Discover Your Island

TAMU-CC Graduate Students Receive Grant Awards for Diamondback Terrapin Research

March 10, 2016


CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Two graduate students in the Center for Coastal Studies (CCS) program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi were named as 2015 grant recipients of the Diamondback Terrapin Working Group.            

Shantel Swierc and Lindsey Ramirez, both senior Marine Biology majors, had their research presented in the latest issue of “Terrapin Times,” The Newsletter of the Diamondback Terrapin Working Group (DTWG). As part of the DTWG grant program, these selected recipients were awarded for their individual educational projects involving conservation and management of terrapins.

Swierc conducted research on the demographics, distribution and genetic variation in the Texas diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin littoralis) within the Corpus Christi and Aransas Bay Systems. Her research will be used to provide critical information on the population genetics and dynamics of the Texas diamond terrapin around the Coastal Bend area which will benefit regulatory and conservation managers. The DTWG grant program awarded Swierc with $500 to help fund her research.  

“My favorite thing about working with diamondback terrapins is the opportunity I get to educate the public about this fantastic species that many may not know about,” said Swierc. “Seeing people light up when they see us working with them is the best award you can receive.”   

Ramirez’s study titled, “Does elevated salinity induce a physiological response in Texas diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin littoralis)?” will determine the physiological effects of elevated salinity on stress hormone production in the Texas diamondback terrapin residing in Nueces and Mission-Aransas Estuaries. Her research will provide a baseline data in management practices for terrapin populations along the South Texas coast where little research has been conducted on the topic. Ramirez’s data will help assess freshwater inflow requirements needed to maintain a healthy coastal ecosystem. Ramirez received $300 from the DTWG grant program to help fund her project.

“I love the fact that terrapins have such an amazing personality and I am grateful that I get be an advocate for the Texas subspecies,” said Ramirez. “Little information is known about their populations and many people do not realize they even exist.” Since 2009, the DTWG grant program has awarded more than $14,000 to fund 26 projects, leading to 19 peer-reviewed publications, graduate student theses and dissertations. The program is funded solely by membership contributions.

The Diamondback Terrapin Working group was formed in 2004 by individuals from academic, scientific, regulatory and private institutions working to promote the conversation of the diamondback terrapin, the preservation of intact, wild terrapin populations and their ecosystems.