Recently, the Aquarium’s Conservation team welcomed 51 hatchling diamondback terrapins from our site at Poplar Island. After passing their Animal Health exams, these tiny turtles have remained under our team’s watchful eyes for a few weeks, making sure they are gaining strength and a healthy appetite. In a few weeks, the terrapin hatchlings be distributed to schools throughout Maryland as part of our Terrapins in the Classroom program!
Through this program, students and teachers are charged with caring for the little turtle all school year. They collect growth data, observe behaviors, learn animal care skills and research the natural history of the species. In late spring, the students release the terrapins back onto Poplar Island. The hatchlings are quarter-sized right now, but throughout the year they grow steadily in a warm, clean classroom tank with all the UVB and basking heat they could want…and without fear of predators!
Scientists are studying the impact of this ‘headstart’ on adult terrapin populations around Poplar Island. Last year, a female head start terrapin was found nesting on the island for the first time, which is great news!
Terrapins in the Classroom is one of many National Aquarium programs that provide a unique, hands-on opportunity for students to form a meaningful connection to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Terrapins are a protected species in Maryland, as well as the state reptile, and their population numbers have stabilized only recently due to the diligence of local experts and supporters.
This school year, hundreds of students will do their part to help preserve our state’s natural legacy! You too can do your part by planting a wetland, cleaning up our waterways and practicing terrapin-safe crabbing!