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Biology and Conservation of the Diamondback Terrapin

Dr. Matthew Stone, Department of Biological Sciences

Terrapin Field ResearchThe diamondback terrapin is a medium-size aquatic turtle that inhabits brackish estuaries along the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States. Terrapin populations have declined in many parts of their range and face numerous threats including, but not limited to, human collection (e.g. pet trade), habitat loss, road mortality, drowning in crab traps, and nest predation. Despite these threats, our understanding of how terrapins are faring at regional and local levels still remains poorly resolved, mainly due to a lack of research.

Dr. Stone has been conducting research on the diamondback terrapin at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station since 2009. The goal of his research is to gather basic biological data on local terrapin populations so that we can better understand their conservation status in areas surrounding Wallops Island, VA. Over the last several years Dr. Stone has conducted numerous studies in the area including the following: 1) assessing the severity of terrapin roadkill along the route 175 causeway-a heavily travelled roadway leading to Chincoteague Island, 2) assessing the size and trajectory of terrapin populations in the region, and 3) assessing the impact that raccoons and other nest predators have on the success of nesting female terrapins. These research projects are student-centered and labor intensive, involving long days where students are responsible for setting, baiting, and checking terrapin traps, conducting surveys for nests, and marking and measuring the size of any terrapins that were captured.

Poster PresentationA total of nine Kutztown University students have collaborated with Dr. Stone on these research projects. Many of those students have presented their findings at national conferences. Along with Dr. Stone, they presented their findings at the last two symposia on the Ecology, Status, and Conservation of Diamondback Terrapins, which meets triennially. That meeting is run by the Diamondback Terrapin Working Group (DTWG), an organization of individuals from academic, scientific, regulatory and private institutions working to promote the conservation of the diamondback terrapin. Dr. Stone is a life-time member of the DTWG. Most recently, he and KU alumnus, Rosa Malloy, presented their work at the 2015 Ecological Society of American meeting in Baltimore, MD.


October, 2015