Towson University professor Richard Seigel and alumna Teal Richards-Dimitrie never thought this day would happen.
Their five years of work along the Susquehanna River led to Tuesday night’s ceremony that formalized the new partnership between Towson University and the Town of Port Deposit to research and preserve the endangered northern map turtle.
Port Deposit Mayor Wayne Tome and TU President Maravene Loeschke signed a memorandum of understanding in the historic Port Deposit Carriage House before dozens of neighbors, students, researchers and government officials. Through this partnership, the university and the town will pursue initiatives related to research, education and economic development through ecotourism.
“The people of Port Deposit have been so supportive from the very beginning. I would tell one person about something we were doing, and the next thing I knew everyone in town was talking about it and asking how they could help,” said Richards-Dimitrie, who now works with the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Richards-Dimitrie led a team of student researchers as a graduate student at Towson and has returned each summer to assist with the ongoing project.
“It’s incredible that this project has come this far and there is so much that can be done now with this type of partnership and this much support,” Richards-Dimitrie continued.
Through this partnership, the state has allocated funding to help rehabilitate the historic Port Deposit Gas House. The building, which is currently empty, will serve two purposes. The first floor will be a visitor’s center with information and exhibits about the town and the northern map turtle. The second floor will be research space for TU students, including accommodations for overnight observation of the turtle.
“From the beginning when Teal and Dr. Seigel brought the plight of the turtle to our attention, the turtle has been a rallying point for our community,” said Tome. “We are proud to enter into this partnership with Towson University. … We look forward to the day that the map turtle and Port Deposit are solidly on the road to recovery.”
President Loeschke delivered remarks at the ceremony, thanking the town for welcoming the university, its students and staff into their community.
“Towson is here to serve our students and the community and when we can get our students into the community, that’s the top of the arc,” said Loeschke, who also mentioned that the turtle is her favorite animal. “We are so pleased to start this partnership to make sure that the northern map turtle has it’s home here forever.”