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Autumn is dual majoring in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology and Natural Resources with a Plant Biology minor. As an intern at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Virginia, Autumn assisted with the sea turtle conservation program and shorebird surveys.
"Not only did I learn the basics of sea turtle anatomy and conservation practices, I also learned how a biological conservation program is properly maintained and organized. The beaches are patrolled every morning in search of the sea turtle crawls, which often begin at the low tide mark and continue up to the dune line. At the end of the tracks is a mound the sea turtle created to cover the nest site. If there was a true nest with eggs, we began the relocation process. The predominant reason for relocation is that many of the nests that were left in their original locations were being submerged and washed away by storms and high tide."
"When the sea turtles emerged, we brought the young to the original nest site on the beach and released them so that they can begin their life's journey in the deep seas of the ocean. As we released the first group of hatchlings, I felt a sense of satisfaction and overwhelming sentimentality because I knew that we had greatly increased the chances of these turtles' survival as a result of our conservation program at the refuge."
An avid birder, Autumn's favorite assignment on the refuge was conducting shorebird surveys.
"Surveys are crucial because they tell information about the general health of the refuge as a sanctuary for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds. In addition, comparing the species found on the surveys over the years shows the progression of the refuge and the ecosystems throughout the refuge. There were a few occasions in which we traveled to other refuges, which is one of the great pros to working for the Fish and Wildlife Service. On one particular occasion, we traveled to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in southern North Carolina to help with a Brown Pelican banding project. The goal of this project is to gather data about pelican breeding and migration. In total, with about thirty volunteers, we banded 1,125 pelicans."
"I have taken away so many fond memories from my internship at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I value the friends that I have made and all of the information I learned. This internship gave me real hands on experience in a wildlife conservation career."