Conserve Wildlife Blog

The Terrapin’s Troubles, State of Change Podcast, Episode 4

March 3rd, 2020

The diamondback terrapin is one of the most beloved species of New Jersey’s coastal salt marshes. Their popularity has not protected them from the rapid development of our coast however, and climate change is calling their future into question. 

Terrapin and human interaction has been fraught with peril for the turtles for a long time. They used to be considered a delicacy and were almost wiped by the 1920s when, in an odd turn of events, they were saved by prohibition. Turns out that once terrapin stew no longer featured copious amounts of alcohol, people noticed they did not, in fact, taste very good. 

The fourth episode of our podcast, State of Change, “The Terrapin’s Troubles” features John Wnek, Project Terrapin coordinator and supervisor and researcher at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES), and Ben Wurst, Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) habitat program manager.

They explore the current threats to this much loved species including climate change, sea level rise, flooding, development, ghost crab pots, the desire to keep terrapins as pets and a quirk of the turtle’s biology that controls the species’ gender balance.

John Wnek explains, “What happens during climate change is the rising temperature will raise the temperature of the nest. And with terrapins, the temperature of the nest dictates their gender. Warmer temperatures produce more females, cooler temperatures produce more males. A female can produce eggs but they need to be fertilized. If that doesn’t happen we’ll see declines in populations, and since there are fewer males, there will be more genetic relatedness, and therefore more diseases.” 

Each episode of State of Change highlights a different climate change issue – and every story helps paint a portion of the big picture of our changing world. Hosted by CWF executive director David Wheeler, and produced by Matt Wozniak, State of Change is available on Castbox, Spreaker, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Deezer.

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