Volunteers in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have been assisting Florida Sea Grant with surveying our bay area for indicator species. Bay scallops were once found in high enough numbers to support both a commercial and recreational harvest, but no longer. Declining water quality, loss of habitat, and overharvesting have made the animal rare in our area. Diamondback terrapins are the only resident turtle in brackish environments – they particularly like salt marshes. These turtles have declined all across their range and are protected in most coastal states. Studies show that the reduction of terrapins within a marsh can lead to an increase in herbivores, such as the marsh periwinkle, which will in turn – overgraze the marsh. Florida Sea Grant has been interested in monitoring these two species in our area.
The Great Scallop Survey
In 2016 96 volunteers were trained to survey for scallops in Santa Rosa Sound and Big Lagoon, historically popular locations for this shellfish. Volunteers worked in teams of 3-4 in 1-nautical mile square grids. Within these grids they were asked to conduct 4 50×2 meter transects searching for scallop. 31 such grids were surveyed. 111 transects conducted. Only one live scallop was found, though scallop shells were found in several grids. Scallops only live 1-2 years so relatively clean shells indicated recent occupation. You can read the entire report by visiting the MARINE SCIENCE page of this website.
Diamondback Terrapin Survey
In 2016 19 volunteers were trained to survey for terrapins. They were divided into four regions: Perdido, Pensacola Beach, Garcon, and Navarre Beach. 42 surveys were conducted. 26 were in Perdido – no terrapins (or terrapin sign) were found. Pensacola Beach conducted 4 surveys – 1 depredated nest was found. Five surveys were conducted on Garcon – there were 10 records of terrapins there. Records included heads in the water, tracks on the beach, and depredated nests. Four surveys were conducted on Navarre Beach – 4 records occurred here including tracks and depredated nests – no live terrapins were seen. You can read the entire report by visiting the MARINE SCIENCE page of this website.