Interning with the National Park Service
My internship for the National Park Service under the Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s Natural Resource Manager, Randy Swilling has provided me with experiences and opportunities I never would have expected to have in my time at UNC. One of my main responsibilities during the first few weeks of my time with the National Park Service was going on “turtle patrols” which consisted of monitoring and maintaining the sea turtle nests located along a several mile stretch of the seashore. In some instances, this involved excavating recently hatched nests to conduct counts of the number of hatchlings that escaped the nest, the number of dead hatchlings, and the number of live hatchlings still present in the nest. These live hatchlings were retrieved from the nests and were later released into the sea during favorable conditions.
Another interesting aspect of my internship was having the opportunity to perform necropsies (an autopsy performed on an animal) on a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a bottlenose dolphin. These necropsies were performed to attempt to determine the cause of death for these animals, and whether or not human interaction played a role in their demise. In addition to making basic observations of the deceased animals’ conditions, we also examined their stomach contents to determine whether or not they had swallowed any man-made products, such as plastic bags or other plastics. This provided me with a chance to learn about the anatomy of the marine animals—an opportunity I am very grateful to have had.
Overall, my internship has given me a lot of insight into the wildlife of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and the Outer Banks. I’ve lived near the Outer Banks for the past eleven years and never realized how much of the area’s natural wonder I hadn’t experienced until I began working for the National Park Service. After my internship ends, I hope to continue to learning about the wildlife of the Outer Banks and the measures that are being taken to protect it.