Abstracts of Papers
Teaching About Terrapins: Local, Regional, and
Christina F. Watters
The Wetlands Institute initiated the Terrapin Conservation Project in 1989 to promote conservation of diamondback terrapins, a species of turtle under severe stress rangewide owing to human activities (habitat destruction, bycatch in commercial crab traps, road mortality). The Institute includes the world's only exhibit dedicated solely to terrapins, seen by approximately 30,000 visitors annually, including 10,000 school children. The Institute hosts classes, distance learning, and public education programs focused on terrapin life history, research, and conservation activities. The plight of terrapins is publicized by brochures, magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television features, and television documentaries. Another important way of informing and educating large numbers of people is through public lectures as well as participation in community events and regional festivals. The Project's cornerstone program is a summer internship for undergraduate students. During the past 16 years, students from over 90 academic institutions have worked alongside professional researchers and presented their results at regional, national and international scientific meetings. In 2000, the Institute became the host research institution for the Asian Scholar Program. Young Asian herpetologists (10 to date) learn conservation and research skills transferable to wildlife issues in their own countries. Some of our partners include local elementary and high school teachers, Richard Stockton College, Delaware Valley College, the Philadelphia Zoo, the New Jersey State Aquarium, the New Jersey Governor's School for the Environment, and the New York Turtle and Tortoise Society.
Terrapins and Traps: the Politics of Conservation
Roger C. Wood
Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) occur only in salt marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Within this range, terrapin populations have been severely depleted by various human activities (overhunting, loss of critical nesting habitat, road kills during the nesting season, and drowning as bycatch in commercial crab traps). Currently, terrapins are accorded various degrees of protection (endangered, threatened, or species of special concern in nine of the 16 states rangewide). An estimated 2 million crab traps are annually deployed in the waters where terrapins occur. Large numbers of terrapins drown in these traps (one in six in our studies). Research and extensive testing at the Wetlands Institute led to the development of a simple, inexpensive, and highly effective Terrapin Excluder Device which greatly reduces the numbers of terrapins entering crab traps. In 1998, New Jersey adopted a much amended excluder regulation after two years of contentious public hearings. Testimony of opponents was often acrimonious. Politics generally prevailed over rational discourse. Scientific evidence was ignored or discounted. Subsequent research has repeatedly shown the effectiveness of terrapin excluders and two other states (Delaware and Maryland) have also adopted excluder regulations.