Project Terrapin has been conducting a mark-recapture study since 2002 at N. Sedge Island and Island Beach State Park. We've also conducted research on the mainland side of Barnegat Bay along the Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge System. Our other initiatives include promoting the use of bycatch reduction devices (BRDs), road signs, a hatchling head-start program, and educating thousands of school students and the general public each year.
Project 1. Terrapin Sigthing; and Mark and Recapture
Beginning in 2002, we've marked over 1300 terrapin between N. Sedge Island and Island Beach State Park. We've also worked on terrapin research at the Edwin B. Forsythe Wildlife Refuge since 2006 in conjunction with Dr. Harold W. Avery where we've marked thousands of individual terrapins. At Sedge, we've marked over 380 nesting female terrapins and measured thousand of eggs and hatchlings. We maintain the most extensive data base on terrapins throughout Barnegat Bay, New Jersey. Our efforts shifted in 2013 to post-Sandy studies and assessing terrapin populations and habitats at Barnegat Bay. We've supported seven undergraduate theses, and have a graduate student, Jessica Caban, from Georgian Court University completing on her thesis. Goals for 2016 include:
1. Continued Mark and Recapture work at N. Sedge Island and assessing reproductive output of female nesting terrapins
2. Mark and Recapture of terrapins at southern Island Beach State Park
3. Our Terrapin Sighting Project. Please report a terrapin sighting and become a citizen scientist!
4. Involved with a mark/recapture post-Sandy population study at the Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge, Barneagat Division, as part of a U.S.G.S grant through the Leatherback Trust. Dr. Harold W. Avery serves as the lead PI on the project and we are a partner. This summer, we plan to map nesting areas.
Project 2. Conservation and Crab Pots
We teamed up to remove derelict fishing gear including abandoned (ghost) crab pots from Barnegat Bay in conjunction with The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, Stockton University and Monmouth University, all supported through a NOAA Marine Debris Removal Grant . We've removed 400 crab pots this past winter, but our overall target through 2017 is 1000 derelict crab pots.
As part of our bycatch reduction device (BRD) campaign, we want to distribute more "free" BRD bundles. These devices are inserted into the funnel of commercial-style crab pots that are known to capture terrapins and other non-crab species. If not pulled out of the water within hours, terrapins are likely to drown in submerged pots. New Jersey has a "loose" regulation for the use of BRDs, but we are providing these devices for free. We've distributed over 22,000 BRDs to date. We thank Exelon Energy and the American Sportsman Crab Trap company for their generous support of our BRD initiative (cost per BRD is 51 cents). Please see more information about our BRD Program on our BRD Page.
Project 3. Road Signs and Habitats
We are enhancing terrapin nesting areas so that the turtles do not have to cross roadways and other barriers that may cause injury or mortality. By creating and/or enhancing nesting areas, we can reduce road interactions that terrapins would normally encounter. We have a "road patrol" plan in some critical nesting areas. In a project with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, funded by the Barnegat Bay Partnership, we are creating "Turtle Gardens". In 2015, we establihsed a "Turtle Garden" project at the Long Beach Island Foundation, which was successful in its first year. The Turtle Gardens concept originated in Massachusetts and Maryland. We are looking for more candidate locations for our Turtle Garden projects. Please contact us.
Working with towns and public access areas, we are supporting the installation of road signs in key terrapin (and turtle) nesting areas. Female terrapins cross high areas where there tends to be roads or causeways. By working with towns and public properties, we've provided signs that are valuable to warn motorists of the potential for turtle crossings. In New Jersey, terrapin nesting season is from May through late July.