Internship, classes provide valuable experiences for ERM major

Kelly Jedrzejewski
July 31, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Carrie Zamonski, of Brookhaven, Pennsylvania, is spending her summer at the beach — but she's not there just for a vacation. Zamonski, a senior majoring in environmental resource management and minoring in watershed and water resources and marine science, is an intern at the Bald Head Island Conservancy in North Carolina.

Zamonski is the conservancy's sea turtle intern and works nights patrolling the beaches, watching for mother sea turtles that come ashore to lay eggs. She also helps with the conservancy's community outreach programs, talking about the conservancy's three main principles — conservation, education and preservation.

She said she is familiar with those principles because they closely parallel the environmental resource management curriculum in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, a program that serves as a pathway for students to earn a degree in environmental science that focuses on sustainability and the conservation of natural resources.    

Zamonski learned about the internship from her adviser, Tammy Shannon, who teaches the international course, ERM 499 Patagonia Sustainability and Natural Resources. Short-term international programs not only give students exposure to new cultures and unfamiliar landscapes, but also offer a chance for faculty to understand better a student's interests, Shannon said. The Patagonia trip, for example, provided students with in-depth learning about the impacts of air quality, water quality and climate change on South America. 

"When we know our students, we can connect them with resources and opportunities tailored to their interests," Shannon said. "Once I got to know Carrie, I learned that she was passionate about conservation and natural resources concerning the Earth's oceans. I knew that the sea turtle internship at Bald Head Island would be a great fit for her. It’s a competitive internship, and I was happy to learn that she was offered the position."

As a student in a coastal biology class, Zamonski also traveled to Curacao, off the coast of Venezuela, where she conducted a research mini-project and learned about the flora and fauna while on the island. Those two trips, she said, raised her interest in marine conservation and wildlife.

"Since traveling abroad, I have wanted nothing more than a career dealing with the conservation and preservation of our world's fragile ecosystems," she said. "These experiences have helped me develop a deeper appreciation for the world around me. I’ve always loved being outside, but being able to understand how different things work and being able to share this knowledge and experience has become a passion of mine."

Class assignments have been a valuable asset for Zamonski, as well. Before she heard about the position on Bald Head Island, she had written a research paper on the legal aspects of land management on North Carolina barrier islands for ERM 411: Legal Aspects of Resource Management.

"Assignments like these helped me gain more knowledge and ultimately a greater appreciation for barrier islands and all coastal environments," she said. "Since Bald Head is a barrier island in North Carolina, I am seeing firsthand the issues with resource management, especially as the town deals with housing development and wildlife on eroding beaches."  

Zamonski completed an independent study in the Wildlife and Fisheries Science program in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management working with freshwater mussels during the fall semester of her junior year. This experience in the field has been especially valuable to her current internship, which includes measuring, tagging and taking biopsy samples from sea turtles. While at Penn State, she also learned how to scuba dive and currently is working toward a certificate in scientific diving. 

After graduation, Zamonski is considering furthering her education with a master's degree in the field of marine science. Her experience at the Bald Head Island Conservancy has given her invaluable experience in her chosen field.     

Zamonski said she never realized the variety of career paths that she could pursue as a student in the College of Agricultural Sciences, but by getting involved and building relationships with faculty and her advisers, doors opened — allowing her to pursue her passion.

"My experiences and classes here at Penn State have opened my eyes and given me many opportunities," she said.

  • Carrie Sea Turtle intern

    Sticking her neck out for turtles — Carrie Zamonski, a senior majoring in environmental resource management and minoring in watershed and water resources and marine science, spent her summer as a sea turtle intern at the Bald Head Island Conservancy in Brunswick County, North Carolina, an island nationally renowned for its sea turtle nesting activity.

    IMAGE: Carrie Zamonski

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Last Updated August 08, 2018