Enjoy Sun, Sand and Sea Turtles in Summer Biology Internship

sea turtles resizedThe College of Sciences’ biology major is looking for students to participate in a field research internship. Interns will log hundreds of hours over a four month period (May 5 to Aug. 17, 2014) locating, tagging and cataloging nesting sea turtles and their nests of eggs. The nests will be found along a 29-mile stretch of beaches from Patrick Air Force Base between Cocoa Beach and Satellite Beach, to the Sebastian Inlet State Park in Melbourne Beach. The female turtles emerge from the water, dig holes and lay their eggs between dusk and dawn each day.

Students will typically be working sunset to sunrise. Kendra Cope, who started working for the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group as a graduate student in 2012, said “It’s a lot of hard work. You definitely have to love field research and turtles to do it. You have to be dedicated.”

The internship is not paid and field conditions can be unforgiving at times. However, the students selected will have free housing available during their shifts, (three consecutive days/nights a week) courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Students can receive up to three academic credits for their work. They’ll also gain invaluable hands-on experience as they decide if field research is something they wish to pursue. This internship is a great networking opportunity because of the high-profile nature of the work being done and the unique location, Cope said. During their shifts, students are on standby like the rest of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group, to help with any reported turtle stranding and other marine emergencies.

“You will certainly learn a lot from all the hands-on experience. I know I did,” Cope said. She is pursuing a master’s degree in conservation biology at UCF. “It is a lot of work, that’s why we’re looking for students who are truly dedicated to the research this program is built on. The long-term data we collect is very important for the conservation of these threatened and endangered species.”

All of the sea turtle nesting data collected contributes to the group’s marine turtle monitoring program started in 1982 by UCF biologist Llew Ehrhart. For 32 years the group has conducted morning and nighttime beach monitoring and tagging of loggerheads, green turtles and leatherbacks during the nesting season. The group also has been conducting in-water, long-term research of the juvenile loggerhead and green turtles in the area year-round. Data from this project was responsible for establishing the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach in the early ’90s. The refuge is now the most important loggerhead nesting beach in the western hemisphere, and is critical to green sea turtles’ survival.

Some of the students who have been through the internship program since 2007 and earned their biology degrees at UCF are now working at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration among other institutions. Others are currently seeking a graduate-level degree at multiple institutions across the United States.

The internship is open to all students. Deadline to apply is Feb. 21. Those selected will be notified by March 31.

For more information email UCF.turtles@gmail.com.

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