Our BHIC Alum of the Month, Rachel Innocenzi, was an intern on our education team throughout the summer of 2017. She has a BS in Environmental Resource Management and a minor in Biology from Penn State University. She now works as a pharmaceuticals scientist in Pittsburgh, PA. Innocenzi shared with our team what she has been up to since her summer spent on Bald Head Island.
Hi, Rachel! Can you share a bit about your time and work at Bald Head Island Conservancy?
I was an Environmental Education intern and my project was to work on the classrooms and make the campus more interactive for guests that are passing through. We traveled to other environmental centers to find inspiration of what interactive exhibits could be added to the campus and wrote proposals for all of our ideas. We also worked on reorganizing the classrooms and added some new activities for kids. I visited the campus a few years ago and noticed the discovery boxes we put together were still being used!
What are your most memorable moments from your internship?
I could go on forever about everything I learned and experienced. I saw nesting sea turtles, I witnessed our year’s largest and most successful hatchlings boil and run out to sea, and I worked with some amazingly smart people. More than anything, I remember the kids and families, so I’ll share some quick stories:
One little 6 year old girl and her three older brothers joined us for surf fishing with their father. She wore these red heart sunglasses and a cute girly sun hat, but she was pulling in shark after shark! I had unhooked at least 5 Blacktip sharks before any of her brothers caught anything. Her father was so proud and excited every time she caught something, and she was like, “Yeah, got another shark, big deal.” She caught more sharks that day than most of my surf fishing classes combined.
I LOVED night tours, they were always some of my favorites. I had a small tour one night with a mom, aunt and a 5 year old boy. He demanded that he HAD to see an alligator on this tour, otherwise he “would have stayed up past his bedtime for nothing.” He was adorable. As you may know, you don’t always see alligators on the tours. At the time, there were two small, young alligators sharing the pond at the Wildlife Overlook, so I really hoped they would come out for us. Well, we walked out to the overlook and to our shocking surprise, the largest alligator I have ever seen came right out from under the overlook and hung out right by the railing just a few feet from us. It had to be at least 11 feet! The little boy screams “THAT IS NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING!” He was so shocked and excited. Needless to say, we all formed a new core memory that night.
What are some valuable lessons that you learnt while interning, and how do you utilize them today?
BHIC was one of the first jobs I had where time management was SO important. I usually worked sun-up to sun-down with 4 programs everyday, and we had to find time to work on our internship project, as well. They really have high expectations and I had to push myself to do my best everyday, and hold myself accountable and be adaptable to constant change.
I learned that it was okay to say you don’t know the answers to every question. And I learned how to be a team and work well with people, even if we didn’t always see eye to eye, we had respect for each other and made sure our visitors had a great time.
Where has your career taken you since your summer interning on Bald Head Island?
I now work as a Scientist I at Gateway Analytical in Pittsburgh, PA. Our parent company is called Aptar. We analyze pharmaceutical products for foreign particulate matter, and often our samples are for FDA release testing. I test vaccines, insulin devices, nasal sprays, IV bags, etc. One of my favorite tests is called Glass Delamination, where we test glass vials for lamellae. That is when the glass sheds sharp microscopic sheets into the drug product, which is definitely not something you want going into your veins! If we find it in their product, they cannot release it to the public and they have to throw away the entire batch. Other than my career, I recently got engaged and we just purchased our first home! I also have two kitties named Duff and Prudence.
My career goals for this year is to continue my training as a Scientist! I am learning so much every single day; I never thought in a million years that I would be working for an incredible company with such a cool job. As much as I dreamed that I would be out there saving the environment, I’m glad that I can at least work to ensure pharmaceutical companies are putting out quality products that are safe for the public.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our staff here at the Conservancy?
Thank you so much for reaching out and asking about my experience! It is so fun to look back at one of the most memorable summers of my life!
Amy Eldredge no longer works at BHIC but she was the BEST manager and mentor, I’m so grateful that I got to work with her. A huge hello to everyone working at BHIC now, I hope you all have a great experience!