whit with terrapin in creek1_edited

Dr. Whit Gibbons

Whit Gibbons, retired professor of ecology from the University of Georgia’s
Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, has conducted surveys and research projects
on reptiles and amphibians on Kiawah Island since 1974. In 1983, Whit began
participating with his family and several SREL students in annual surveys and
sampling of the diamondback terrapin population in Kiawah’s tidal creeks and
marshes. He has continued to be involved with others in the Kiawah Terrapin Project since that time.


Dr. Kristen Cecala

Kristen began working on the terrapin project on Kiawah Island in 2004 as an undergraduate student at Davidson College. Since then, she received her Ph.D. and is now faculty at the University of the South (Sewanee). While working primarily with amphibians, she continues to engage with the project by bringing Sewanee students to participate in sampling and through modeling population changes of this unique turtle.


Mike Frees

Mike is a naturalist and conservationist who first joined the project in the fall of 2010.  He is afflicted with a lifelong obsession with wild places and their inhabitants. Currently, he works as an outdoor educator spreading the gospel of the tidal salt marsh to more than 10,000 school children a year.


Mike Gibbons

Mike found the first two terrapins in the study all the way back in 1982, when he was just 10 years old. He grew up helping his dad, Whit, on the project and continues to this day. Professionally, Mike spent 15 years in journalism before moving to nonprofits. However, he is an avid amateur naturalist and spends as much time in the woods or the water as he can.


parker terrapin

Parker Gibbons

Parker has been chasing herps since he could walk, and has been seining the Kiawah River for terrapins since as long as he can remember. Parker spends as much time in the great outdoors as he can, either on foot or in his kayak. He is a rising senior at Oceanside Collegiate Academy, and plans to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and pursuing a career in herpetology.


Andrew Grosse

Andrew graduated from the University of Georgia in 2009 with a master’s degree in wildlife biology. His project investigated the status of and threats to the diamondback terrapin in Georgia.  After graduating Andrew worked at the Savannah River Ecology Lab where he assisted with numerous reptile and amphibian research projects until moving to Charleston, SC in 2012. Andrew currently works as the State Herpetologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

chris hagan

Cris Hagen

Cris Hagen is the Director of Animal Management for the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and is responsible for the strategic development and management of the TSA’s captive turtle assurance colonies in the U.S. In collaboration with the TSA, Cris has assembled one of the rarest collections of endangered turtle assurance colonies in the world. Cris has been studying turtles since he was 4 and has been working on the Kiawah Island Terrapin Project since 2003.


Dr. Leigh Anne Harden

Leigh Anne is an assistant professor of biology at Benedictine University (BenU), Lisle, IL. She is an integrative ecologist and has been involved in the research and conservation of reptiles and amphibians since 2005. She started working on the Kiawah Island Terrapin Project in 2006 and wrote her first peer-reviewed publication on this terrapin population! She continued to study diamondback terrapins into her PhD, focusing on their thermal biology, osmoregulatory physiology, and spatial ecology, with implications for interactions with the blue crab fishery. She continues to study terrapins today from Illinois!



Meg Hoyle

Meg Hoyle conducted her master’s research with the marked terrapin population at Kiawah in 1999. She is an educator and activist on Edisto Island and founded Botany Bay Ecotours

Jeff photo2

Dr. Jeff Lovich

Jeff started working on the Kiawah terrapin project in the summer of 1985, the year that Hurricane Bob came through. Terrapins were still abundant and easy to catch in “Terrapin Creek” across from the Inlet Cove dock on the Kiawah River. Despite living and working in the Desert Southwest since 1991, Jeff continues his interest in terrapins, including contributing two chapters, with Whit Gibbons and others, to the 2018 book on terrapin ecology and conservation by Willem Roosenburg and Vic Kennedy.


Tony Mills

Tony has participated in the Terrapin Project since 1985.He has worked in the field of environmental education for over three decades with emphasis on southeastern animals and plants and is currently education director for the LowCountry Institute on Spring Island, SC. Tony co-teaches the Lowcountry Master Naturalist Program and writes and hosts the Emmy award winning TV nature program “Coastal Kingdom.” He co-wrote the book “Lizards and Crocodilians of the Southeast.”

T. Rainwater and male Dermatemys (Rio Grande, Belize, 2011)

Dr. Thomas Rainwater

Thomas is a Research Scientist with the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center and Clemson University’s Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science in Georgetown, South Carolina. His research interests include the biology, ecotoxicology, and conservation of wildlife, with a focus on the impacts of environmental pollution, habitat alteration, and over-exploitation on crocodilians and turtles. He has worked on the Kiawah Island Terrapin Project since 2008.

Meagan Thomas

Meagan first got involved with the Kiawah Terrapin Project in 2014 when she served as the Research Manager for the Davidson College Herpetology Lab. During her time at Davidson, she was responsible for conducting research on terrapin populations in South Carolina and Georgia and had an active role coordinating Kiawah sampling. She now works as a Wildlife Biologist with Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries but continues to assist with sampling and logistics for the project.


Jake Zadik

Jake has an exceptional knowledge of the Kiawah waterways from his time working as an Environmental Interpreter on the Island and began participating with the Terrapin Project in 2014. Today he continues to work as an educator in the Lowcountry and engages in other conservation and research projects throughout the state. Along with several other herp enthusiasts, Jake helped kick off the state chapter of Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (SCPARC) and currently serves as Co-chair of this organization.


Juliana Smith

Juliana is a conservationist for a South Carolina based non-profit that works to protect natural Carolina landscapes, from salt marshes to pine savannas. She began participating in the terrapin project in 2013 as an environmental interpreter on Kiawah Island. In addition to her advocacy work, she continues leading programs to help guide students of all ages and backgrounds toward appreciating, understanding, and protecting our native wildlife.