Heroes in a Half Shell: An FSU Alumna’s Account of a Postgrad Internship

This article was submitted by Ana Berninger, an alumna of Frostburg State University and The Bottom Line.

After graduating from FSU in December 2013, like many recent grads I was apprehensive about my impending job search. I spent countless hours applying online, researching different internships, and e-mailing prospective employers. It was when I stumbled across a link in a Google search that said “sea turtle internship” that my eyes lit up.

To any of my close friends and family this would not come as a surprise. My interest in all things turtle began several years ago, and an internship with Turtle Island Restoration Network seemed like the perfect fit.

After applying and being offered the position, I packed up my two small suitcases and moved across the country to the residential intern house in Olema, California; situated in Golden Gate National Recreation Area and home to Turtle Island headquarters.

Turtle Island is a marine conservation non-profit, focusing on protecting marine wildlife and the oceans and inland watersheds that sustain them. Turtle Island is not a location, as many will ask, but rather a symbolic Native American myth that the earth rests on a turtles back.

As an intern I am able to participate in their activities to help mobilize people to protect our oceans through litigation, grassroots empowerment, hands-on restoration projects, and environmental education.

Whether it’s raising awareness about the endangered leatherback sea turtle that forages off California coasts, researching shark migration patterns in the Galapagos, or campaigning to end the destructive practice of Drift Gillnet Fishing, Turtle Island is on the front lines advocating for the ocean and its inhabitants.

My official internship title is Fundraising and Communications Intern. My main responsibilities include researching foundations and prospective donors, helping write proposals and reports, and assisting at outreach events. Other positions are Shark Advocacy, Oceans Advocacy, Habitat Restoration, and Graphic Design, which are accepted on a rolling basis.

One of the highlights of my time here so far was dressing up as a sea turtle with fellow interns and colleagues and joining the Oakland People’s Climate Rally. It was not only inspiring to witness thousands of activists who are passionate about protecting our planet, but exciting to take part in history in solidarity with the NYC Climate March.

Protecting the environment can also win you prizes! Turtle Island’s “Be a Sea Turtle Hero” Contest is just one of the many ways they engage local and statewide communities to care about our coast. I’ve especially enjoyed promoting the contest, and watching the excitement of children as they learn about the 2000 lb leatherback, and touch the shell of a real turtle.

As I’ve been involved in various outreach activities, with children and adults alike, I’ve realized more clearly the direct connection between knowledge and awareness of the environment, and mindfulness of our actions. We protect what we love, and that is unequivocally seen through Turtle Island’s mission.

For more information about Turtle Island Restoration Network you can visit their new website at www.seaturtles.org

Featured picture belongs to Ana Berninger

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