Terrapin Turtle Ecology Research: Hunting Island State Park, SC

Hello All!

I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Peter Myer, I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and I’m currently a sophomore at the College of William and Mary. I’m also a member of the the St. Andrews Joint Degree Program.

In collaboration with William and Mary professor, Dr. Randolph Chambers, I will be stationed on Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina, for the purpose of ecology research vis-à-vis terrapin turtle conservation. The question of interest explores how commercial crabbers can maximize blue-crap capture while minimizing turtle capture, through the medium of state-specific BRDs (By-catch Reduction Devices). These BRDs are essentially small pieces of plastic that fit on the openings of crap traps and are similar to TED (Turtle Excluder Devices) in shrimp nets, in that their purpose is to prevent turtles from wandering into a crab trap, unable to escape, and ultimately drown. Additionally, we are working collaboratively on this project with a member of the SC Department of Natural Resources. VA BRDs (pictured below) measure 2 x 6 inches, while SC BRDs only spread across 2 x 35/8 inches. Essentially, I will be testing the effectiveness of VA BRDs in SC waters, while Dr. Chambers’ lab will be conducting the exact same experiment in VA (i.e. using SC BRDs in VA waters). We hypothesize that SC BRDs are simply too small, and that they do indeed prevent turtle entry, but also limit crab entry. This is the question that I seek to answer. I will be comparing control traps to fitted traps, in order to measure the quantity of crab, as well as terrapin turtle. I will then follow the data through to statistical analysis, synthesis, and explanation.

This is a unique type of research because no one (to our knowledge) has ever conducted this replicate, reciprocal transplant using two BRD types. Already, extensive planning is underway, where permits, tidal conditions, and most importantly safety of the turtles all play a role. I know that there may be mistakes, frustrations, and complications. However, hopefully those small defeats will produce knowledge and conservation improvements for the turtles of one of our nation’s state parks.

For more information about Dr. Chambers’ lab, see (http://rmcham.people.wm.edu). I’m thankful that Dr. Chambers has allowed me to participate and I hope to make a meaningful contribution.

Fortunately, I have a very personal connection to Hunting Island. As a child, I took my first step on this beach, and worked with loggerhead turtle volunteer groups for protecting their continually threatened eggs. Now, I have another opportunity to return, working with the ubiquitous terrapin turtle population. Below, I’ve circled the prospective location of our research.

I hope this experience will reduce terrapin mortality as well as advance local fishery business. Beyond that, I hope that our findings will result in a publishable paper contributing to the scientific community. Finally, I’m optimistic that I’ll develop a skill set that will enable me to begin a lifetime of dedication to a field about which I am passionate.

Your Friend,

Peter

Hunting Island prospective location where control and experimental traps will be placed (circled in red).

Hunting Island prospective location where control and experimental traps will be placed (circled in red).

 

Crab traps with VA BRD (orange plastic piece)

Crab traps with VA BRD (orange plastic piece)