Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are the only aquatic turtle that lives in brackish waters (a mix of fresh and saltwater). Special glands around its eyes let it flush out excess salt from its body, similarly to sea turtles. While their main habitat is brackish water, they are able to venture out into freshwater and saltwater and can survive in a wide range of salinity levels, a useful adaptation for life in a constantly-changing estuary.

There are seven subspecies of diamondback terrapin; the one that calls Long Island Sound home is the Northern diamondback terrapin which can be found all the way from Cape Cod in Massachusetts down to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Other subspecies can be found all along the eastern coast south to Florida and around the Gulf Coast through Texas.

Diamondback terrapins owe their name to the diamond-like rings on the scutes (plates) of their shell. Their scutes are made of keratin (like our fingernails) and each terrapin’s ring pattern is unique to them (like our fingerprints are to us). Females tend to be larger and have shorter tails than males, with a male’s carapace (shell) growing up to 5 1/2 inches long and a female’s up to 9 inches.

Terrapins can live 25 to 40 years in the wild, making them one of the longest-living animals in our region. They live most of their life in water, only leaving it to bask or to nest. They can be spotted poking their heads out of the water in tidal marshes or basking in the sun near mud flats and creek banks.

Diamondback terrapins mate during the early spring months and females come ashore to lay their eggs in sandy areas like beaches and dunes between May and July. They can travel quite a way inland in search for the perfect location to dig their nest, crossing streets in coastal areas (so remember to drive especially carefully around coastal zones during the summer months).

Once a terrapin has found a location for its nest, it will dig a hole around 4 to 8 inches deep using its hind legs, lay its eggs (4-15) and cover the nest with debris and pebbles.

Like in most turtle species, a diamondback terrapin’s sex is determined by the temperature of its nest. Cooler nests tend to have more males while warmer nests produce more females.

Threats

Back in the day, these turtles were plentiful and a common item in everyday diet for many people in the East and South Coast of the US. Around the 18th and 19th century, their popularity boomed as terrapin soup became a widespread culinary delicacy, and their numbers plummeted. Fortunately, because sherry was one of the main ingredients in terrapin soup, people mostly stopped eating it during the Prohibition in 1920 – 1933, which helped terrapin populations bounce back. Check out this article from NPR to learn more.

Harvesting terrapins is no longer legal in most of the US, including New York and Connecticut, and many protections are in place to protect them. However, terrapins still face threats.

Highly developed coastlines mean terrapins have less nesting habitat, forcing females to cross dangerous roads in their search. Nests are also predated on by raccoons, foxes, and skunks, and hatchlings are often predated by birds on their way to the water. Diamondback terrapins are also threatened by collisions with boats and by getting trapped in crab cages and drowning.

Diamondback terrapin. Photo by Matthew Draud, C.W. Post-l.i.u.

What You Can Do

  • Drive your boat carefully around tidal marshes, where terrapins might be swimming near the surface, and keep your eyes peeled for their heads peeking from the water.
  • Drive your car carefully along coastal roads, especially during the summer months when females might be around! If you spot a terrapin crossing the road, grab it carefully by the carapace (shell) and move it to the side of the road where it was headed.
  • If you spot a female nesting, stay away. Spooking a nesting female by getting too close may drive her to abandon her nest.
  • Help monitor for terrapins and identify potentially dangerous crossing zones by reporting any sightings! You can do so for Long Island through Terrapin Watch and in Connecticut through Terrapin Tracker or the iNaturalist app.

The spring 2022 issue of Sound Update focuses on Long Island Sound Study’s Year in Review of 2021. Various clean water, habitat restoration, education, and science projects from Connecticut and New York are highlighted, including the new Long Island Sound Marine Debris Action Plan, Community Science Long Island 2021, and the latest findings on hypoxia in the Sound.

… and accepting 2022 applications from 5th—12th-grade educators interested in leading workshops!

Teachers explored using mobile apps for education on the field at the 2019 Mentor Teacher Program in Sands Point Preserve.  Credit: Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, NYSG/LISS.

CONTACTS:

Jimena B. Perez-Viscasillas
Long Island Sound Study NY Outreach Coordinator
New York Sea Grant
[email protected]

Lillit Genovesi
Long Island Sound Study NYC and Western Basin Outreach Coordinator
New York Sea Grant
[email protected]

STONY BROOK AND QUEENS, NY (March 7, 2022): On a chilly October morning in 2019, teachers Amy Olander and Veronica Morabito-Weeks excitedly set up oyster tanks and put model-making materials like aluminum trays and sponges over tables at the Cedar Beach Nature Center in Mount Sinai. They were getting ready to host their very first Mentor Teacher Workshop on nitrogen pollution, where they would later share with fellow teachers some of the interactive activities, games, and lessons they used in their own classrooms to teach their students about Long Island Sound. The weekend after that, educators Hildur Palsdottir and Leah Master held their workshop on plot studies at the Sands Point Nature Preserve, where they led fellow teachers on a walking tour of the grounds, tested the sand for microplastics, and tried out different kinds of portable microscopes together. These fun workshops would be the last of their kind in a while for the Long Island Sound (LIS) Mentor Teacher Program, which like many other in-person programs had to take a hiatus during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. 

This year, the LIS Mentor Teacher Program is back and accepting applications from 5th to 12th-grade educators interested in leading workshops for 2022! — see our “Call for Mentor Teachers” (pdf).

Hosted by New York Sea Grant and the Long Island Sound Study national estuary program, the LIS Mentor Teacher Program provides technical and financial support to selected pairs of teachers to organize professional development workshops for their peers. The hands-on interdisciplinary workshops include a field component and center around Long Island Sound topics, with past workshops covering geology, water quality, marine debris, and more.  

The 2022 LIS Mentor Teacher Program is encouraging topics centered around climate change adaptations, sea-level rise, and ecological health. Three pairs of educators will be selected to conduct one workshop per team and will be given a $1,200 stipend per teacher, a travel budget, and a workshop budget to cover materials, location, etc. New York teachers across Queens, the Bronx, Westchester, and Long Island are encouraged to apply! 

Teachers can look forward to joining these workshops in the Fall. Ultimately, the lessons, activities, and programs shared during these workshops will help inspire students throughout New York to explore, understand, and take care of the amazing resources Long Island Sound has to offer.

For more information on the LIS Mentor Teacher Program, contact Outreach Coordinators Jimena Perez-Viscasillas ([email protected]) and Lillit Genovesi ([email protected]), or visit https://longislandsoundstudy.net/get-involved/educational-resources/mentor-teacher-program/

2019 Mentor teachers Veronica Morabito-Weeks (far right) and Amy Olander (far left) lead an exercise on how to make models to demonstrate the effects of rain on permeable vs impervious surfaces. Credit: Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, NYSG/LISS.
Teachers huddle around a table to view microplastics through different kinds of portable microscopes at the 2019 LIS Mentor Teacher Workshop led by Leah Master (left, in pink) and Hildur Palsdottir (right, in plaid). Credit: Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, NYSG/LISS.
2019 Mentor Teacher and fellow educator explore apps as tools for teaching on the field. Credit: Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, NYSG/LISS.
Models built by teachers at the 2019 Mentor Teacher program at Cedar Beach focused on nitrogen pollution. Credit: Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, NYSG/LISS.

CONTACT:

Emily Hall
Conservation Policy Advocate
Seatuck Environmental Association
[email protected]
(631) 581-6908

Islip, NY (June 15, 2021)- The Long Island Coastal Bioblitz is an event to engage the Long Island community in exploring all of the island’s incredible habitats and species diversity. Hosted in partnership with Seatuck Environmental Association, Long Island Sound Study, Peconic Estuary Partnership, South Shore Estuary Reserve, New York Sea Grant, and the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area, one of the main goals of the bioblitz is to better understand the ecological community and biodiversity around Long Island. This information can guide environmental groups in better preserving important habitats and wildlife.

A bioblitz is a community science effort to record as many species as possible within a designated location and time period. The Long Island Coastal Bioblitz will be held “virtually,” allowing participants to record their observations using the iNaturalist app. All a participant would need to do is take a picture of any species they are looking at, plant or animal, load it into the iNaturalist app, and the species will automatically be added to the Long Island Coastal Bioblitz!

A training webinar will be provided on June 23rd at 7:00 pm to introduce participants to the iNaturalist app and the bioblitz format. Attendance is not mandatory to participate in the bioblitz but it is highly recommended. Registration for this webinar is required, and participants can register here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_McuA6dGjRWe3q0YV0SIPcA. The Long Island Coastal Bioblitz will then take place from June 26th to July 3rd. Anyone can participate using the iNaturalist app and by logging into the Long Island Coastal Bioblitz iNaturalist project page (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/li-coastal-bioblitz). A map of suggested locations to observe wildlife, as well as a list of habitats and species you may observe in those locations, will be provided to bioblitz participants. There will also be prizes for participants who log the most observations over the week-long event!

For more information on this project, please visit our LI Coastal Bioblitz webpage https://seatuck.org/li-coastal-bioblitz/ or email [email protected]

********************

The spring 2021 issue of Sound Update focuses on Long Island Sound Study’s Year in Review of 2020. Various clean water, habitat restoration, education, and science projects from Connecticut and New York are highlighted.

Earth Day was founded 51 years ago today. Thousands of people across the nation came together to demand clean air and water and a healthy environment in a movement that by the end of 1970, led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and a host of environmental laws. In 1990, Earth Day then became an international celebration when 200 million people across 141 countries spoke up together about global environmental issues. To celebrate the week of the 51st Earth Day, below is a list of environmental events happening around the Sound.

Cedar Beach at Sunset. Mount Sinai, NY. (Image credit: Olivia del Vecchio)

Bronx River Alliance – Earth Week 2021:

Give back to Mother Earth from Monday, April 19 through Saturday, April 24 with DIY and other activities at your favorite Bronx River parks. On Thursday, volunteer to help clean up the Starlight Park from 10am-12pm. Sign up here!

Tune in via social media at noon on Friday for trivia night and learn about Earth Day history, key players in the environmental movement, and some not-so-fun facts about the environment. Click here for the zoom link. Finally, on Saturday, join a family-friendly day full of activities at Starlight Park from 10am to 2pm. Sign up and register here!

Earthplace – 28 Days of Earth Day:

This year, Earthplace will be celebrating Earth Day for 28 days! Learn what environmental, social and corporate governance investing means during a free virtual event on April 22nd. Click this link to sign up!

In the evening on the 22nd, Earthplace will also be hosting a Nature Trivia to test your knowledge. On April 24th, join us at Earth Animal in Westport for a presentation on Birds of Prey from 11am – 2pm. There are 28 days of activities and you can click here to view them all!

Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor – Scudder’s Pond Cleanup:

The outflow of Scudder’s Pond goes directly to Hempstead Harbor.  Keeping the pond free of plastic and other debris will prevent this trash from entering the harbor, spoiling our beaches, and harming wildlife. On April 24th, between 9am – 11am, Celebrate Earth Day by joining friends and neighbors for our spring pond cleanup! Bring gloves, 3-pronged rakes, a bucket for trash collecting, and wearing boots and long pants are strongly suggested. Meet at the Shore Road entrance of the pond. Parking is available at Tappen Beach. Call 516-801-6792 if you have any questions! 

Mystic Aquarium – Earth Day Celebration:

Celebrate Earth Day learning all about how you can help conserve our planet. Build your very own boat out of recycled materials, provided by Mystic Aquarium, and race down our Marsh Trek stream to see who has the fastest boat! The winner will receive a gift card from Deviant Donuts. The event will take place April 22nd from 11am – 2pm at Mystic Aquarium, CT. Click here for more information.

Also on April 22nd, from 6:30pm – 7:15pm via zoom, join our Director of Education & Conservation for cocktails (or mocktails) and conversations with members of the Aquarium team as we explore the conservation efforts that support the Aquarium’s mission.  Click here to register.

Lastly, on April 24th 12pm – 4pm we are calling all teens to the Bluff Point State Park, Groton, CT!  Join Mystic Aquarium’s teen Youth Conservation Corps volunteers in a day at the beach. Generously funded by the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, this event provides teens the opportunity to learn about the impacts of marine debris and plastics on marine inhabitants and what young adults can do to protect the world’s oceans. Register here!

The Nature Conservancy – Earth Day Events:

On April 22nd at 12pm, join The Nature Conservancy in celebrating the environmental changemakers among us. Co-hosted by CEO Jennifer Morris and Chief Scientist Katharine Hayhoe, this free virtual event will feature innovative, inspiring leaders from across the globe who are making our world a place where people and nature thrive together. You’ll learn something new, gain a little hope for our future and have some fun as we blend Q&As with fun celebrity shout-outs and a musical performance by Singer, Songwriter & Activist Aloe Blacc. Register here to join the celebration!

Photo credit: Amy Mandelbaum

Interested in learning how a national estuary program operates? The Long Island Sound Study currently has a number of internships and opportunities available for the coming months through its partners. Find descriptions for them below.


EPA Long Island Sound Study Research Fellowship

Description: A postgraduate research opportunity is available at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 2 office in New York, New York. This research opportunity is with the Water Division’s Long Island Sound Program.

The selected participant will conduct research focused on improving data access, analysis, and communication related to Long Island Sound environmental (water and habitat quality) and program implementation tracking data. The project will have three focus areas: 1) Evaluate the application of Open Science Tools (open-source software toolkits – primarily in the R language – and online cloud repositories, such as GitHub) to increase efficiency and reliability of data into Long Island Sound Study data management; 2) Assist in developing and implementing the Long Island Sound Study’s Program Implementation Tracking System; and 3) Assist in gathering, analyzing, and reporting data on Long Island Sound environmental indicators.

Deadline: March 29, 2021 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time Zone (Applications reviewed on a rolling basis).


New York Sea Grant Science Communication and Education Intern

Description: New York Sea Grant (NYSG) is seeking a graduate student or upper-class undergraduate to assist in the program’s communication efforts for work in the Bronx, Queens, or Long Island, New York. This will include planning, developing, creating, and disseminating a series of educational videos and webinars for teachers. The selected applicant will produce deliverables to be used by the Long Island Sound Study national estuary program. This internship will consist of two phases. During the first phase, the student will partner with the Connecticut Sea Grant graduate Mentor Teacher program intern as well as Connecticut and New York Sea Grant staff to develop a webinar or video series for educators. During the second phase, the intern will assist the Long Island Sound Study’s Communications Team in conducting the national estuary program’s science communication work.

This internship has been designed with a flexible time frame to ease accessibility for students. See description for details.

Deadline: February 26, 2021


Connecticut Sea Grant LIS Mentor Teacher Program Intern

Description: Connecticut Sea Grant (CTSG) based at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point, Groton, seeks a graduate student intern to research, plan, develop, record, and edit virtual programming with educators and scientists focused on Long Island Sound (LIS) topics. Working directly with CTSG Education Coordinator Diana Payne and in collaboration with New York Sea Grant (NYSG) staff, the CTSG intern will learn about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) from Payne and virtual recording techniques from NYSG. Specifically, the CTSG intern will seek potential speakers whose research aligns with NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas (content) and can showcase Crosscutting Concepts and/or Science and Engineering Practices. The CTSG intern may also assist in recruiting current and/or former LIS Mentor Teachers to share their expertise in teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deadline: February 26, 2021 5pm EST

*Apply by email. Click the link below to view the PDF with the position description and application instructions, or click the Download button to download


NEIWPCC Communications Intern – Long Island Sound Study

Description: NEIWPCC seeks a skilled writer who is excited about communicating how science can help restore an urban waterway impacted by development and pollution. The intern will feature projects funded by LISS that are using the best available science to restore the Sound and its habitats in the Connecticut and New York region, as well as focusing on new challenges such as sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and microplastic pollution. The articles will appear on the LISS website, in the LIS online Stewardship Atlas—which highlights the Sound’s Stewardship Areas, e-newsletter, and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). The intern will report to the LISS Communications Coordinator based in the EPA Long Island Sound Office in Stamford, CT.

Deadline: March 5, 2021

NEWS RELEASE

Contact:
Jimena Perez-Viscasillas
[email protected]
NY Outreach Coordinator
New York Sea Grant

Alewives in the Peconic River. Photo by: Bryan Young
River herring in the Peconic River. (Photo Credit: Byron Young)

STONY BROOK, NY (February 16, 2021): Years ago, during the cold winter months of February and March, streams and rivers around Long Island Sound would be “painted silver” with the arrival of millions of river herring making their way upstream. River herring are diadromous fish, meaning they spend part of their life cycle in saltwater and part in freshwater. Similar to the salmon’s well-known trek upstream, river herrings journey from the ocean into freshwater bodies to reproduce. However, unlike salmon, river herring are not particularly skilled jumpers. So, as Long Island became more urbanized and dams and culverts were constructed in the area, river herring found their path upstream obstructed. This occurrence, in addition to other factors such as pollution and being caught as bycatch, led populations of this ecologically important fish to decline.

To address this issue, the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) and other local environmental management programs have been working for decades to re-open river miles. They do so by collaborating with local stakeholders and landowners to identify dams and culverts for potential removal or by helping fund the construction of “fish ladders,” structures that allow fish to swim over the dam. As of 2006, this work also includes conducting an annual fish survey to identify new potential streams to re-open and to find out if alewives are returning to the 415 river miles that LISS has re-opened in New York and Connecticut since 1998.

Volunteers participate in the survey and help monitor some of these rivers and streams after receiving basic training. This year, amidst Covid-19 restrictions, LISS and its partners are offering their annual monitoring training sessions virtually. The first webinar, open to volunteers in all regions of Long Island, will take place on February 25th at 5:30 pm as part of Community Science LI, an educational webinar series aimed at highlighting local volunteer monitoring efforts and their links to management and research. Volunteers will learn about the ecological importance of river herring, how to identify these traveling fish, and how monitoring makes a difference in local conservation. Additional training webinars are set to occur by region:

The monitoring program is a partnership between LISS, the Peconic Estuary Partnership, the South Shore Estuary Reserve, and the Seatuck Environmental Association.

For more information on upcoming trainings, message Victoria O’Neill at [email protected] or Jimena Perez-Viscasillas at [email protected].

Estuaries, ecosystems where freshwater and saltwater meet, play very important roles in supporting the ecological, recreational, and economic needs of the communities that surround them. In celebration of these ecosystems, Long Island’s three estuary programs—the Long Island Sound Study, the Peconic Estuary Partnership, and the South Shore Estuary Reserve—partnered to host the third annual Estuary Day event on September 25, 2020.

Estuary Day takes place during National Estuaries Week, which this year ran from September 19-26. Last year, the local outreach event was celebrated at Theodore Roosevelt Park in Oyster Bay, NY, and included informational sessions and booths hosted by local environmental organizations, and a variety of fun educational activities including beach seining and crafts.

This year, Estuary Day went digital with the partnering estuary programs offering webinars to showcase Long Island’s three estuaries, the work being done to protect them, and how the public can get involved in local conservation efforts.

Recording of the LISS webinar Discover LISS: A virtual tour of treasures to explore. Watch on YouTube and click on the video description to access the timestamps and jump to specific parts of the recording.

Long Island Sound Study’s webinar, titled Discover Long Island Sound: A virtual tour of treasures to explore, included a virtual visit to five Stewardship Sites along the North Shore. The tour was led by LISS New York Outreach Coordinator Jimena Perez-Viscasillas (NYSG) and was followed by a Q&A session with LISS Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Coordinator Victoria O’Neill (NYSDEC) and LISS Coordinator Casey Personius (NYSDEC).

The Peconic Estuary Partnership’s and the South Shore Estuary Reserve’s webinars focused on highlighting some of the groups’ current conservation projects in their respective watersheds and on ways for the public to get involved. For access to the video on the South Shore Estuary, contact SSER at [email protected].

Recording to the Peconic Estuary Partnership’s webinar. The webinar focused on projects related to climate change resiliency, water quality, habitat restoration, and wildlife conservation.

For more information on Estuary Day or the virtual tour map, email Jimena Perez-Viscasillas at [email protected].

Contact: Jimena Perez-Viscasillas, LISS NY Outreach Coordinator
Email: [email protected]

Click flyer to see an enlarged view.

Stony Brook, NY (June 15, 2020) — The Long Island Sound Study (LISS) and the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area (LIISMA) are partnering to host the first-ever Long Island Sound (LIS) Coastal Bioblitz, a two-week, semi-virtual event that encourages participants anywhere within Queens and the North Shore of Long Island to head outside to coastal habitats and help find and identify species using the citizen science app iNaturalist.

This community citizen-science event is part of New York Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW), an annual outreach campaign aimed at raising awareness about invasive species and the harm they can cause to the environment. LISS and LIISMA work to limit the emergence and spread of these species through ongoing monitoring, most of which takes place during the warm summer months with the help of volunteers. With group monitoring efforts being canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, local environmental groups are looking for citizen scientists to help monitor species by visiting coastal regions near them and logging their findings using their phones.  

In webinars offered during ISAW last week, Lindsay Charlop (LIISMA Field Project and Outreach Coordinator), Bill Jacobs (LIISMA Program Manager) and Jimena Perez-Viscasillas (LISS Outreach Coordinator for New York) offered training on how to use the iNaturalist app, also sharing information on the Long Island Sound, invasive species management in Long Island, and an orientation on the upcoming Bioblitz. A recording of the webinar can be accessed on the event’s Facebook page.

The LIS Coastal Bioblitz kicks off today, June 15, and will continue through June 26. Interested participants are encouraged to join the Facebook event page, where event organizers will be posting updates, resources, and educational information on species found by observers throughout the Bioblitz. This event is ideal for students, educators, and anyone interested in exploring the outdoors while contributing to local conservation issues.

To find out more about the LIS Coastal Bioblitz, visit the Facebook page or contact Jimena at [email protected]. For information on Invasive Species Awareness Week, visit liisma.org.

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