SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Since the beginning of March, eight Sea Turtle Inc. interns have been working on various projects that have led to positive contributions in research, public education, nest conservation and rehabilitation, not only for local sea turtles, but for themselves as well.
Courtney King, 23, an intern from Plymouth, Michigan, said she “was scared of public speaking before this internship,” but doesn’t have that problem any more thanks to her experiences with Sea Turtle Inc.
“I came here and I had to give presentations to about 250 tourists almost every other day, so that was a really great experience for me because it took me out of my comfort zone,” she said. “Now I really don’t have a problem with public speaking.”
Sea Turtle Inc. has been offering internships for the past eight years. Interns spend 60 percent of their time giving educational presentations, promoting adoptions, memberships and helping in the gift shop.
Additionally, 30 percent of their time is spent conducting nest conservation activities such as looking for sea turtle nesting, maintenance and monitoring of relocated nests in a corral and helping during hatchling releases.
The remaining 10 percent is spent working with daily rehabilitation procedures and husbandry in the rehabilitation center.
However, those are not the only activities interns work on during their stay on the Island. Another part of the internship involves working on projects that can benefit the organization.
King has been working on a nesting project that discovered what happens to local nests that stay on the beach.
“It’s very dangerous for eggs to be left out on the beach,” King said.“So we marked them as if they were there and took pictures of them every day in the incubation period until the nest hatched in order to see what kind of things would have happened to the nest if it was left there.”
A different intern’s project involved gathering crabs and feeding them to one of Sea Turtle Inc.’s patients. He wanted to see if the turtle would be able to hunt in the wild and because of his project, discovered that the sea turtle could. The turtle was released a few days ago.
Another project revolved around the fireworks shows held during summer weekends on the Island. She went to the corral at night to see the vibrations and learn what it could do to a nest during fireworks shows on the beach during the months of June and July.
Sea Turtle Inc’s marketing and public relations manager Sanjuana Zavala said it’s very popular for South Padre Island to have firework shows.
“We do have one that’s on the beach that is fairly close to our nesting corral so the intern was recording vibrations to see if that would affect our nests,” she said.
All of these projects were science related, but not every project has to be.
“Anything that can benefit our organization and be aligned with the program through their project is what we tell them,” Zavala said about the approved projects.
Some interns create art projects with recycled materials from trash that’s left out on the beach and other interns create canvas work like oil paintings that are placed in live auctions during fundraisers that help raise money for Sea Turtle Inc.
The amount of creative projects is endless. Interns have even made educational scripts and puppet shows for the kids who visit Sea Turtle Inc.
King wants to encourage people who are interested in working with wildlife to start volunteering.
“I would start getting in and gaining experience because it’s really awesome to work with something that’s so rewarding and so selfness almost,” she said. “Coming to work every day is so much fun and making a difference is really important.”
One of her favorite things about this internship is being able to release the sea turtles.
“You see sea turtles come in missing limbs, with hooks or in tangles. It’s obviously very sad, especially when it’s human caused. But once you see those turtles being released back into the wild because we helped them, feels extremely rewarding,” King said.
This year, Sea Turtle Inc. will be having its first set of fall/winter education interns. People have already been selected and notified for this year’s internship. However, others who want to become an intern can apply for the spring internship. The application opens in September.
Zavala is looking forward to Community Day because the public will be able to learn about the interns’ projects and be able to join the organization in saying a final farewell to its interns.
One intern made a video montage of her entire internship experience and will be playing it at Community Day so the public will be able to relive those special experiences with the interns.