Our BHIC Alum of the Month, Savannah Weber, was an intern on our Sea Turtle Team throughout the summer of 2020. She has a BS in Biological Sciences with a minor in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina. Weber is now pursuing her Master’s in Biological Oceanography from Florida State University, where she researches resource partitioning amongst sea turtle species. Weber shared with our team what she has been up to since her summer spent on the beaches of BHI.
Hi, Savannah! Can you share a bit about your time and work at BHIC?
My time at BHIC was pretty interesting, as it was the summer of 2020 so it occurred at the height of COVID! There were only 4 of us sea turtle interns, Paul Hillbrand, and two education/conservation staff that lived on campus. Besides the stress of COVID, we faced a lot of challenges, including a broken UTV and a category 1 hurricane that sadly wiped out a lot of our nests. Overall, we still had a great nesting season and had a lot of fun tagging the momma turtles and releasing the hatchlings, and it was truly the best summer of my life!
What did you study for your intern project?
My internship project analyzed past data to look at potential differences between the reproductive success of new nesting females and returning nesting females. I wanted to see if age and experience contributed to the reproductive success of the nest or if success varied by the individual.
What are some valuable lessons that you learnt while interning, and how do you utilize them today?
My experience at BHIC cemented for me that I want to pursue a career working with sea turtles! Getting to sit next to a momma sea turtle and watching her nest at 4 AM while the rest of the world is quiet is such an incredible and rewarding experience, and the conservation of these amazing animals is so important. Conducting my internship project also made me realize how much I enjoy research. After the summer ended, I started looking at different graduate schools to get my Master’s.
Where has your career taken you since your summer interning on BHI?
Now I’m currently at Florida State, where I help with different sea turtle monitoring projects and get to conduct my own research while pursuing my degree! I’m currently pursuing my Masters in Biological Oceanography. For my thesis project, I’m conducting stable isotope analysis on sea turtle skin samples to investigate resource partitioning between three species – loggerheads, greens, and Kemp’s ridleys. This year my goal is to continue working on my thesis project, and next year after I graduate I hope to land a job working with sea turtles or marine conservation. I’d love to do something within sea turtle research, rehabilitation, or work at a nesting beach!
Is there anything you’d like to say to our staff here at the Conservancy?
A huge thank you to Paul Hillbrand for being the best mentor and supporter! He was an amazing boss during my internship and has since been a huge supporter in my journey to get into grad school. I couldn’t have made it this far without him! Thanks again for everything, Paul!
*images taken during conservation activities authorized by state & federal agencies