University of Georgia

Saving local biodiversity in the South through community partnerships

University of Georgia researcher John Maerz
(Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker)


These salamanders were photographed by Maerz at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in Otto, Macon County, North Carolina.

salamander on leaf
salamander on leaf
salamander on moss

Working in partnership with the local community

And it’s not just salamanders. On Jekyll Island, Maerz and his team studied the threats to diamondback terrapins, which live in the salt marshes and are at risk of decline and local extinction because of human-related threats.

The turtles get into crab traps and drown, and females are often hit by cars when crossing roads in search of nesting areas.

Diamondback Terrapin Turtle
Diamondback Terrapin Turtle

“So we spent nearly 10 years trying to estimate and develop models, and measure the impact of roads and crabbing on terrapins,” said Maerz. “We then worked with the local community and ran different scenarios and strategies for them using all of the biology that we had learned about the turtle and helped them develop a plan for trying to conserve that turtle species.”

The strategies, from flashing signs that warn drivers of nesting turtles to barriers that keep terrapins off the road, are yielding results. The decline in the terrapin population has slowed.

As ecologists develop tools and new models to improve our understanding of animal populations, it is up to communities to reflect on the value of wildlife and partner with scientists like Maerz to manage and conserve their biodiversity.

University of Georgia researcher John Maerz

About the Researcher

John Maerz

Josiah Meigs Distinguished Professor

Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources

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