Tracking Terrapin Turtles in Barrington

The thirty-year-old project continues to protect the endangered species.
Diamondback Terrapin at 100-Acre Cove. Photograph by Mike Cevoli.

This eight-year-old diamondback terrapin is risking a lot for the continuation of her species. “It’s the most exposed time they have, climbing out of the water,” says Charlotte Sornborger, who studies the terrapin population at Barrington’s 100-Acre Cove. In June and July, dozens of female turtles emerged from the brackish water to lay their eggs in sandy underground nests on Nockum Hill. Their hatchlings will break free this month, but only one in 100 will make it to adulthood — an estimated seven this year. Coyotes, weasels and herons aren’t their only foes; coastal erosion has led to significant habitat loss, and the diamondback terrapin is endangered in Rhode Island. Sornborger’s project, which is sponsored by the Barrington Land Conservation Trust, sprouted from a marsh preservation effort in 1988. “I was never much interested in turtles, but the reason we were doing this study was important,” she says. “Then, I really got interested in turtles.”