College Interns- Where are they now?

2019 Intern

Nicole Jute

Nicole Jute was our 2019 college summer intern, she is currently a Senior at East Carolina University.  She is a business administration major with a concentration in marketing and supply chain management and a minor in composite natural sciences.  Corresponding with her love of animals and tenacious passion for animal welfare, Nicole wishes to become a veterinarian.  While completing her undergraduate career, Nicole works at a small animal veterinary hospital as a veterinary assistant.  She also enjoys volunteering her time at several, local animal shelters.  Nicole also has experience in the equine field of veterinary medicine.  During her time as the OIBSTPO summer intern, Nicole gained valuable knowledge and skills about marine life.  Asked what she’d tell future interns, she said “Not only will you learn about all things sea turtles, but you will also join an incredible group of caring individuals who all work tirelessly to preserve our precious marine life.  I seriously cannot give enough positive feedback and highly encourage others to apply.  You’re in for the opportunity of a lifetime!”.  As of January 6, 2021, Nicole has received acceptance letters from Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and St. Matthews University School of Veterinary Medicine.  She is also awaiting feedback from several other veterinary schools nearby.  Nicole is absolutely thrilled to continue her knowledge of animal welfare and cannot wait to apply the lessons she has learned from OIBSTPO as a future veterinarian.  

Hannah Pitts


I want to tell you just how much I have loved being an intern with the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization (OIBSTPO). I worked as an intern from 2009 until 2018. 
My first year as an intern with the OIBSTPO was July 2009. I was a junior intern from 2009-2014. I wanted volunteer because I was very interested in marine biology, specifically working with dolphins. As a junior intern, I was able to go with Mrs. Deb to observe the teams at different nests, help with the tables at turtle talks, and watch nest verifications.  I transitioned to a college intern from 2015-2018 where I was given more responsibility. I was able to be part of the nest team where I helped the hatchlings to the water, answered questions while waiting for the hatchlings to emerge, worked to close out the nest after the hatchlings had emerged, rode the gator in the morning to look for turtle tracks, and helped answer questions at turtle talks. I absolutely loved being an intern with the OIBSTPO. It was such an amazing experience being up close with wildlife, answering questions from other beach goers, seeing a mama turtle lay eggs, watching baby hatchlings, and even saving injured turtles. I got to share all my knowledge and my love of marine life with others on the beach. It was hard work at times, but watching the hatchlings make it to the water makes it all worth while. If you are thinking about applying I would say, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?!?!? Everyone who volunteers with the OIBSTPO is amazing and very easy to work with. They welcome you with open arms, listening ears, and will make you feel at home. Volunteering allows you to receive community service hours which many schools like to see.  I graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education in 2018. I’m currently in my third year as a Special Education Teacher. Being able to intern with the OIBSTPO definitely helped me feel more comfortable speaking with adults. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I HIGHLY recommend applying to be an intern. I promise that you won’t regret it for a second!
Sincerely,Hannah Pitts

Aaron Brisley: Summer 2015 Intern

My name is Aaron and I interned with OIBSTPO as a Summer Field Scientist from May 2015- August 2015. I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but my family and I vacationed at Ocean Isle Beach when I was younger (talk about revisiting your childhood memories)! During these vacations, I spent hours exploring the tide pools and ocean, trying to find any signs of marine life (not the clearest waters, but there was nothing like walking down the beaches at night searching for ghost crabs).

I earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Science from Roanoke College in 2014. While in college, I was able to study abroad in Baja California Sur, Mexico, focusing on the marine biodiversity of the Gulf of California. I got the chance to dive in (okay, pardon my one-liners) and explore the gulf’s coral reefs firsthand… did I mention that we got to snorkel with sea lions? This trip fueled my passion for marine life and a desire to pursue a career in the marine/ aquatic conservation fields. After graduating, I interned with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center as part of their stranding response team from February 2015 through April 2015. My primary duties included assisting with the necropsies of deceased dolphins and seals, as well as feeding and administering medicine to sea turtles that were undergoing rehabilitation. I also assisted the staff if a marine mammal or sea turtle were stranded on the shore. It was a great hands-on experience…., but it was nothing compared to what would be coming that summer!

I moved to Ocean Isle to start my internship in late April 2015. As an intern, I was able to patrol the coastline at sunrise for any signs of new nests and/ or false crawls. When a new nest was found (I think we had at least 30 during the summer that I interned), I assisted w/ relocating the nest and its eggs to a drier spot in the dunes (major note… sea turtle eggs and water do not get along.. if a nest is covered by the incoming tide, the eggs will drown and no longer be able to hatch). Another reason for nest relocation is that it puts the nest out of any potential hazards from tourists (i.e., beach cabanas, volleyball courts, not to mention the genius that decided to leave an entire wedding ceremony out all night). I even got to relocate a nest that had initially been laid at the end of a boardwalk! In addition to relocating the nest and the eggs themselves, each one would be covered with a sheet of wire, as well as surrounded by a fence to make tourists aware of its location (all another reason to KEEP OFF THE DUNES)!!

As the summer went by, the time came to witness one of nature’s greatest moments, a group of sea turtle hatchlings emerging from their nest at night (sorry dog lovers, but no puppy is as cute as a two inch baby loggerhead)! As an intern, I got to monitor the various nests in the evening as the hatchlings emerged to make their way to the ocean. In order to make this trek for the turtles easier, a path was flattened out that ran directly from the nest to the ocean. Finally (hands down, one of the most memorable parts of this internship) was getting to help guide the hatchlings to the ocean via colored flashlights (unlike white lights, colored lights do not stun a turtle’s vision and actually help direct them towards their new habitat).

After interning with OIBSTPO, I made my way up the Atlantic coast to serve with a national service program in Massachusetts called Barnstable County AmeriCorps Cape Cod from September 2015 through July 2016. This program entails a group of young adults participating with a variety of government and non-governmental agencies focused on conserving the Cape’s natural environment. Projects included shellfish aquaculture, dune erosion monitoring and restoration (via planting dune grass and installing permanent fencing), and invasive plant removal. We also hosted an educational program called WetFest, which featured a series of hands-on activities teaching elementary and middles schoolers about water and the oceans (and yes, I got to assist with the station featuring sea turtles). Warning: a Cape Cod beach is nothing like one in the Carolinas… much of them feature a combination of rocky shore and sand dunes, rather than just the latter. If you go visit one in the winter, there will be ice (seriously) and the sand will be solid!

As of January 2021, I am living back in Roanoke County, Virginia, and am working as an ophthalmic tech at a local eye clinic. My hope is to get certified, move to a coastal city in the southeast (if in North Carolina, Wilmington, Jacksonville…. Maybe even Ocean Isle or Sunset Beach?) and work in a clinic there….. and eventually make my way back into the environmental science fields with a government agency or private consulting firm to continue to preserve the nation’s coastal/ marine ecosystems for generations to come!

To sum it up, this was truly a lifetime experience (how many college kids/ recent grads can brag saying they got to spend a whole summer interning to preserve some of earth’s most beautiful creatures)? If you are a student (or fresh out of college graduate) with hopes of working in the marine conservation field…. PLEASE consider applying to OIBSTPO (or its equivalent in another North Carolina coastal city)! It was a memorable experience for me… and it might just be for you as well!

2014 Intern 

Kristen Small

My name is Kristen Small, I interned with OIBSTPO  summer 2014,  I was the first OIBSTPO intern. I had SO  many wonderful experiences that summer. My days  started early, patrolling the beach for turtle crawls and  picking up trash/junk along the way(you know keep the  wildlife safe & our oceans clean!). I am not a morning  person so getting up while it was still dark outside wasn’t  easy but man were those Ocean Isle sunrises worth it.  Interning with a small organization versus a large provides so many more opportunities for being involved. Sadly  that summer was one of the slowest nesting seasons OIB  had seen(remember the summer is fleeting and turtles, like the weather are unpredictable). My most exciting memory was being called one night at probably 2am that visitors  had spotted hatchlings near a nest, myself and the other  volunteers looked everywhere for hatchlings that may of  traveled towards homes/businesses, after not much luck  we went home til sunrise and returned the next morning to walk the streets, beaches, driveways, carports, &  anywhere you could imagine looking for hatchlings. Some were found in peoples driveways (porch/street lights are the devil), some had made it  beyond the dunes and towards homes; they would of most  likely died had we not found them. By the end of the  morning we were wet from the rain(sand and rain is a fun mix) and all laughing/delirious. I didn’t just gain  professional experience, I truly felt like part of a family, there is so much teamwork and devotion that goes into this organization and helping  these defenseless animals.

I went to school at Davidson County Community College in Lexington, NC. I was apart of the Zoo and Aquarium  Science Program and one of six in the first Aquarium  Science graduating class. After completing my internship I continued my courses at DCCC and began another  internship at the North Carolina Zoo with Rocky Coast  birds, working with Puffins, Auklets, Murres, Hawks, and Vultures! Animals that I never thought I would have an  interest in stole my heart, I have a new found respect for  Black Vultures. My point is don’t close your mind to  particular internships because they don’t have your  favorite animal…odds are by the time you graduate you  will have a passion for many different species. I graduated in summer 2015 and have worked at mostly veterinary  hospitals since, currently I am at Asheboro Animal Hospital where I assist with examinations, x-rays, treatments, pharmacy and surgeries. At the end of the day animals are my passion and as long as I am working with them in some capacity I am happy. I hit a few bumps in the road applying for zoo keeping jobs because I don’t have a bachelors degree. I will say almost  every animal related job I’ve  interviewed with has been eager to discuss my internship experience! Hands on experience will always outweigh  your degree, many positions expect both! In January 2020 I enrolled at Grand Canyon University to complete my  bachelors in Psychology(beneficial degree when working  with animals or children…my two passions). I should  graduate in fall 2021 and will see where that path leads me. I’m hoping an extension job on a farm or a marine  mammal job on a boat!

My advice to you as an intern applicant is to be present,  put yourself out there! During my internship I felt  homesick and “home” for me was 3 hours away, central  NC, unfortunately I missed a couple BIG experiences by  visiting home one night. Some summers that might not be  such a big deal but for that season our experiences were  limited. Your time as an intern is so short in the big picture of it all, soak it all in, be present, get your hands dirty,  volunteer and get involved in everything that you can!  Save money so you can enjoy interning and not have to  work/work very little. I worked some while living in OIB  but just made sure it wasn’t early mornings or evening  hours, I also interned at the local museum(unsure if that is still an option) but I also learned so much there and made  friends/connections I’ll never forget. College/internships will be some of the best times of your life,  enjoy it, take pictures, take notes, truly learn from your  experiences! Networking goes a long way, the people you meet during internships can turn into lifelong friends and  colleagues. I found a rental where I could bring my dog,  she helped keep me company while away from  family/friends. I also spent a lot of time with others  involved with OIBSTPO, they became my family at the  coast!