March 26, 2018

Restoring turtle population in Alabama salt marshes is focus of newly received grant

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terrapin turtleThe diamondback terrapin is the only species of turtle that prefers living in coastal salt marsh habitats, and they were once abundant in the salt marshes of Alabama. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology recently received a three-year grant from The Nature Conservancy to restore diamondback terrapins in the salt marshes of Alabama.

During the late 1800s, one of the largest terrapin farms in the United States was located in a salt marsh just south of Mobile, Alabama. The farm had about 25,000 terrapins, and as many as 10,000 per year were shipped to the Northeast to help meet the great demand for terrapin stew. Although terrapins were once abundant, surveys in recent years indicate that they are now scarce, and it is considered a “Priority One Species of Highest Conservation Concern” in Alabama.

Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., professor in the UAB Department of Biology, and Ken Marion, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the UAB Department of Biology, will document and monitor terrapin populations in Alabama in an effort to increase the production and survival of hatchling terrapins.

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