Published May 9, 2013
Conservation , National Aquarium , News , Turtles , Video
Tags: aquarium school programs, bushy park elementary school, Conservation, diamonback terrapins, edcucation programs, national aquarium, national aquarium in baltimore, naval academy primary school, Poplar Island, Terrapins, Terrapins in the Classroom, turtle conservation, turtles
Since September, students from 32 schools across Maryland have cared for baby turtles in their classrooms. Through the National Aquarium’s Terrapins in the Classroom program, hatchling diamondback terrapins are collected from Poplar Island in late summer and placed in partner schools. Throughout the year, students gain basic husbandry skills, collect growth data, and learn about the natural history of the Maryland state reptile.
“This is a once in a school-time experience,” said Andrew Hiller, a 5th grader from Naval Academy Primary School.
Thanks to the student’s dutiful care, the terrapins more than doubled in size and were ready to be released! Students and teachers took a boat ride to the island and a tour of the wetlands where the terrapins hatched. After carefully selecting a spot on the edge of the wetland, the students said goodbye to their terrapins and released them into the water.
“It was pretty exciting, letting it go. Even though it was nice having it, it was good to see it go have its own life,” said Matthew Szakmeister, a 2nd grader from Bushy Park Elementary School.
Caring for, learning about, and releasing these turtles creates a unique and important connection between students and the natural world. Through this hands-on approach to conservation, our program hopes to inspire life-long environmental stewardship!
You can do your part to help diamondback terrapins by practicing turtle-safe crabbing this summer! Watch this video to learn how!
In 2005, the National Aquarium Conservation Team had the opportunity to restore 6 acres of wetland habitat on Poplar Island, a diminishing island in the Chesapeake Bay being rebuilt through a partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Port of Baltimore, and Maryland Environmental Service. Since that inaugural planting in 2005, the Aquarium has returned twice to restore a total of 11 acres of tidal wetlands by planting 228,450 native grasses with 659 community volunteers.
Each fall, Aquarium Conservation staff returns to monitor the success of the plantings by taking photo stations, a time-lapse glimpse at the same location and direction. Below are photo station pictures taken from past plantings. It is very apparent our restoration sites on Poplar Island are doing well. The planted grasses have flourished by closing in the 18-inch spacing from the planting in June 2009. A variety of migratory birds can be observed utilizing the newly created habitat, while northern diamondback terrapins continue to hatch along the sandy beach nearby.
The Aquarium Conservation Team will continue to replant Poplar Island as space is available, as well as return to monitor in the fall of this year.
June 2009 planting
Same spot in September 2011
Above, picture taken just after the June 2009 planting followed by a second picture taken again in September 2011 during our monitoring trip.
February 2011, before June 2011 planting
Same spot in September 2011
Above, picture taken February 2011 (before our planting event in June 2011), followed by a second picture taken in September 2011 during our monitoring trip. This extreme change shows just three months of growth!
Thanks to the support of our hard-working volunteers, 2009 has been incredibly productive for the National Aquarium’s Conservation Team. Throughout the year, 4 large-scale planting events translated into 10 critical acres restored – that’s 144,000 plants that will provide valuable habitat and help to slow shoreline erosion!
Our restoration projects took us to many beautiful areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay. The planting season kicked off just outside of Cambridge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In May, fifty-two volunteers and 90 students joined us on Barren Island to plant 3 acres of restored offshore habitat, created from repurposed dredge material. The marsh grasses we provided are a huge part of the recipe that turns dredge material into viable wetland habitat, making it possible to rebuild islands that have dramatically eroded over the last century.
Poplar Island is a similar restoration project off of Tilghman Island MD, in the central region of the Bay. Dredge material is again being used to rebuild the severely eroded Island to its original 1000 acres. The Aquarium Conservation Team, along with 268 volunteers and students, planted 3 acres of wetland grasses on the island in June. As more dredge material is brought in and settles into plant-able areas, the National Aquarium will continue to return to the island to be a part of the restoration process. The next Poplar Island planting project is expected to take place in the summer of 2011.
Click here to learn more about Poplar Island and the beneficial use of dredge material.
Continue reading ‘Restoring valuable habitats’
Though much of our conservation work takes place out in the field, we also spend time in classrooms around the region teaching children more about marine life. Terrapins in the Classroom is one of our most successful classroom programs because is combines animal care, research, and field work. The students have face-to-face interactions with baby diamondback terrapins in an effort to foster respect and stewardship for the Chesapeake Bay.
Hatchling terrapins are collected from Poplar Island as a part of a research study and distributed to teachers throughout Baltimore City and the surrounding counties. Students care for the terrapins and collect data on their growth, and at the end of the school year they have the opportunity to go on a field trip to Poplar Island to release the terrapins into their natural marsh habitat. Research scientists are hoping to prove that this program is mutually beneficial; the children make strong connections with the terrapins and are thus driven to keep the bay they live in clean, and terrapins get a “head start” with a safe place to grow throughout their first winter. When they are released in the summer, they tend to be notably larger than a wild terrapin of the same age.
Thirty schools are participating in this program, and it is safe to say that all of the students who even have a passing interaction with the terrapins will find a new purpose in cherishing the Chesapeake.
Continue reading ‘Terrapins in the classroom’