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My Turtlely Awesome Summer – Kayla Smith

“It’s really simple, just look for a car-size turtle coming out of the ocean.” This was the sentence I heard from Mr. Taylor as we walked Keys beach in Saint Kitts looking for nesting leatherback turtles.


Last summer I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the Caribbean to work with Leatherback sea turtles and I couldn’t have done it without Warnell. Last March, I talked with my advisor about potential internships and he told me that he had one in mind. After emailing back and forth with Dr. Stewart from the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network I got the job! I was so excited – Id be working on an island in the Caribbean studying Leatherback turtles all while getting class credit at Warnell!

So in May I boarded a plan to Saint Kitts and my adventure began! For the next three months I walked the beaches of St. Kitts looking for nesting turtles. We went to the beach 12646651_10204105451277064_7954638554308236383_oat 8pm every night (except Sunday) and were split into pairs to walk the four sections of the beach. We walked the beach until 4am looking for turtle tracks or the turtles themselves, both were pretty hard to miss. If we were lucky enough to get a turtle that night we would take measurements of the carapace, count how many eggs the female was laying, note any interesting physical characteristics, insert a PIT tag and flipper tags, and document where the nest was. Overall the nesting process takes a pretty long time so if you’re lucky you can get to her early and see the whole process. Late June to early July is when the hatchlings start to emerge, which is one of the best experiences to witness! AfterFullSizeRender 2 the nest had been incubating in the ground for 60 days we would excavate it to see how many hatchlings survived and emerged from the nest, sometimes we got some that were still alive and stuck at the bottom and released them! The last two week of my internship were sea turtle camp and they were so much fun! Kids from the primary schools on the island were all invited to come to camp and learn cool things about sea turtles. It was so cool to see how interested the kids were in animals so close to where they live.


Overall, St. Kitts gave me the best 3 months I could have asked for. Along with my job duties I got to experience the Caribbean lifestyle! Even on 5 hours of sleep every night, my roommates and I went to the beaches, hiked the rainforests, climbed the volcano, and snorkel the reefs (I even got a selfie with a hawksbill)! When I got back to Athens in the fall I enrolled in a course and that allowed me to get credit for all the fun I’d been having!

To obtain internship credit you must have your internship pre-approved by a faculty advisor. You will fill out the internship agreement form, which must be signed by your internship supervisor, and turn in the completed form to Katelyn, which will then be submitted for approval.  Students can obtain between 1-3 hours of coursework credit depending on the number of hours completed in the internship. Its really that simple!


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