By Amanda Sames
Here at Glenelg High School, many people are unaware of the cute terrapin that Marine Science classes are taking care of from September to April. However, Mr. Regis has been participating in this Maryland Environmental Services program for four years already.
The diamondback terrapin is Maryland’s state reptile, but is unfortunately classified as “near threatened” (according to MES) due to previous hunting and militant occupation of their habitat. Poplar Island, a haven for these reptiles, has been restored and protected in order to replenish the population. It has also served as a good place for a long term study done by Dr. Willem Roosenburg, a terrapin expert from Ohio University. Because of his extensive research, this program—known by many as Head Start—was established in 2005 to involve schools across Maryland in restoring the terrapin population.
Mr. Regis, the Biology GT and Marine Science teacher, is required to go to multiple meetings held at the National Aquarium in order for his Marine Science students to participate in the Head Start program. Afterwards, the young hatchling is brought into the classroom and put into a prepared tank. Students also vote on a class name; each of the classes have a different name for the terrapin. Throughout the year, students take care of the young turtle. They feed the animal, changing his or her diet as he/she grows. For example, new hatchlings first eat pellets, but soon consume live food, such as snails and worms. The students conduct a 50% water change, meaning they change half of the water in the tank with new water of the correct salinity, and test it for chemicals each month. Students also check water level, temperature, and dissolved salt levels each day. Similar tests happen with other tanks of other organisms, but only one group works with the terrapin tank at a time. Finally, students measure the growth of the turtle throughout the year. Senior Samantha Cho says, “Taking care of the turtle will be educational and exciting because of the hands-on experience.”
With this data, students will be contributing to Dr. Roosenburg’s experiment in testing to see how environmental changes affect the terrapin population in the Chesapeake Bay. The data collected will include the size of the turtles, number of hatchlings recaptured after they are released, and survival rates of Head Start terrapins versus wild terrapins.
This program is very important in benefiting the future of the Chesapeake Bay environment. Mr. Regis enjoys participating in this program because “the terrapin helps bridge a living classroom connection between students and the Chesapeake Bay.” The Head Start program is meant to inspire meaningful connection with the Chesapeake Bay through an emotional and hands-on connection with the small hatchling.
By participating in the program, students will be able to understand “the direct impact the health of the Chesapeake Bay will have on the animal,” sparking “a lifelong sense of environmental stewardship and respect for the natural world,” says the National Aquarium. Students will also be able to understand the impact of the Head Start program as a conservation starter. On a larger scale, students becoming involved and concerned about these environmental problems are able to influence the Maryland terrapin policies of both politicians and legislators. With this program happening at Glenelg and other schools, students and future generations will be able to make a difference in the world.
On Monday, October 22, the Maryland Environmental Services came to Glenelg Marine Science classes to speak to students more about the program and Dr. Roosenburg’s studies. Stay tuned for more information!