With 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has a big responsibility that cannot be accomplished by staff alone. Through the Reserve’s citizen support organization, Friends of Rookery Bay, volunteers and interns are filling many gaps with duties ranging from beautifying the grounds at the Environmental Learning Center to maintaining beach-nesting bird area postings and even monitoring sea turtle nests at the Cape Romano complex.
Two young ladies, Lizzy Linsmayer and Kellie Heney, have filled this summer’s internship positions in the sea turtle monitoring program and are conducting their work from the Ten Thousand Islands Field Station. This facility also serves as the hub for the Team OCEAN stewardship program, many of the reserve’s monitoring programs, and research conducted by visiting scientists.
Kellie Heney is a Canadian who enjoys playing the guitar and flute, reading, and practicing judo! She has wanted to study sea turtles for as long as she can remember and her childhood bedrooms were often filled with sea turtle memorabilia. Kellie studied biology at Queen’s University and there got involved with field work at the university’s biological station. This work reinforced her decision to study sea turtles and led her to this internship at Rookery Bay Reserve. She hopes to learn as much as she can about sea turtles and their habitat during this internship and be able to bring this new knowledge back to Canada to share. Kellie plans to attend graduate school and complete a Masters project involving sea turtles. Her internship is funded by the Friends of Rookery Bay.
Lizzy Linsmayer is a Colorado native who enjoys skiing, biking, dancing, and travelling! She hopes to land a job that allows her to continue exploring the world while doing work she loves. Lizzy says that she applied for this internship “because of a forgotten childhood fantasy of becoming a Marine Biologist.” After studying abroad in Sydney, Australia and diving the Great Barrier Reef, she knew she wanted an internship that combined her love of being on the water and her geology major at Amherst College. Lizzy hopes that this internship will help her learn more about marine biology, in particular, the conservation efforts being put into effect and how to preserve underwater diversity.
Lizzy is a senior at Amherst College and applied for the Reserve’s internship through the Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences NOAA Internship Program. This program connects students from five different colleges in western Massachusetts with research internships at marine laboratories and other institutions such as Rookery Bay Reserve. The interns from this program gain valuable experience working in a research lab, performing data analysis, and conducting field work. Interns from this program demonstrate a high level of commitment, involvement, and professionalism.
The Reserve works in cooperation with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Collier County Natural Resources and the Conservancy of SW Florida to protect threatened sea turtles nesting on area beaches. Staff relies tremendously on assistance from Team OCEAN volunteers and summer interns to patrol the beaches of Sea Oat Island, Cape Romano, Kice Island, and other islands in the Ten Thousand Islands five days a week during nesting season (May through October), rain or shine. All are trained to locate nests and place cages over them to protect the eggs from predation by raccoons.
While interning at the Reserve these young ladies will have the opportunity to be involved in many activities, working alongside researchers and other staff to gain knowledge and experience. They are developing their outreach skills both through a weekly website blog and through the delivery of a final presentation to staff and volunteers sharing the results of their work and the knowledge they gained.