The diamondback terrapin, a unique marsh-dwelling turtle, has a rare group of friends: civically-minded high school students in New Jersey, who've captured the attention of state lawmakers. Thanks to the work of high schoolers at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science in Manahawkin, legislators introduced a bill in New Jersey that would no longer allow the turtles to be hunted in the state.
For years, the high school has studied terrapins in the area, as part of Project Terrapin. School supervisor John Wnek told the AP that the turtle population in a nearby island has shrunk to 70 animals, a decline of 30 percent since 2002. High school student Michael Signorelli, one of many students involved in introducing the legislation, is excited the turtles he's cared for might get well-deserved protection, the AP reported.
Because the animals live in brackish marshes along the coast - water that's not fresh but not too salty, either - climate change and rising sea levels pose a long-term threat to the turtle's survival. They are sensitive to heat, too, even as embryos in eggs. Conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife notes that warmer temperatures skew sex ratios, with hotter nests resulting in more females.