Turtles in the Chemistry Room

by Olivia Milne

Upon walking into the Chemistry classroom, many students at Sturgis will be surprised to see tiny Diamondback Terrapins swimming around in a tank in the back of the room.

Yes, that’s right; the sophomore and junior chemistry classes are now the proud owners of adorable turtles. The Diamondbacks are here as part of the town of Barnstable’s Marine and Environmental Affairs Division’s Headstart Program. The program was created in order to protect the turtle population at Sandy Neck Beach, where a dwindling number of terrapins are making their nests and laying eggs. The problem is, many of the eggs do not survive due to hazards such as vehicles and predators. Terrapins are officially on the endangered species list and are in danger of becoming extinct.
The Headstart Program, however, places these newly hatched turtles from the care of the Marine and Environmental Affairs Department into the care of classrooms and students like us. This program provides a home for the terrapins during the winter and helps them get on their way after hatching. Terrapins are relatively easy to care for. This program also places turtles in local elementary schools, such as West Villages Elementary and Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter School. Over the course of the year, chemistry students, along with Mrs. Most, will care for the turtles by feeding them, monitoring tank conditions, and measuring their growth. The turtles will leave us in June, when they are released back onto Sandy Neck. Last year’s program was a great success, with forty-four turtles released over a period of ten days.
Programs like this are incredibly important on Cape Cod, where wildlife is an integral part of our home. We must work to protect the wildlife around us, and make sure that the Cape’s unique species are around for a long time. Terrapins are only one of many endangered species on Cape Cod, so making sure that our two little friends get a chance at survival is the least we can do.
Stop by the chemistry room to see the terrapins in person, or learn more at the town of Barnstable’s website.