Our BHIC Alum of the Month, Juliana Ofalt, was an intern on our conservation team throughout the summer of 2019 and our deer team throughout the winter of 2020. She has a BS in Environmental Biology (and a minor in Applied Statistics) from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Ofalt is now the Assistant Wild Turkey Management Program Coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Ofalt shared with our team what she has been up to since her seasons spent on BHI.
Hi, Juliana! Can you share a bit about your time and work at BHIC?
During my time at BHI, I fell in love with the island. I have worked 8 seasonal jobs since graduating college, and I still think that I would consider my Conservation Internship on BHI my favorite. I loved how in one day, I’d go from wading into the ocean as the sun rose to get water quality samples, to scouring the dunes for beach vitex, to spotlighting for gators. I felt like every single day was a new adventure on BHI, and there was something new to learn. I loved my responsibility of responding to wildlife emergency response calls, which was anywhere from asking people to not crowd around a 12 foot alligator, to rescuing possum babies, to collecting a beached shark. I also knew from the moment that I heard about the immunocontraception program during my conservation internship that I wanted to come back to BHI on deer team.
What are the most memorable moments from your internship?
Darting and handling my first White-tailed deer on BHI is something I will never forget. Other memorable moments include spontaneously jumping in the ocean at least once a day, solving the world’s problems during spotlight surveys, and, of course, there is no forgetting the turtles. One of the most magical memories of my life, was one day I was walking alone on the beach near the Shoals as the sun set, and a momma Loggerhead popped out of the water and did a false crawl right in front of me, no one else in sight.
What are some valuable lessons that you learnt while interning, and how do you utilize them today?
BHIC was my first job after I graduated from college, and I really feel that it kick started my career in wildlife. Over the summer working as a conservation intern on BHI, I developed a passion for wildlife management through learning about the immunocontraception program at BHI, and while actively dealing with newfound issues on the island with coyotes predating sea turtle nests. I found myself extremely intrigued by decisions for management options of these species on BHI. BHI was the first place that I used radio telemetry, which I have used regularly in nearly every job I’ve had since. It also was my introduction to large mammal capture and chemical immobilization, which I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to have learned.
Where has your career taken you since your summer interning on BHI?
Since working at Bald Head Island, I have worked six other field jobs, traveling the country and building up my resume with new wildlife experiences, mostly with game species. I am currently the Crew Lead in the mountain region of North Carolina for a statewide Eastern Wild Turkey project. I have also had positions capturing white tailed deer in Mississippi for MSU, working on the Washington Predator Prey Project (capturing deer fawns!) in eastern Washington state, capturing turkeys and surveying for ruffed grouse for the Georgia DNR, capturing Clapper Rails in the Delaware Bay for UD, and tracking and trapping Northern Bobwhite quail in coastal North Carolina for Tall Timbers. Over the last few years, I have been able to gain a lot of experience with wildlife capture, with multiple species and ecosystems.
Working seasonally for the last three years has been an incredible experience, but by the end of 2022, I am hoping to step into a more long term or permanent wildlife position. (Hopefully within the state of North Carolina, which I also have BHI to thank for introducing me to!)
[Since initially interviewing Juliana, she did reach that milestone of stepping into her first permanent position! Congratulations, Juliana!]
I had a very major career update recently! I started in August as the Assistant Wild Turkey Management Program Coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. After 8 consecutive jobs doing seasonal wildlife research (which all started at BHIC), this is my first permanent position. I am responsible for statewide management of Eastern and Osceola wild turkeys. Florida is the only place in the world that you can find the Osceola wild turkey subspecies!
Is there anything you’d like to say to our staff here at the Conservancy?
I’d like to thank the Conservancy for all it exposed me to in the world of wildlife. Specifically, I’d like to thank Dr. Beth Darrow for always supporting me, for giving my opportunities to delve further into interests of mine, and for encouraging me to explore my passions. Also, a big shoutout to Lauren Schaale for always being there to talk to me about anything and everything, and a thank you to Paul Hillbrand for all the times he let me jump on a sea turtle patrol! The nights I was able to join the Sea Turtle Team meant more to me thank you can imagine.
Bald Head Island Conservancy’s Sea Turtle Protection Program is authorized by NC Wildlife Resources Commission (Permit 22ST14). All images taken under permit.
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.