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Join DWR’s Diamondback Dash

Do you love turtles? Do you love to kayak? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then we have an exciting volunteer opportunity for you!

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is inviting you to join our Diamondback Dash, a volunteer opportunity to help study the imperiled diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) of Virginia.

No two terrapins are exactly alike as the species displays a stunning variety of patterns and colorations as evidenced by the two seen in this image. Photo credit: Madeline Reinsel.

What is the Diamondback Dash?

The Diamondback Dash launched in 2023 with the goal of utilizing volunteers such as yourself to conduct standardized surveys, otherwise known as “headcounts,” in search of terrapins along Virginia’s coastal waterways and tidal tributaries.

The data collected from the Diamondback Dash will be used to keep terrapins and other wildlife healthy and safe by identifying high-priority waterways in need of protection and prioritizing shoreline conservation in areas that are of high value to terrapins.

Want to Learn More about Virginia’s Diamonds in the Rough?

Diamondback terrapins are an incredibly unique turtle as they are the only species in North America known to inhabit brackish water (a mix of salt and fresh water). Furthermore, the diamondback terrapin is considered a keystone predator of herbivorous crabs and snails in salt marsh ecosystems across the east coast of the United States, which means terrapins play a critical role in the maintenance of vegetation and overall marsh health.

Unfortunately, the species is in decline throughout its range due to a variety of threats like habitat loss, road mortality, nest predation, and mortality from crab pots. In Virginia, diamondback terrapins are listed as a Tier 2A Species of Greatest Conservation Need which means populations are at very low levels and/or occur within a very limited distribution. Learn more about diamondback terrapins »

You can directly help Virginia’s diamondback terrapins by joining our Diamondback Dash project!