Student Spotlight - Summer of 2021
Marek Bering, our first intern from Germany and a vet student, worked under Dr. Alan Zavala at the field station in Navachiste, Mexico. His project was “Evaluation of health parameters in mesocarnivorian mammals and abundance of in the Sierra Navachiste. “ This involved animal trapping, sedation, blood analysis, and taking morphometrics. The results help understand how this protected area works ecologically.
Interns Clara Figueredo (below right) and Jose Bisbe (left), from Uruguay and Cuba respectively, are students at Florida International University. They received scholarships from National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation, the Gilman Study Abroad Program, and the Ron Magill Conservation Scholarship Fund at the Miami Zoo for their research project in Sayulita, Mexico. They will be presenting a poster at the 50th International Sea Turtle Symposium in Perth, Australia (virtually) – “Comparison of beach hatchery and box nursery methods effect on hatchlings at an olive ridley beach: hatching success, physical fitness, morphometrics, and congenital malformation rates” with co-authors. They were featured here in their school news. https://casenews.fiu.edu/2021/09/28/can-long-lasting-styrofoam-boxes-incubate-sea-turtle-eggs/
Grace Brod from Oregon State and Roxy Mittelstaedt from Wofford University performed the same study “Artificial Lighting on a Sea Turtle Nesting Beach.” Roxy was in Akumal, Mexico and Grace on Playa San Miguel in Costa Rica. As expected, female turtles of all three species on both beaches tended to nest in darker areas. Conservation recommendations include more homeowner and renter outreach to ask for cooperation in turning off lights during the nesting season.
Also, at Akumal, Stephanie Pentiuk and Joshua Simmonds, masters students at RMSAS at the University of Miami, collected their thesis data with the local coral team. The Center provided historical data on fishes and corals and the students contributed 60 more monitoring dives to their databases. After two years of no monitoring due to COVID, Josh’s project “Decadal Changes in Reef Fish Assemblages in Akumal and their Responses to the Presence of Coral Restoration Areas” concluded that restored coral areas did not have different fish assemblages than prior years. Stephanie’s project “Phase Shifts and Ecological Influences on Coral Health” has exciting implications for coral restoration efforts and will be completed in 2022.
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2020
Cora McClelland (right) majored in Wildlife Studies at the University of California Davis and was stationed at the San Pancho, Nayarit turtle project. When not patrolling for turtles and doing their research, she helped many animals in her new community. Shortly after returning home she landed a job as Scientific Aid for the CA Fish and wildlife Service.
Cora managed the Build a Better Box for Sea Turtles project which involved building and testing 14 egg incubators. The results can be found here https://thescienceexchange.org/build-a-better-box-design-contest-instructions/
Ellery Newcomer is a graduate of Clemson University where she majored in Conservation Biology. When not working and helping at the community center, she was exploring the marine habitats of Nayarit with her new friends.
Ellery’s research project was to test the ocean and river in San Pancho for E. Coli, which is an indicator of health hazards for turtles and humans. She found extremely high levels in the ocean after big storms connected the estuary (where a sewage treatment plant discharges) to the surf spot. Upriver there were also signs of fecal contamination, which needs more investigation.
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2019
Jack Drummond (left) majors in Biochemistry and Molecular Chemistry at Boston University and Tristan Richardson (right) majors in Forensic Biology at Miracosta College. At the Mayto turtle camp in Mexico they participated in snorkel transects and taking biometric data on hawksbill turtles. They analyzed historical data and interviewed fishermen to determine catch per unit effort.
Keyla Rodriguez (left) a local to Boca de Tomatlan, Jalisco and student at the University of Vizcaya de las Americas, Monica Monda (middle) from Seattle University and Caleigh Lutz (right) from Colgate University are shown here teaching the Boca de Tomatlan 6th grade about the longevity of beach pollution. Monica took baseline E. Coli water samples in the river and ocean, and Caileigh removed 2,500 pieces of trash and catalogued them using the NOAA protocol.
Madison McLoughlin (left), a journalism major from Loyola University, is writing a book with 27 years of data and anecdotes from San Pancho, Nayarit’s turtle man Frank Smith. One chapter has already been published at Sea Turtle Research and Conservation – 1st Edition (elsevier.com). She was accepted into John Hopkins Scientific Writing Masters Program.
Teresa Rubio (right) is a biology graduate from San Diego State and initiated our first avian internship in San Pancho. She performed 72 point counts recording all species, their conservation status, and land use threats. Her project was to recommend conservation areas for birds using GIS.
Diana Rubi Huerta graduated as a veterinarian from the Universidad Autonoma de San Luis Potosí in Mexico. Her research tested differences in temperature, hatching success, malformations, and physical fitness of turtle hatchlings between the beach nursery and the Styrofoam boxes at Boca de Tomates, Jalisco turtle camp. She presented her results at the Grupo Tortuguero conference in 2020 and her article is in review at Ciencias Marinas journal.
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2018
Alexander Bingham Fortner (right) majored in Bioengineering at the University of California San Diego. Patricio Madrigal Luna (left) was a Biology mayor at the Tecnológico Nacional de México Bahía de Banderas campus. They were studying the effect of sand temperature on the survival of embryos in a beach hatchery at Mayto Beach, Jalisco.
Darian Double (upper right) from University of Michigan and Katie Toon (upper left) a Neuroscience major from Pitzer College in California kicked off the second year of snorkeling transects in a multi-year study of the Fish Assemblage of Los Arcos Marine Park. Katie traded places halfway through the study with Kirsten Stokes (lower photo), a sixth-grade teacher from Florida and graduate of Texas A&M who wanted to help save turtles in Mexico over the summer! They lived in Boca de Tomatlan, Jalisco. Their manuscript is in review for publication.
Fernando Herrera Abundis (left) was a Mechatronics Instituto Tecnólogico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey and Karla Maribel Piña Moctezuma (right) was a Sustainable Innovation and Energy Engineering at the Universidad de Monterrey. They took a comprehensive view of solid waste pollution in their host village Boca de Tomatlan, Jalisco, Mexico. They used data from their NOAA marine debris data study, surveys of the community, and performed education and outreach in the primary school.
Emer Creedon (upper right) studied Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University College Cork in Ireland and is a competitive equestrian. The turtle camp at San Pancho, Nayarit, Mexico asked for an E. Coli study of their nearshore waters where turtles forage and mate. She worked on this with her partner Allison Carothers (left) a Fisheries & Wildlife, Animal Science major from University of Nebraska. Alli did a study of nest temperatures in relationship to climate variables in several different ex situ and in situ scenarios. Emma Urofsky (below) was on a gap year, and continued Alli’s study in the fall.
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2017
Team Boca de Tomatlan in Mexico consisted of Shelli Hendricks, a Ph.D. candidate at Fielding University and Kelly Scammon a Marine Biology major at Roger Williams. They snorkeled 18 transects at Los Arcos marine reserve and documented illegal fishing activities to determine the faunal assemblage and threats. Kelly has graduated and works as a Research Assistant at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, for which she credits The Science Exchange! Shelli is using successes and lessons learned from The Science Exchange’s 62 interns for her social science dissertation. She presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology conference and the ISTS in Kobe, Japan. View the power point here.
Kylie Blattman, a biology major at San Diego State studied the sand temperatures at Boca de Tomates nesting beach in Mexico. She found a significant relationship between high sand temperatures which can kill sea turtle eggs and sea level pressure which is expected to increase with climate change.
Dylan Garbarini is a Biology major at St. Michael’s college and worked at Majahuas sea turtle camp in Mexico. His project was to determine the predation rates of sea turtle nest by mammals in the bordering jungle. He used two methods, footprint traps and motion detector cameras.
Justine Thompson at Florida Gulf Coast University majors in Environmental Studies. She worked with Ph.D. candidate Beth Whitman to characterize fibropapilloma virus outbreaks on green sea turtles around Abaco, Bahamas. She now works at Sanders Environmental Lab in Florida!
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2016
Team TSE Abaco, Bahamas includes: Laura Thorton from University of Miami y, Liberty Boyd at Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, and Ryley Parent, a recent graduate from San Diego State University (from right to left). They spent their days going out on the water and snorkeling to collect data for a Ph.D. thesis under Dr. Beth Whitman. Laura presented at the 2016 Biosciences conference and Liberty at the 2017 North American Echinoderm Conference. Body Burrowing Sea Cucumbers NAEC Presentation 2017. Ryley was featured in the Abaco newspaper, and Laura returned to Abaco to give a presentation at the Annual Friends of Abaco conference. Ryley also gave an oral presentation and Liberty a poster at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Las Vegas 2017. Liberty has been accepted as a Ph.D. student at Florida International University in the same lab as her mentor Beth Whitman. Laura was hired by the FL Dept of Environmental Protection Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection and is getting her masters at Cornell. Also through the internship, Ryley got a job with National Geographic as a photographer and as an assistant researcher with Earthwatch!! They don’t stop to rest!
Our first high school interns, Tim and Darby Gaffney (middle) accompanied their parents during a three week study of tourist and turtle interactions in Akumal, Mexico. Click here to see their poster presented at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Las Vegas in 2017. Tim now attends Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Darby is at UCLA. They continue to work for conservation causes through their own Gaffney Sea Turtle Foundation.
Team Mayto, Mexico at right consists of Jordan Pares-Kane at Cornell University and Shelley Martinez at University of San Diego. They are repeating the sand temperature and elevation studies started in 2014 by former interns Jay and Jake (below). Shelley is a Husbandry Assistant at Sea Life Aquarium, and Jordan got a summer job at the Nature Conservancy before heading to Costa Rica to work for the University of Georgia.
Elizabeth Kocek started out as an intern in San Diego while finishing her masters program at UCSD in Global Policy. After graduating she became our Development Officer. Major accomplishments include a white paper on the benefits of studying abroad for STEM majors which she presented at a UCSD graduate student TED talk contest. She also helped develop a financial strategic plan for our non-profit organization. She has lived in many countries and speaks multiple languages.
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2015
Jourdan Thomas, a dual major in fisheries and wildlife and forestry at the University of Missouri lived with Kara (right) at the open air Mayto camp in Mexico. The repeated elevation surveys of the nesting beach done in 2014. With the data they calculated rate of change over time and made predictions about sea level rise in the area. Jourdan returned to Mexico to live the next year. She works part time as a NOAA fisheries observer.
Kara Hiebert, a biology major at Bethel College worked with Jourdan on the sea level rise research. She got into vet school at the University of Illinois! Read her published her work with Jay Shaker from 2014 in the Journal of Global Ecology and Environment.
Susana Najera majored in biology at SDSU received the MHIRT grant in 2015. She tested surface and ocean waters for E. Coli and collecting data on ambient indicators in Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico. Susana presented her poster at the Student Research Symposium at SDSU. Check out her poster here! She was accepted for a research position at Harvard medical school!
Megan Malone majored in public health at SDSU and received the MHIRT grant. With Susana she tested surface and ocean waters for E. Coli. Megan presented a poster at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle. Susana presented her poster at the Student Research Symposium at SDSU. Check out her poster here! She is going for a masters in global health at University of Washington.
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Left to right – Jeremy Zaida is a biology major at SDSU, Jose Santana is a marine biology major, and Regine Troissou is a sustainable tourism major at the Instituto Technologico de Bahia de Banderas. They make up a trinational team from the U.S, Mexico, and Haiti (respectively). With the help of the Waitt Foundation and Sea World Conservation Fund, they are performing baseline NOAA protocol trash surveys in 3 different land use zones, and using the SWOT protocol to estimate the sea turtle population. Chema works in ecotourism and continues to help The Science Exchange by training new interns in Puerto Vallarta.
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2014
Sara Amour (right) attended SDSU in biology and was the MHIRT grant recipient for 2014. She worked closely with Regina Valentino (Stonybrook University, Biology) in Sayulita, Mexico on the first ever Characterization of E. Coli in recreational waters of the Riviera Nayarit, Mexico and possible implications for human and marine ecosystem health study. After graduation, Regina went to La Flor Nicaragua to work on an olive ridley arribada nesting beach and the Bahamas Turtle Project.
Jay Shaker (left) attends Rensselaer Poly Tech and majors in Engineering. Jake Cecelski (UNC Wilmington, Biology) were “Team Mayto”, in Mayto, Mexico. They lived and cooked under palapas, and after monitoring for sea turtles on 14 km of pristine beaches, they implemented a comprehensive climate change study. They profiled sand temperatures and elevations, along with their predicted levels in 2100 for their study area. Jay was accepted at Carnegie-Melon Engineering graduate program and published a paper with Kara Heibert. Click here to see the article.
Claire Andrews (right) was a recent San Diego State graduate in Biology and chose to enrich her resume by doing research with Ashley Comerfield, a biology student at Oregon State. They implemented the same pollution study that former intern Julia Ramos (2011) and others have carried out on Costa Rican nesting beaches – characterizing the type, size, and density of pollution for NOAA, and correlating the densities with turtle activity for wildlife managers. Ashley continued her conservation work as an intern in the Galpagos Islands and flew to Japan for the ISTS conference in 2018.
Beth Whitman (second from left) was an intern for the Science Exchange in San Diego. She became a Ph.D. student at Florida International University and does sea turtle research in the Caribbean. She is now on the Advisory Board of and one of our top supervisors at the Science Exchange! Click here to watch a short video about her research.
Student Spotlight - Summer of 2013
Juan David Roulliard was an Environmental Science major at Westminster College, and was trained to implement the first ever strip transect in time survey on the olive ridley mass nesting beach at Isla Canas, Panama. However, the arribada never occurred so the team performed pollution surveys and helped protect eggs and nesting turtles from poachers who previously took 100% of the eggs. He now works as a Biotechnition at a a lab in Salt Lake City.
Brett Birdwell (right) was a Bio Major and MHIRT grant recipient at San Diego State University. He lived with a host family on Isla Canas, Panama Click here to see the poster presented at_ISTS_in New Orleans 2014. Brett went on to intern with Accion Verde in Colombia and work at a sea turtle project called LAST in Costa Rica and now works as an Agricultural Inspector for the County of San Diego.
Tammy Wilson at left (was a Bio major, UC San Diego) partnered with Karlee Weiler to her right (Mass Communications major, Colorado University) at Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica. They repeated the NOAA Marine Debris study performed the previous year and compared the results over time, as well as creating a social media project to get the word out about how pollution effects nesting beaches we what we can do to help. Click here to see Karlee’s project! Tammy secured a position at the sea turtle lab at Scripps Institute and now works at a Biotech lab in Los Angeles. She is going for a Masters in Marine Science.
Makenna Martin (Bio major, UC Santa Cruz) partnered with Cori Cramer (Bio major, Univ. of Michegan). They rotated between 3 different nesting beaches in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, protecting turtles and implementing the NOAA pollution surveys. Cori got into the Masters program in Ecology at SDSU and Makenna got her Masters degree at Florida Atlantic University and is going to the joint Ph.D. program at SDSU-UCSD in Science Education! Cori and Makenna both presented at the ISTS 2014 in New Orleans. Click here to see their poster!
Student Spotlight – Summer 2012
Alyssa Giffin (Australian national attending Hawaii Pacific University as a Marine Biology major), Kristen Zemaitis (Bio Major, Grand State University), and Lizette Guzman-Zaragoza (Bio Major and MHIRT grant recipient at San Diego State University) were implementing the first ever country-wide WWF climate change impact analysis on 3 sea turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica. They collected data on beach parameters using the same equipment during the same study period and predicted the impacts of rising air temperatures on survivability and female/male sex ratios of future hatchlings. See their poster from the International Sea Turtle Symposium 2013 and click here to see Kristen’s poster presented at the Western Michegan Student Research Sysmposium. Lizette and Alyssa have gotten masters degrees in Marine Ecology and Botany. Kristen landed a job as AmeriCorps Research Technician at Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Lizette is now a Board member of The Science Exchange and works at Alpine Environmental Labs in San Francisco.
Lauren Piorkowsi (Marine Science major, Kutztown University), Kari Gerhke (Marine Biology major, San Francisco State University), and Emily Kuzmick (Environmental Science major, Ohio University) implemented a similar ground-breaking study on the effects of beach pollution on 3 sea turtle nesting beaches in Costa Rica. Their research questions were what types and sizes of pollution are found on the nesting beach, what is the rate of accumulation, and is trash density correlated to nesting activity? Emiliy became a Teaching Assistant while getting her MS in Environmental Studies and doing research with the BIOS department at Ohio State. Kari and Emily got into graduate schools, and Lauren worked at Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery. Kari landed an internship with NOAA Fisheries Sea Turtle Program in San Diego. See Kari’s ISTS Presentation from 2013.
Ricardo Espino (Biology major at SDSU and also a recipient of the MHIRT grant recipient) was stationed at Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica and worked capturing turtles from boats. Once back at the “beach hospital”, the team took blood and tissue samples, turtles were measured and tagged, and returned to sea. He mapped turtle foraging habitat with GPS. He is now an Educator at Sea World! Jennifer Cheatham (International Business Major, SDSU) was fulfilling her required international business internship credits on 3 beautiful beaches in Costa Rica! Her project was to interview sea turtle camp stakeholders and develop a business and marketing plan for a start-up sea turtle camp. She now works as a Systems Analysts for an Defense and Space company.
Student Spotlight – Summer 2011
Gabriela Ponce, a Biology major at SDSU was supported by the MHIRT grant from National Institute of Health. She worked in Punta Banco Costa Rica where she helped monitor nesting sea turtles at night, and measured the physical aspects of the nesting beach such as sand humidity and grain size as a baseline for future global warming studies. Gabi is an Ecology masters student at San Francisco State!
Veronica Pollan was an Environmental Studies major from Florida International University working in Quintana Roo, Mexico where she snorkeled transects of Akumal Bay recording the turtles, their behavior, their habitat and tourist interactions with GPS. She also helped monitor nesting sea turtles at night.
Marielle Livesey was a Conservation Biology masters student at Antioch University doing her thesis on global warming effects on the sea turtle nesting beaches at Akumal. She analyzed female nest site preferences and the relationship with hatching success. Click here to read her published paper! She still patrols the beach for turtles in Jacksonville, Florida.
Kim Valma was a Biology major at SDSU and was also supported by the MHIRT grant from National Institute of Health. She worked in Punta Banco Costa Rica where she helped monitor nesting sea turtles at night, and measured the slope of the as a baseline for future global warming studies related to sea level rise.
.Julia Ramos (far right) is a Biology and Women’s Studies major at Chapel Hill University. She was in Costa Rica doing the first NOAA protocol plastics survey of her nesting beach, where she also monitored the female turtles who come ashore nightly. She published in the Marine Turtle Newsletter July 2012. Also Check out the poster from ISTS 2012! Julia subsequently volunteered in Africa and got into John Hopkins medical school.
Karen Collins was our first Mexican intern and highschool intern. She is the daughter of a fisherman in Baja California Sur and spent the summer helping Ph.D. candidate Hoyt Peckam with turtle captures and educational outreach.
Student Spotlight – Summer 2010
Nicole Gabriel, a psychology major, worked in Quintana Roo, Mexico where she monitored sea turtle nesting activity at night, protecting nesting females, informing tourists about sea turtle conservation, and recording data on the nesting activities. During the day she administered a survey of tourists’ and locals’ understanding of sea turtle protection. Click here to see her poster presented at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in San Diego in 2011. She now works at Ashford University.
Nick Furst, a biology major at SDSU, helped on night patrols translocating sea turtles nests to the hatchery. During the day he took slope measurements of the beach and temperature readings of the sand and air near the hatchery and at different nesting locations. His work was presented at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in San Diego. Click here to see their power point.
Allie Baxter was an Environmental Science major performed the same sand temperature study as Nick but on the East Coast of Mexico. Allie got into the masters program at the University of Colorado. She is also co-presented with Nick at the ISTS in San Diego and at The SDSU Undergraduate Student Research Symposium in 2011.
Cody Smith, a biology major at SDSU, interviewed locals near his camp on their knowledge of sea turtle poaching and helped monitor nesting females at night in Jalisco. He is now in medical school at Arizona State!
Student Spotlight – Summer 2009
Monica Rosquillas, an International Security and Conflict Resolution major, worked in Quintana Roo, Mexcio. Monica monitored sea turtle nesting activity and led tours during night-time nesting patrols. During the day she snorkeled for one hour taking photos of tourists interacting with turtles in the bay ,and administered a survey of tourists’ understanding of sea turtle protection. Her work is published in the proceedings of the 2010 International Sea Turtle Symposium held in India. Click here to see the poster! Monica was the environmental education coordinator at I Love a Clean San Diego and currently is a travelling blogger see “Girl for a Clean World.”
Sonia Woodbury, a masters graduate from Audubon University in MA, worked for 3 months in La Paz, Baja California Sur with UABCS. She helped with sea turtle tracking and net-capture projects and also mapped sea grass and algae foraging habitat while SCUBA diving in Ojo de Liebre, Magdalena Bay, Punta Abreojos, Laguna San Ignacio, and Isla Espiritu Santos. She published an article in Spanish in a local La Paz newspaper on previous UABCS Marine Lab research. She helped rescue sea turtles during the BP oil spill.
Jeff Treister (left), a Geography Major, worked in Costa Rica. He helped on night patrols translocating sea turtles nests to the hatchery. During the day he took slope measurements of the beach and interviewed local residents on beach morphology changes over the last 10 and 20 years.
Student Spotlight – Summer 2008
Daniel Soares (far right) graduated from SDSU with an Environmental Science major. His internship involved taking slope and sand grain profiles to try to predict sea level rise effects on the nesting beaches of concern at San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. His research was published at the 2009 Grupo Tortuguero conference and in 2010 International Sea Turtle Symposium held in India. Click here to see their poster! Daniel went on to work at the National Forest Service and the USGS in Hawaii.
Sarah Maxey – Biology major at SFSU – took sand temperature and humidity at different beaches and elevations to try to determine the impact of rising air temperatures on sand temperatures, and subsequently, the survival of sea turtle eggs that are deposited. Sarah’s work was published at the Sea Turtle Network of the Californias Conference in 2009. She helped rescue sea turtles during the BP oil spill.
Jeff Weaver – Environmental Science/Environmental Engineering major at SDSU- took slope and sand grain measurements, and, in addition, collected and classified trash found on the beach. Jeff continued on to work saving wolves in Colorado. He now has his own non-profit for bees! habitathoney.org
Chris Hurtado – Business major/Art minor at SDSU- measured the relationships between air temperatures and nest temperatures. He has returned to his roots in Mexico several times.