin characteristics and husbandry. Schools selected to participate are part of the Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, a head-start program in which students care for and observe a newly hatched terrapin they will ultimately release into natural habitat at the end of the school year.

All activities were made possible through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Nature of Learning grant. The Nature of Learning grant encourages educators to “use National Wildlife Refuges as outdoor classrooms to promote a greater understanding of local conservation issues.”

In all, the Aquarium engaged more than 100 students in climate change activities, while educating students on how to be stewards of the Chesapeake Bay.

You can too! The Aquarium offers habitat restoration opportunities to promote a healthy Bay. Sign up for one of our free events today! Together our actions and awareness will create a healthy environment for Maryland’s state reptile, the diamondback terrapin.

Terrapin Tagging

Last week, the National Aquarium welcomed Dr. Willem Roosenburg, a professor from Ohio University, to Baltimore. As a renowned diamondback terrapin researcher, he was here to implant PIT tags under the skin of the juvenile turtle ambassadors from the Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program.

The passive integrated transponder device, or PIT tag, is a tiny chip the size of a grain of rice that allows Dr. Roosenburg and other researchers to track terrapin movements and life history in the Chesapeake Bay.  In most cases, the tag will stay with the terrapin for its entire life, allowing researchers to gather long-term data on individual terrapins and, eventually, draw conclusions about the broader terrapin population.

Dr. Willem Roosenburg and the National Aquarium team implant PIT tags to track their movements

Through the Terrapins in the Classroom program, students from 31 schools across Maryland contribute to this research by raising hatchling diamondback terrapins in their classroom. This “head start” protects the terrapins during their first year of life—the time when they are most likely to become a snack for a predatory fish, snake, or bird.

Once the terrapins are released, researchers can gather long-term data from the PIT tags

In early fall, biologists gather hatchings as they emerge from nests on Poplar Island and collect detailed data on each turtle as well as their nesting site. Aquarium staff then distribute a these terrapins to the lucky schools participating in the program. During the school year, students are charged with caring for their classroom terrapin and tracking his or her growth. At the end of the school year, the student caregivers will travel to Poplar Island to release the tagged terrapins at the site where they were collected. The hope is that Dr. Roosenburg and his field crew will recapture these terrapins in future years to document their continued growth and survivorship.

Through the Terrapins in the Classroom program, students contribute to cutting-edge research and create lasting connections with their terrapin. Though sad to say goodbye on release day, students are more acutely aware of the impact a changing environment will have on their terrapin. This direct connection to the Chesapeake Bay inspires more thoughtful choices and, hopefully, a lifetime of environmental stewardship.


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