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UT Sophomore Helps Recover, Release Sea Turtles

Published: July 01, 2010
Holding the tiny turtle in her hands, Dory Estrada bent down to the shore. She let go, and the red-bellied cooter paddled away, released back to the wild after recovering at the National Marine Life Center near Cape Cod, MA.

“It was really exciting,” said Estrada ’13, a marine biology major, of the late-May release. “You get a little attached to the animals so it’s a little sad. At the same time, it’s a good feeling.”

Estrada is one of five interns spending the summer at the National Marine Life Center , a nonprofit organization that helps rescue hundreds of sea turtles, aquatic organisms and other marine animals like seals stranded yearly in the Buzzards Bay area due to the shape of the shoreline.

As an education intern, Estrada helps lead activities in the National Marine Life Center’s Discovery Center, organizes events like arts and crafts during Whale Week and teaches children about ocean pollution at festivals and elementary schools. She also helps clean and maintain the tanks of the turtles and assists in their daily care.

“It’s interesting, and kids really seem to enjoy when we come out,” said Estrada, who is from Maine.

While lifeguarding last summer at a Cape Cod resort, Estrada came across the National Marine Life Center. Since she is still questioning her career path, she thought an internship might help give her clarity.

“I’m still processing everything and learning as much as I can,” Estrada said, making plans to talk with the center’s veterinarian. She said she has been impressed that she’s been able to use her UT biology lessons in the care of the animals.

“It’s really cool to see the practical application of what I’ve learned in the classroom,” said Estrada, a member of the UT Honors Program .

Dr. Lori McRae , an associate professor of biology, advised Estrada, like all of her students, to include an internship in her schedule or volunteer to help a faculty member with research. She said both are important in the field of biology because they allow the students to network, expose them to field or lab techniques that make them more competitive in the job market and help refine their career paths.

“If something really sparks their interest in a class that they are taking, students should always talk to their professor about it as there might be opportunities to volunteer with faculty doing research in these fields,” McRae said, adding that Honors Tutorials are another way to dig deeper into a field of interest. “There are several fellowships on campus to fund student research as well, and some of these experiences lead them to what they may want to study in graduate school.”

While Estrada is still figuring out where her path might lead, she knows more than likely it will include graduate school and might be research-driven. She has some time, though, before she has to make up her mind, and while she is at the National Marine Life Center, she said she is just going to soak up as much as possible.

“I’m sure I’ll still have some ‘aha’ moments,” she said.

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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