Going Turtling! : Week 2, Lots and Lots of Turtles

Week 2 had beautiful weather, and even more beautiful turtles!! I hope I’n not being dramatic by saying that week 2 hit us like a truck. Week 2 was full of laughter, tears, and records for the project!

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Going Turtling! : Week 1 and Project Rundown

Week 1 of the turtle project was a fairly slow start. We caught 3 turtles overall, 3 beautiful males. All around 13 cm length of carapace. In terms of by-catch we caught several crabs, 2 silver perch, and a rather large flounder! It was an exciting start to the project, both my partner and I always love to interact with the animals, even if they aren’t the animals we are looking for!

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A Sad Introduction to the Terrapin Project

After many weeks of fieldwork, it is time to tell the long story of the research that has been done. While the entirety of the research itself has been overwhelmingly positive, The first day of surveying the work site was cast in a grim light upon a depressing finding. My research partner and I, along with our lab professor and his assistant, paddled out to the Catlett Islands to evaluate where the best spots for pots would be. It was a windy, sunny day, and our spirits were light as we made our way out of Cedar Bush Creek to look for both suitable sites and Terrapins. When entering one of the many small bays of the Islands, we found several old crab pot buoys, with rusted metal rings attached. Luckily enough, nothing was caught in the first few, but the last one we pulled up was a new crab pot and had yet to deteriorate to the level of the others. Sadly, when we pulled it out of the water, it was filled with Diamond-backed Terrapins.

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Nesting Ecology of Diamond Back Terrapins at the Cattlett Islands

The object of the study is to test a GIS-based model of terrapin occurrence in the Chesapeake Bay (Funkhouser et al. 2019). This model predicts the Catlett Islands in the York River as a suitable nesting habitat for Diamondback Terrapins. Terrapins are known to occur in the waters around Catlett Islands but to date, no one has studied their nesting on this island complex. The Catlett Islands are largely protected from human intervention and development, so this project is a good location to not only test one prediction of the GIS model, but also to give a more holistic view of the nesting ecology of terrapins on the island complex. Throughout their range in Virginia the status of terrapin populations is uncertain, and currently few studies describe the nesting ecology of terrapins in Chesapeake Bay. My study will address the following research questions: What is the location, number and success of terrapin nests on the Catlett Island complex?
Each day during the nesting period is to paddle out in a canoe from a point in Cedar Bush Creek (adjacent to Catlett Islands) and land the canoe on the beach. We will mark the location of intact nests or record the area. Once nesting is completed by active females, we will measure and mark the nesting female prior to release on-site.