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Preparing for the future

Preparing for the future

Summer internships help students become employment-ready

University of Delaware sophomore Hannah Babbitz believes that when life does not hand you the opportunity you want, sometimes you need to create it on your own.

“I didn’t ‘hear’ about this internship,” she says. “I actually created it myself.”

Passionate about leatherback sea turtles, the marine biology and chemistry double major wanted to contribute to their conservation, so she spent weeks making phone calls to the Nature Conservancy, the St. Croix Environmental Association and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and worked with UD’s College Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) to officially turn her project idea into an internship.

This led to not one, but two summer internships with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the St. Croix Environmental Association (SEA) in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

With the support of Nina Buchanan, her academic adviser and CEOE assistant dean, and Joanna York, research assistant professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy, Babbitz got her internship approved, bought herself an airplane ticket and found herself a place to stay in St. Croix.

As a turtle conservation intern, Babbitz worked with TNC and SEA on The Turtle Project ¾ an islandwide project in which TNC, SEA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service collaborate in researching leatherback sea turtles and conservation efforts.

Her days involved taking biopsies of turtle fins, investigating the cause of death of unhatched eggs, watching a mother leatherback make and lay her nest, studying turtle injuries, and diving with turtles in their natural habitats.

One of her most rewarding experiences, Babbitz says, was rescuing three leatherback turtle hatchlings and subsequently releasing them back into the environment.

“Everyone is dedicated to saving this endangered species,” she says. “The whole community on the island is aware and concerned about the conservation of all sea turtle species and they work as a community to clean and protect the waters and beaches.”

Expanding her skillset

In Clearwater, Florida, more than 1,300 miles away, Jennifer Riling, senior marine science major, was broadening her diving skills as a dive intern with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

“I love aquariums and decided that I would try to get an internship as an aquarium diver,” says Riling, who completed a scientific diving course during a UD study abroad trip and previously worked with the National Aquarium’s volunteer program in Baltimore.

During her internship, Riling participated in underwater dive shows with a team to educate and interact with the public about species that call the aquarium home, such as turtles, sharks, stingrays and various fish. She also helped develop a dive manual to explain the different levels of aquarium diving.

“Although aquarium diving is very different than recreational diving I have seen my diving skills and abilities greatly improve,” she says. “I am also working on completing a rescue diver course, which will allow me to become a master diver, all of which will prepare me for a career as a scientific diver.”

Home sweet home

Closer to home, Troy Saltiel and Alyssa Lutgen worked to positively impact Delaware communities.

Saltiel, a sophomore environmental science major, spent the summer as a biological aide with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. In this role, his main tasks were to perform routine mosquito breeding surveillance and abatement activities, using methods such as fogging to monitor and control mosquito populations in areas that are prominent breeding grounds for mosquitoes across the state.

He also had the opportunity to collect field data for record keeping, address citizen mosquito complaints and help educate citizens on ways to reduce mosquito breeding within their communities to protect against mosquito-borne diseases.

Lutgen, senior environmental science major, interned with the city of Newark’s Public Works Department as an assistant to the city’s stormwater program coordinator.

Her responsibilities included inspecting outfalls, or the place where a river, drain or sewer empties into the sea, a river or a lake; writing standard operating procedures for the city; taking water samples to determine water quality; and updating information about the city’s stormwater infrastructure system.

“These experiences provide our students with the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom and expand the scope of their knowledge. Students gain new skills, make connections in their fields, and learn different perspectives on problem solving,” says Buchanan. “We know that these experiences are invaluable for preparing for careers and graduate school.” 

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