Sea Level and the Terrapin

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Resource Type:Classroom Activities; Curricula and Instruction
Grade Level:
6 7 8 9 10
Organization:American Geosciences Institute (AGI); Earth Science Week (ESW); Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Summary:The diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin)is the only North American turtle fully adapted to life in brackish water (mix of saltwater and freshwater). Its home is in coastal salt marshes of estuaries along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. Although they can live 40 years or more, most turtles do not make it to their first birthday, because they are prey for foxes, otters, raccoons, skunks, and birds. If they do survive, females begin to reproduce relatively late—between the ages of eight and 13. This combination (high rates of death for young turtles and long wait until females reproduce) reduces the terrapin population's ability to increase quickly. Other factors that reduce the terrapin's survival rates include sea level rise and land subsidence, combined with human dwellings and roadways along the shoreline, and sea walls and other structures built to protect them. These factors contribute to the loss of tidal marsh habitat and the safe haven they provide for nesting and reproduction. This activity has students modeling what the Terrapin's habitat looked like before human populated the area. Students discuss the way Terrapins are affected by humans and sea-level rise.
Earth Science Big Ideas:Big Idea 9
NGSS Discplinary Core Ideas:ESS3.C
NGSS Performance Expectations:MS-ESS3-3
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices:Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts:Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation
Subjects: coastal systems; coasts; earth; earth science week; ecosystem; environment; maps; oceans; water
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