By PAMELA WOOD, Staff WriterPublished October 05, 2008
With terrapin harvest closed, research and protection of state reptile takes onnew urgency.
The Terrapin Institute began in 1998 as a consortium of concerned citizens, scientists, resource managers, and educators dedicated to the understanding, persistence, and recovery of Diamondback Terrapins and other turtles through effective management, thorough research, and public outreach. We work to protect an abundance of adult turtle populations, preserve nesting and forage habitat, and improve recruitment. In return the terrapin has become the perfect metaphor for natural resource stewardship and public engagement; the face of estuarine restoration, and a gateway to the many wonders of our rich tidewater heritage.
Fear for the turtle
By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer
Published October 05, 2008
Colleen Dugan — The Capital
Dr. Willem Roosenburg holds a terrapin near the
Patuxent River. The Ohio University professor is a top
expert in the field of terrapin research.
With terrapin harvest closed, research and protection of state reptile takes on
POPLAR ISLAND — Walking single-file, Dr. Willem Roosenburg and assistants Ryan
Trimbath and Tony Frisbee keep their heads down, eyes focused on the sandy shore of this
island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.
They're looking for diamondback terrapin hatchlings, the next generation of the beloved
- and imperiled - state reptile.
One year after lawmakers banned the commercial harvesting of terrapins, state
regulators have made it illegal to keep terrapins as pets, too. And the state Department of
Natural Resources is about to create an overall plan for helping terrapins, which are
threatened by human behavior - sandy beaches that are turned into rip-rapped
fortresses, commercial fishing nets and traps that drown the turtles and rapid
development that's causing wetlands to disappear.
"The main concern about terrapins is they're existing in a habitat that's undergoing
tremendous pressure: pollution, habitat loss, overharvesting, incidental catch," said Dr.
Richard Seigel of Towson University. "They're just being hammered in every way you can
Dr. Roosenburg's work on Poplar Island is one effort to determine what's going on with
terrapins. He's widely acknowledged to be the top expert on diamondback terrapins.
See a slide show:
• Scientific name: Malaclemys terrapin.
• Appearance: Dark top shell, or carapace, covered in gray scutes that have concentric,
diamond-shaped markings. The lower shell, or plastron, is yellow or greenish. They have
beaks, webbed feet and rough skin. Females are larger than males.
• Habitat: The