Our BHIC Alum of the Month, T. Reid Nelson, was an intern on our Sea Turtle Team throughout the summer of 2008. He has a BS in Marine Biology from Auburn University, and an MS in Fisheries & Allied Aquaculture and PhD in Marine Sciences from University of South Alabama. Nelson is now an Assistant Professor in Fishery Ecology at George Mason University, where he teaches a wide variety of courses including estuarine and coastal ecology, and will soon begin researching River Herrings with his grad students. Nelson shared with our team what he has been up to since her summer spent on the beaches of BHI.
Hi, T. Reid! Can you share a bit about your time and work at BHIC?
The BHIC internship was my first professional scientific experience and I was able to use this position as a spring board for continued scientific technician positions (Audubon NC & FL), graduate schools, and my most recent Assistant Professor position. One of my most memorable moments was seeing my first turtle lay her nest, and witnessing many more, I think we had over 100 nests that summer. Other highlights include participating in satellite tagging a Loggerhead, removing biofouling organisms from shells for a Duke researcher, and watching a nest boil and hatchling emergence. Finally, getting to experience the nocturnal coastal ecosystem and the changes that occurred from dusk to dawn, while on a minimally developed beautiful stretch of coast, is an experience I will never forget.
What are some valuable lessons that you learnt while interning, and how do you utilize them today?
My internship was the summer after my sophomore year of undergrad and I was the youngest intern that summer with a lot to learn. The BHIC experience opened my eyes to the fact that, with hard work, a career was actually possible in this field. I returned to school that next year and was able to start working in a lab, improve my GPA, get another field technician position, and start independent research in a fish ecology lab. I credit my time at BHIC to initiating the professional journey I am on today! Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned from that summer was that scientific research is quite taxing, but when you commit the hard work and drive that is necessary, it can also be quite rewarding.
Where has your career taken you since your summer interning on BHI?
I recently started my first faculty position at George Mason University as an Assistant Professor in Fisheries Ecology in the department of Environmental Science and Policy. Currently I am teaching a wide variety of courses including estuarine and coastal ecology, and BHIC would be a great place for a future field trip. In 2022, I am bringing on my first graduate students and am advising them on a wide range of research projects from age, growth, and migration patterns of River Herring (Alosa spp.) to management impacts on economic and ecologic fishery function.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our staff here at the Conservancy?
I don’t think much of the same staff is still around, but, if anyone is, thank you for making this such a memorable experience!
*BHIC’s Sea Turtle Protection Program is authorized by NC Wildlife Resources Commission (Permit 22ST14)