Kids learn about rare turtle species

Apr 20, 2019

Spring is in the air, and the animal kingdom is on the move.

As the nesting season for turtles approaches, the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance staff came to the Wareham Free Library on Saturday to teach kids and adults about diamondback terrapins, a threatened species that lives in the marshes and coastal waters of Wareham.

The diamondback terrapin, often simply called a terrapin, is a species of turtle native to the coastal brackish and saltwater marshes of the eastern and southeastern U.S. The carapace, or shell, and skin coloration of a terrapin is gray to white, with varying patterns of black spots and streaks.

When people find terrapins, the NECWA request that they report them for scientific purposes as the group works to learn more about the species.

“We don’t know much about terrapins. We are trying to gather the data on them, where they are located, and their patterns,” said NECWA staff marine biologist Danielle Marston. “Because there is a fishery for them, we thought they were extinct, and until 2003, we didn’t know they existed in this area.”\

During the presentation, Marston said that terrapins and other turtle species face increased threats due to rapid climate change and rising sea water levels, which submerge current nesting areas on the beaches.

Marston also mentioned that warming world has already launched a new — and overwhelmingly female —  generation of sea turtles. The sex of a turtle hatchling is determined by the temperature of the sand where the egg incubated. Science has shown that in warmer nests female offspring hatch, while cooler temperatures yield more males.

“Hot chicks, cool dudes,” as Marston simply put it.

After the presentation, kids made paper sea turtles using colored pencils, stickers and glitter. The NECWA intern coordinator, Steve Parks, believes the crafts help kids remember the information.

“Arts and crafts tie into an educational component. When kids have turtles on their minds after the presentation, it sticks in their heads what they discovered today about these creatures,” said Parks. “And when they bring them home, they can associate with what they learned here.”

NECWA is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization based in southeastern Massachusetts that is dedicated to the protection and conservation of marine wildlife that live and feed in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Maine. The organization can be contacted via email at