All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Thane Wibbels

Advisory Committee Members

Ken Marion

Andrew Coleman

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Master of Science (MS) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

The diamondback terrapin is the only emydid turtle within the United States that exclusively resides in salt marsh habitats. Over the past century, the species has seen dramatic declines in numbers due to being exploited for terrapin soup as well as other threats, including crab trap induced mortality, nest depredation, and habitat alteration or loss. In addition to these well-known historic threats, global climate change has become a growing concern due its potential threats on the terrapin and its habitat. The goal of this study was to assess the reproductive ecology of the Mississippi diamondback terrapins that reside within the Alabama Gulf Coast, specifically near Cedar Point Marsh. This research included comprehensive field surveys to capture nesting females and record depredated nest locations and numbers. It also utilized technologies such as radio-tracking, wildlife cameras and dataloggers. In addition, the nesting behaviors of female terrapins were recorded, analyzed, and found to be similar to those recorded in northern diamondback terrapins. This study also included a comprehensive evaluation of nest predators at Cedar Point Marsh, documenting that raccoons were the primary nest predator and represents a significant threat to the diamondback terrapin. Finally, the 2019 nesting season beach temperatures were utilized to estimate potential sex ratios of the depredated nests from the season. This study predicted significant female biases in hatchling sex ratios and suggested that future increases in environmental temperatures associated with global climate change could significant impact this population. The data recorded in this study are crucial for the development and enhancement of the conservation strategy for the Mississippi diamondback terrapin in Alabama.

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