That time I worked with a sea turtle

Last year had a lot of firsts for me. It was my first year of college, my first year living away from home and my first year taking classes that actually interested me. However, even when I moved here, I still felt I fell behind a lot of other people in my major. There are so many talented students here at NSU, and many of the marine biology majors already had experience working in that field. 


I had grown up in Wisconsin, where there was little to no opportunity to even encounter marine organisms unless they were in captivity. I had worked with animals before and had some experience with reptiles, but when I came to NSU, I felt so behind the other people around me. 


During the first semester of school, I got an email about marine biology related internships in my area and decided to apply for one on a whim. I truly didn’t think anything would come of it, considering my lack of experience working with marine animals.


A few months later, when I thought for sure they had hired someone else, I received an email from the Marine Environmental Education Center at the Carpenter House (MEEC) about an interview. The center was about 20 minutes away, and while I had no car, I was determined to give it a shot. A month after that, when I was sure yet again I had not gotten the position, I got another email. I started in January.


I spent the weeks before winter break rushing between offices, filing and signing paperwork and figuring out how I would get to work and what my schedule would be like. It was both daunting and exciting. I was so ready to start doing work that I love, but both of the other hired interns were upperclassmen and I was determined to prove myself.


There wasn’t one thing that I didn’t enjoy about working at the MEEC. The team was composed of a few official staff members and many kind-hearted volunteers, all friendly and helpful. I never dreaded coming to work and found myself excited to wake up early every morning and get started with the daily routine. Going to work was genuinely my favorite part of the day, and my grades improved as I felt more motivated. I got to help give presentations, go to seminars and events and was even honored to represent the MEEC at the Recruit A Shark event last winter semester.


While the staff and the events were wonderful, the best part was getting to work with their resident green sea turtle, Captain, and the other reptiles at the MEEC. I felt so lucky to be getting hands-on experience from professionals who had years of experience, and the more I worked, the more I felt caught up with my classmates. I asked a lot of questions every opportunity I had and learned so many new and interesting things about sea turtles — like the tip of their noses feel a little like a dog’s nose and the difference in carapace shape and diets between species. I learned more and more about sea turtles and other marine animals every day.


This internship was one of the most exciting, intimidating and rewarding experiences I have ever had. Not only was this internship enjoyable, but it helped me feel truly capable and confident in my professional abilities.

Photo: J. Bauman

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