During the summer, I spend my time on the Atlantic coast of Georgia doing one of the best jobs on the planet: sea turtle conservation. I’m often told, “That’s amazing! How do you get a job like that? I’d love to work with sea turtles!” The answer is relatively simple: I went to college, got a degree in wildlife, and applied to all the sea turtle jobs I could find! However, I’d like to tell you more about my job and what it took to get hired.
Sophomore year of college, I realized that I wasn’t quite happy with studying environmental science. I did like it, but my major seemed intently focused on natural resources policy or the microbial world and its contaminants. I perused the list of agriculture-style majors, and wildlife stood out to me due to its hands on outdoor classes. Also included in the course track was a 5 week summer practicum where we’d travel to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to earn experience trapping, handling, and collecting data on several species. I graduated with both majors, but shifted the bulk of my energy to wildlife studies.
In December 2014, I traveled to Costa Rica over Christmas break, just for fun. A friend and I romped around the country, climbing volcanos, munching delicious cuisine, and hiking through rainforests. During our last two weeks there, we settled in to camp on a beach in peaceful Montezuma. Tucked among the neo-rastas and the adorable family restaurants was the ASVO Vivero, a sea turtle hatchery right along the beach. I immediately started asking the volunteers questions- and didn’t stop, until they got so used to me they put me to work. They described their organization system and data collecting techniques to me, and shared stories about run-ins with poachers and the occasional spunky momma turtle. Watching the babies hatch, holding them in my hands, and feeling the surprising power of their cute little flippers did me in. I was in love.
I returned to Purdue for spring semester with little Olive Ridleys on my mind. All of my personal projects became focused on sea turtles or other relevant topics like microplastics. With graduation on the horizon, I applied to several sea turtle jobs in the US and abroad.
Although my only experience with sea turtles had been in Costa Rica and through research projects, I think my passion for these creatures was able to shine through during my interviews. I was hired by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for summer 2016 as a dawn patrol sea turtle technician. I think I can say with some certainty that being a sea turtle technician is the best job ever! 🐢