Scientists studying diamondback terrapins, a type of salt-marsh turtle found along the eastern coast of the U.S., have documented a pattern of decline again this year in the South. Scientists from Davidson College and UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory conducted two surveys this summer at Kiawah Island, S.C.
Whit Gibbons of SREL began the survey at Kiawah in the early 1980s and returns each year with scientists and students. As surveys in recent years have shown significant declines in the numbers of turtles the researchers have found, this year Mike Dorcas of Davidson returned for a second survey. Dorcas and others are developing a “rapid assessment” tool from the Kiawah data that can be used in other areas to assess the danger to diamondback terrapins without the labor-intensive study used at Kiawah. Using data collected over the past 20-plus years, scientists can get a rough estimate of the population in an area. This will help wildlife management of the species.