Our BHIC Alum of the Month, Andy Adams, was a wildlife intern throughout the summer and fall of 2008, before returning to the island in the summer of 2010 as our Sea Turtle Biologist. Adams has a BS in Biology and Animal Behavior from Juniata College and an MA in Ecology and Environmental Science from Central Connecticut State University. Adams in now an Associate Professor of Biology at Harford Community College and assists with herpetile conservation in Maryland. Adams shared with our team what he has been up to since his seasons spent on BHI.
Hi, Andy! Can you share a bit about your time and work at BHIC?
I was a wildlife intern, and my intern project involved assessing if there was any correlation between amphibian diversity and fecal coliform bacteria levels in BHI’s freshwater habitats. As a wildlife intern, I spent my days/nights assessing alligator and white-tailed deer populations, doing invasive species control (beach vitex), and leading education programs.
What are some of your most memorable moments or experiences from your internship?
There are way too many memories and great moments spent with a phenomenal group of fellow interns, but as far as professional experiences, being able to monitor an alligator nest and seeing the new hatchlings at the end of the summer season was extremely rewarding and cemented alligators as one of my favorite wildlife species – that, and anything with the sea turtles, of course. On my return in 2010, I oversaw the Sea Turtle Protection Program for the summer and worked with another stellar group of interns. The best moment of that summer was during the excavation of the only [recorded] Leatherback nest on BHI, where we found one remaining hatchling inside and [released it into the ocean].
What are some valuable lessons that you learnt while interning, and how do you utilize them today?
Learning the professional skills and techniques that you’ll use as a biologist, conservationist, and scientist are super important, but I now realize that it’s just as important to gain experiences beyond just those things. As an intern, we helped with varying tasks like building exhibits/displays, troubleshooting malfunctioning equipment, and fixing the golf carts, UTVs, and boats, just to name a few. These things helped me to understand problems better, develop critical thinking skills, and help me to be a better teacher and scientist. That, and I tried not to underestimate the power of just talking to people – whether it was bouncing ideas off colleagues and supervisors, to mingling with the general public on a regular basis. People skills are invaluable, even in a field involving animals and biology. To give another piece of advice, above all: stay humble and always be willing to learn and ask questions.
Where has your career taken you since your summer interning on BHI?
After BHIC, I spent a few years doing seasonal positions in research and environmental education before going to grad school, and along the way, began specializing in herpetology. Currently, I’m an Associate Professor of Biology at Harford Community College in Maryland, where I just recently obtained tenure. My main duties at HCC involve teaching, but I also have a hand in various wildlife ecology research projects on the side. As far as most recent projects, I just published a study on copperhead defensive behavior with Susquehannock Wildlife Society, I’m collaborating with Washington College on a study of marbled salamander health, and I assist Maryland Department of Natural Resources with endangered species surveys, mainly with bog turtles and tiger salamanders. I also serve on the Steering Committee for the Northeast Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our staff here at the Conservancy?
I’m fairly certain that there has been an entire turnover of BHIC staff since I’ve been there and I don’t know anyone personally, but it seems the current staff and interns are hard at work and are stellar stewards of barrier island and marine conservation. Keep up the good work all – I love what I’m seeing. I’d also like to give a shout out and thanks to former BHIC colleagues Maureen Dewire, Dr. Suzanne Dorsey, Caroline Shepherd, Jeff Harms, Andy Gould, and all of my interns for the great times and for teaching me things that I still use today to help me be a better teacher and scientist.
*images taken during conservation activities authorized by state & federal agencies
The Bald Head Island Conservancy (BHIC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 that exists to discover, learn, conserve, and preserve. The Conservancy is located in a unique area within the Smith Island Complex which includes Bald Head, Middle and Bluff Islands, all of which are bounded by the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.