Accessibility Navigation:

Coastal Biology

The following species are a focus of our coastal biology research.

Diamondback Terrapin
Diamondback terrapins inhabit tidal creeks of the Eastern and Gulf coasts. (Jackie Guzy photo)

Diamondback Terrapins

Diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are North America's only exclusively estuarine turtle. They inhabit tidal creeks of the Eastern and Gulf Coasts where they have experienced range-wide declines due to a variety of activities associated with coastal development. Historically, this species was overharvested, but today, terrapin populations have experienced declines from the development of nesting beaches, road mortality, and accidental drowning in blue crab fisheries equipment. Consequently, diamondback terrapins have received international attention from conservation organizations and have been identified as a priority species throughout their range.

In 2015 the Davidson College Herpetology Lab, the USGS, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began coordinating efforts to understand the distribution and abundance of this species over time on Georgia Wildlife Refuges. Additionally, we are examining the risk that the commercial crabbing industry poses to this species persistence on these refuges. We will also be developing an outreach program aimed towards educating local citizens and crabbers about terrapin conservation. By establishing an inventory of terrapin populations along the Savannah Coastal Refuges we will be able to supply refuge managers with essential information for decision making related to the management of terrapin populations and mitigation of potential threats such as by-catch.

For questions related to this research please email Meagan Thomas at methomas@davidson.edu.

Diamondback Rattlesnake
Diamondback rattlesnakes are currently being proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. (Jackie Guzy photo)

Diamondback Rattlesnake

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is the largest rattlesnake species in the world and was once a common inhabitant of the lower Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. Despite this species' importance as a top-level predator and charismatic nature, population numbers have declined throughout its range as a result of habitat loss, direct persecution, and other anthropogenic activities. Populations on the periphery of its range are particularly imperiled. Consequently, this species is currently being proposed as a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act.

In 2015 the Davidson College Herpetology Lab began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to study the distribution and ecology of this species throughout South Carolina and Georgia. In addition to inventorying the species we will be examining factors that affect the detection and occupancy of rattlesnakes on barrier islands. By establishing inventories and identifying landscape features which facilitate species use, we will be able to supply refuge managers with essential information for decision making related to the management of eastern diamondback rattlesnakes on coastal islands.

If you have any questions about this research, please contact Meagan Thomas at methomas@davidson.edu