I was inspired to go abroad in order to gain international research experience, and to experience new cultures and environments.
Why did you choose The Science Exchange Sea Turtle Internship?
I chose the Science Exchange Sea Turtle Internship because I am very passionate about researching marine megafauna. I had volunteered at a sea turtle hospital before and my experience there made me interested in learning more about sea turtle ecology. The Science Exchange Internship was a great way to learn more about sea turtles, while also gaining invaluable research experience.
What was your favorite part about Abaco?
My favorite part about Abaco, in the Bahamas, was the amount of undeveloped shoreline. Living in South Florida, there are hardly any beaches that aren’t accompanied by high rises, giant homes, and noisy roads. Seeing abandoned beaches and tiny islands that were uninhabited was so exciting to me. The amount of biodiversity on these shorelines was astounding. Plenty of sea stars, fish, corals, and other amazing organisms were always there to observe and admire.
What made your experience abroad unique?
Interning in the Bahamas was a unique experience because I was able to see and observe ecosystems and environments that even many people who live on the island aren’t able to experience. Additionally, I was able to hold and study sea turtles in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do in the United States, because of endangered species laws.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff in the Bahamas was unbelievably helpful and welcoming. Whenever my team ran into an obstacle, they were more than willing to give us what we needed, or help us with our challenges. The hospitality in the Bahamas is outstanding.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I hadn’t taken as much stuff with me. I didn’t end up using or wearing a lot of the clothes and things I brought with me. I also wish I didn’t spend so much money in the Bahamas on souvenirs.
Describe a typical day in the life of the Sea Turtle Internship.
A typical day of field research in the Bahamas starts with an early morning. After eating breakfast, we would prepare all the supplies needed for the field work that was planned for the day. If the weather was good, we would go out into the field and spend around six hours on the boat, dropping shark cameras, or snorkeling for hours doing seagrass surveys. After the field work was finished, we would go back to our living quarters and clean all of the gear we had used. The evening would be spent entering data from the day, or working in the lab analyzing samples. After dinner, we would usually have a Netflix movie night, or relax around the house until it was time for bed.
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
During our free time, we would go to some of the local bars, or explore some of the surrounding islands. If we had a day free due to weather, most of our time was spent relaxing at home watching Netflix, or facetiming with friends and family from home.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
The Frank Kenyon Research Center was such an amazing place to live. The dorm-style living was great for meeting other researchers that were staying at the center, which allowed for great connections and awesome new friendships. All of our food was bought from the grocery store and made at home. The wifi was pretty reliable, unless the power went out, which didn’t happen often because we had solar power. Our facility was also very well air conditioned.
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in the Sea Turtle Internship?
Before participating in this program, you need to be comfortable working long hours in the outdoors. You need to be fairly fit to do some heavy lifting and long hours swimming. If you are not a strong swimmer, comfortable on boats, or get seasick easily, this internship would be very challenging for you. Having a good work ethic is very important to be successful in this internship.
Now that you're home, how has interning abroad with The Science Exchange impacted your life?
My experience abroad has truly humbled me.
The simplistic lifestyle made me appreciate the things in my life much more. I also feel much more knowledgeable culturally about life in the Bahamas. Most importantly, I feel significantly more prepared for applying to graduate school and the expectations of being a marine biologist.
Would you recommend The Science Exchange to others? Why?
The Science Exchange is an amazing program. The director, Katherine, is very kind and helpful and was such a pleasure to work with. Additionally, I gained so many new connections through The Science Exchange.
Liberty is double majoring in environmental science and marine biology at Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter, Florida. She is involved in student government, and she is president of the Marine Biology Club on campus, as well as being a campus tour guide. Liberty is also a volunteer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Marine Mammal Research Lab in Tequesta, Florida.