Conserve Wildlife Blog

CWF Spotlight on Ashley Hecht, Great Bay Terrapin Project Intern

August 15th, 2013

Ashley Hecht, Great Bay Terrapin Project Intern helps band ospreys.

Ashley Hecht, Great Bay Terrapin Project Intern helps band ospreys.

My name is Ashley Hecht and I’m going to be a senior this year at Delaware Valley College. My major is Biology with a concentration in Zoology.

This summer I had the opportunity to work with northern diamondback terrapins. Every year female terrapins come out of the bay to lay their eggs and end up crossing the roads, often getting hit by cars. My job was helping reduce the high mortality rates of terrapins from motor vehicles by safely crossing terrapins across the road. My days consisted of patrolling for terrapins along Great Bay Blvd, in Tuckerton, New Jersey. I came across anywhere from 20-60 terrapins a day. I recorded data on the age, length, width, height, and weight, along with if they were gravid (i.e – a female who is full of eggs) .

I didn’t just work with terrapins; I also had to work with the public, which I found many to be very supportive of the conservation effort. One day I was taking measurements on a female, and a car came up behind me. The next thing I know a whole family ran out grabbed another female walking by and moved her safely across the road. They continued to do it for 3 more hours. I’m pretty sure they crossed more terrapins than I did that day.

Many times I came across dead terrapins. Usually it was when the road had a lot of traffic and a ton of terrapins.That’s what you have to expect. I only came across one injured terrapin. After she got hit, she laid 9 eggs on the side of the road. With the help of a volunteer I was able to safely transport her eggs and put them in a nesting cavity over at the Tuckerton Seaport. It was in hopes that I could save the female, so I drove her down to the Wetlands Institute in a bucket strapped in the front passenger seat of my car. I have to say that was the most interesting 40 minute car ride I ever had. I’m sure I got many looks talking to a yellow bucket, while speeding down the parkway.

You never knew what you are going to see on the road, but what you hoped for was terrapins safely crossing the road. I saw many doing just that this summer and I am glad. I wasn’t very familiar with this species, but now I can tell you a whole lot.  I enjoyed every moment of this internship, even the green heads.

I have loved New Jersey’s wildlife my entire life. This is probably because I grew up spending my summers at the Delaware Bay. As a child, I never guessed that helping terrapins across the road, flipping over every horseshoe crab, and watching the many species of birds land on the beach, would lead me to want a career in Wildlife Biology. This was the opportunity I was looking for to help me get experience for my future career goal. Next year I hope to be furthering my education or being in the field.

 

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