During the summer of 2018, Jake Heimbaugh interned at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, FL. He participated in the Stranding Investigations Program which was through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. After an extensive application process, the senior had to go through a phone interview with three of his to-be advisors in March of 2018. Jake was very interested in the NSF REU program, which has paid positions at universities and organizations across the country! He found this opportunity through their website. His academic and research advisors, Dr. Rich Wallace and Dr. Kate Goddard, helped him with the application process by providing recommendations and guidance.
As a Stranding Investigations Intern, the senior was responsible for assisting with the 24/7 response of live and dead, stranded marine mammals and sea turtles. Jake also worked closely with Mote’s Whale, Dolphin, and Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital. “Dead animals were transported back to Mote where we performed detailed, replicable necropsies (animal autopsies) to determine cause of death, influence of human interaction, and other general research information such as size, diet, and lifestyle. In addition, we were responsible for the maintenance of the Ruth Delynn Marine Mammal Osteological Collection, which houses one of the largest and closely researched dolphin and whale skeleton collections” explains the senior.
Not only was Jake a Stranding Investigations Intern, but he was also an REU Intern. As an REU Intern, he was required to conduct an independent research project under the guidance of his program’s manager, Gretchen Lovewell. The senior’s project focused on scientific outreach and environmental education, where he tested multiple methods of education such as pamphlets, hands-on, and posters. Every day was wildly unique and unpredictable that Jake never knew what the day would hold! The senior’s favorite aspect of the internship was everything. However, the most challenging aspects were the physical ones such as moving 200+ pound turtles!
Social skills, physical and mental strength, time management, and maintaining a positive attitude were the main skills that Jake utilized at his internship. The senior had to educate the public on marine environment, which pushed his social skills to the limits. He also had to work long hours that required his mental strength. Jake feels that his experience at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium improved his old skills. He learned new skills such as necropsy techniques and an endless knowledge on sea turtle and marine mammal biology and ecology! The senior believes these skills will definitely help him in the classroom and in his future career.
Who I Met that Made a Difference
“I had three co-advisors during my internship, and they all became strong, inspirational guiding forces as well as close friends. In addition, my fellow stranding and REU interns became some of the best friends I could ever ask for. They provided me with some of the most fun memories and experiences to date, and I feel insanely lucky to have developed life-long friends.”
The senior is ready to navigate the unknown meaning this opportunity taught him to adapt to any and every situation that arises. He gained confidence in who he is as an individual and the impact he wants to have on the world. This internship experience helped Jake gain confidence, happiness, friends, and endless knowledge. “I developed my academic, professional, and social skills, all while having the time of my life” adds the senior. Overall, he learned about the limitless support, the difficulties of the public’s opinions, the issues surrounding funding, the joy saving a life can provide, the love and passion for people and animals, and the yearning and nostalgia of marine science. After Ursinus, Jake would like to obtain a career in this field.
The Coolest Part of the Experience
The coolest part of the experience was aiding in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of sea turtles. During his time at Mote, the senior was able to rescue 11 sea turtles with various injuries and ailments! Jake was also able to aid in the rehabilitation of all 11 and the successful release of three. “Working so closely with such beautiful creatures changed my life, and having a fantastic team to work alongside of made the process that much more enjoyable. Watching a sea turtle return to the wild after working so hard to keep it alive was by the most spectacular moment of my life” explains the senior.
He first advises to use your advisors and resources to your advantage! According to Jake, Ursinus’ professors, services, and programs set students up for success, and they will help you find and obtain the best possible internship for your interests. Second, he suggests pursuing every opportunity you can even if it seems out of reach. The senior never expected to be able to have such an incredible opportunity in his wildest dreams, but through persistence and hard work, he had the best experience of his life! Lastly, Jake says to take advantage of everything presented to you while interning. He would absolutely recommend this internship to anyone with a similar are of interest.
Written by Faraha Rathod, ’19