Field Notes – Terrapin Sampling in Kiawah River

by | Oct 22, 2021

On Sunday, October 17th, a group of SCPARC members met up with terrapin researchers and other volunteers at Mingo Point on Kiawah Island. The objective of the day was to catch as many Diamond-backed Terrapins as possible to be marked, released, and hopefully recaptured again in the future. This particular project has been going on since 1983 when Dr. Whit Gibbons and his son Mike Gibbons pulled the first seine net in the Kiawah River and processed the first turtle. This practice has continued twice a year, every year, since 1983 and is now regarded as the longest ongoing Diamond-backed Terrapin project in the world. More information on this project can be found here:

On this day, 10 SCPARC members joined in this project to help sample the widest stretch of sampling area. The large number of participants was very helpful in covering this large area and ensuring most (all?) of the turtles were effectively captured from this area. Below, are the field notes from Kristin Cecala, the current Project Leader: 

We are grateful for the help that the SCPARC group was able to offer. The sampling that we do in the Kiawah River in particular requires a large number of enthusiastic volunteers, and the SCPARC group was instrumental in providing the extra help we needed to sample it thoroughly. We sampled the Kiawah River between the sandbar and the bank east of Terrapin Creek. To sample, we set two seines adjacent to one another with one set at either end of the sandbar. We performed 2 sandwich seines and captured 5 and then 4 terrapins respectively. We then performed a serial seine of section 1 of Terrapin Creek and captured no turtles and saw no heads. Of the 9 terrapins captured in the Kiawah River, only one was a recapture. AHVY was a large female first captured in May who carried a transmitter placed in May. The transmitter revealed that she likely nested on the Cassique Golf Course adjacent to Fiddler Creek. The remaining terrapins were 2 young females (estimated ages of 4 and 5) and 6 males (one of which was aged as 4 years old). 

In addition to capturing 9 terrapins, the seine nets also captured several Burr Fish, Hogchokers, and Pipefish, revealing the hidden life beneath the water in these marshes. On mud banks members encountered horseshoe crab molts, a horse conch, and a variety of hermit crabs and other snails. 

This was a wonderful and very muddy experience for all involved. We hope to be able to participate in this project in the future and contribute to its longevity and success.

Location: Mingo Point on Kiawah Island, SC
Date: October 17th, 2021
Time: 11am – 3pm

SCPARC Participants: Emily Curry, Tate Curry, Joshua Bowen, Bradley Bowen, April Bowen, Ian Deery, Marcus Sizemore, Johnathan Alexander, Karen Seminary, Jeanne Carmichael, Jake Zadik

Herp List

Diamond-Backed Terrapin         (Malaclemys terrapin)