Gopher Tortoise Conservation Internship
The Gopher Tortoise Management Program offers internship opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students interested in species conservation. The Gopher Tortoise Conservation Internship is a great opportunity for students to gain valuable experience working as part of a state wildlife conservation agency. Each intern is assigned a project(s) that come directly from the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan based on the interns major, skills, and interests.
Below is a list of previous interns, their corresponding projects, and links to their final projects (if available online). In addition to obtaining professional experience, the internship has also helped many interns graduate with jobs through FWC or other environmental agencies.
Upperclassman and graduate students in the Tallahassee area are encouraged to apply. For more information about the program visit our website. To apply, submit a completed application to Alex Kalfin at Alex.Kalfin@MyFWC.com
Lauren Peters (Spring 2011)
Lauren created a “Gopher Tortoise Treasure Chest” containing hands on gopher tortoise artifacts for education and outreach activities. She also developed the Wildlife Rehabilitator fact sheet with specific information on caring for sick or injured gopher tortoises.
Lauren graduated from Florida State University (FSU) in May 2011 with a degree in Biology.
Brittany Sims (Summer 2011)
Brittany developed and implemented a customer service survey for gopher tortoise permit recipients. She also developed and distributed the Waif Gopher Tortoise fact sheet.
Brittany graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Studies and minors in Geography and Philosophy. After graduating, Brittany was hired as the Outreach Coordinator at the FSU Coastal & Marine Lab, and currently works as a Park Services Specialist at Anastasia State Park.
Jenna Walker (Summer 2011)
Jenna developed Appendix 7 of the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan, Conservation-based Incentive Opportunities, and edited the Burrow or Structure Protection Permit call survey.
Jenna graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Studies and English. Since graduating, Jenna has worked at Mote Marine Aquarium, a zoo and an animal sanctuary. She is currently working for the City of St. Petersburg as a Marina Assistant and regularly volunteers at the Mote Marine Aquarium.
Marlee McCleary (Fall 2011)
Marlee conducted a literature review of land use and gopher tortoise occupancy. She also implemented the Burrow or Structure Protection Permit call survey.
Marlee earned her Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at FSU. She is currently working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management as a floodplain management specialist assisting communities in mitigating for flood damage.
Tanja Hinton (Fall 2011)
Tanja created the Captive Tortoise Care Fact Sheet and distributed it to wildlife rehabilitators, nature centers, and zoos. Tanja also designed a survey for waif tortoises and followed-up with all waif tortoise permit holders.
Tanja graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Studies. Tanja currently works with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Ecosystems Projects as an Environmental Specialist III.
Gabrielle Johnston (Spring 2012)
Gabrielle developed and implemented a Gopher Tortoise Outreach Program with multiple PowerPoint presentations and corresponding scripts for different audiences.
Gabrielle graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science.
William Wade (Spring 2012)
William developed a series of maps for the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan (Appendix 4) that display potential gopher tortoise habitat in Florida. William also compiled GPS coordinates and created a shapefile for all local governments that have received financial assistance from FWC to manage for gopher tortoises.
William completed his Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning at FSU.
Amy Stuyvesant (Summer 2012)
Amy created a map using GIS to display permit locations for the 3 main types of gopher tortoise relocation permits from 2009–2011. The maps were used to create display boards for gopher tortoise outreach events and workshops.
Amy graduated from UCLA and is currently working for the Captive Wildlife Office at FWC. Amy will be starting graduate school in the fall of 2014 at the University of California’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management where she will work towards her PhD.
Brian Andree (Summer 2012)
Brian created the Online Permit System Fact Sheet to provide assistance for users accessing FWC’s online permit system. He also developed and implemented a survey for all documented gopher tortoise calls, and summarized the results.
Brian graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science.
Bobby Wiwi (Fall 2012)
Bobby created the Gopher Tortoise Commensal webpage and Commensal Fact Sheet. He also set up a Flickr photo gallery to include pictures of commensal species.
Bobby graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science and worked for FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section until accepting position as a Biological Scientist with the Department of Environmental Protection
Maritza Mulkay (Fall 2012)
Maritza developed the content for 5 educational banners that are used at outreach events around the state. She also created an events notebook to track and store information on previous outreach events the gopher tortoise program has participated in.
Maritza graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Studies and Spanish.
Andrea Wylie (Spring 2013)
Andrea developed the content for the Florida Gopher Tortoise App. She also and created a gopher tortoise field trip guide for teachers and educators. Andrea was the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the semester.
Andrea graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science, and is currently working for FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. Andrea is pursuing a Master’s degree in Aquatic Environmental Science at FSU.
Sarah Hovey (Spring 2013)
Sarah developed a local government habitat assistance feedback survey for all local governments who have received funds for managing gopher tortoise habitat. She also began researching gopher tortoise road mortality, and created a data collection form that can be used to record gopher tortoise road mortality locations.
Sarah is currently attending graduate school at FSU studying Aquatic Environmental Science.
Sara Thomas (Summer 2013)
Sara developed guidelines for the proper release of rehabilitated gopher tortoises and mailed packages with the guidelines to all gopher tortoise rehabilitators in Florida. She was also the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the semester.
Sara will be completing her Master’s degree at FSU in Urban and Regional Planning.
Kaylee Larkin (Summer 2013)
Kaylee developed the Safe Roads for People and Tortoises placard and the How you Can Help webpage to increase public awareness about gopher tortoises. She also revised the FWC Law Enforcement dispatch protocol document to assist dispatch personnel.
Kaylee graduates from FSU in May 2014 with a degree in Environmental Studies. Kaylee is currently an Intern at the Florida Geological Survey under the Department of Environmental Protection, working with GIS on the Sinkhole Vulnerability Study.
Kelly Harris (Summer 2013)
Kelly developed a cost effective way for staff to view GIS files using GoogleEarth. Kelly also created a series of maps to be used in local government workshops.
Kelly graduated from FSU with a degree in Physical Science and Geography in August 2014. During his last semester, he completed an internship with the FWRI Manatee program working on GIS projects. He hopes to attend graduate school in the fall to study Geography.
Mike Larimore (Fall 2013)
Mike collected road mortality data and distributed more than 9,000 copies of the “Safe Roads for People and Tortoises” placard to Florida Welcome Centers, and FWC Management Areas around the state. Mike was also the education an outreach coordinator for the semester.
Mike is finishing his Master’s degree with FSU’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning with a specialization in Environmental Planning and is scheduled to graduate in August 2014.
Ryan DeSimone (Fall 2013)
Ryan worked with several FWC biologists to create the Landowners Guide to Managing Habitat for Gopher Tortoises. This brochure provides resources for landowners who have gopher tortoise habitat and are looking for assistance on how to manage their land for native species.
Ryan graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science in December 2013. Since then he has been preparing for graduate school and currently works for the FWC call center in Ocala.
Erin Thompson (Spring 2014)
Erin Thompson created the video Help the FWC Protect Gopher Tortoises to educate Florida’s citizens on the importance of gopher tortoises, what to do if you see one on the road/in your yard, and how you can get involved in gopher tortoise conservation. She also added to the gopher tortoise photo library by setting up photo shoots in natural and urban areas.
Erin graduated from FSU in May 2014 with a degree in Media Production and hopes to pursue a career in film, television, or writing.
Elyse Sachs (Spring 2014)
Elyse developed a volunteer program to collect gopher tortoise mortality data and distributed over 2,000 “Safe Roads for People and Tortoises” placards at educational events throughout the state. Elyse also created burrow scope use guidelines and compiled statewide gopher tortoise survey data.
Elyse will be an intern at the Philadelphia Zoo during the summer of 2014 and plans to graduate from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science and minor in geography in May 2015.
Kasy Kachelreiss (Summer 2014)
Kelsey implemented the mortality data collection volunteer program developed by Elyse Sachs, along with 2 new state wide volunteer programs. Kelsey was also the education and outreach coordinator for the semester and was responsible for creating more than 100 Gopher Tortoise Education CD’s and distributed them to Florida Nature Centers.
Kelsey graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Studies in August 2014. She plans to move to the west coast soon and work in conservation or preservation with a national or state park.
Jared Griffis (Summer 2014)
Jared used GIS to identify Florida landowners who own than 1000 acres of priority gopher tortoise habitat. He then disseminated information to them regarding gopher tortoise recipient sites and other landowner opportunities. Jared also distributed information to zoos and nature centers on the proper care of captive tortoises and other gopher tortoise education material.
Jared will graduate from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science in December 2014. Jared has accepted a job at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Vail, Colorado beginning after graduation.
Megan Nelson (Fall 2014)
Megan used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to create a geodatabase of gopher tortoise burrow surveys throughout Florida>. Megan's secondary project involved working with the other interns to audit the Incidental Take permit database in order to identify the build status of many of the development projects. Megan also participated in public education and outreach events.
Megan is double majoring in Geography and Statistics at FSU, with minors in both mathematics and environmental studies. She is scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2015, and plans to pursue a Master's Degree in Geomatics.
Kayla Mackey (Fall 2014)
Kayla used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to digitize gopher tortoise burrow survey data throughout Florida and specifically from data from the Gopher Tortoise Local Government Habitat Assistance Program. Kayla's secondary project involved working with the other interns to audit the Incidental Take permit database in order to identify the build status of many of the development projects. Kayla also participated in public education and outreach events.
In December of 2014, Kayla graduated from FSU with a double-major in Environmental Studies and Geography, and a minor in Biological Science. She plans to move to New York City to pursue a career in GIS, and hopes to continue to work in the field of conservation.
Ariel Sasloe (Fall 2014)
Ariel created an online A Florida Guide to Gopher Tortoise Friendly Plants and corresponding 21-page guide available for download. Ariel also coordinated and implemented the Gopher Tortoise Volunteer Program. Additionally, Ariel worked together with the other interns to audit the Incidental Take permit database in order to identify the build status of many of the development projects. She served as the public education and outreach coordinator and attended many outreach activities.
Ariel graduated from FSU with a major in Environmental Studies and minor in Psychology in December of 2014. Ariel plans on traveling through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and aspires to work with the National Park Service.
Kelly Smith (Spring 2015)
Kelly continued to manage the GIS geodatabase created by previous interns by entering gopher tortoise population survey data. Kelly also replicated the “Gopher Tortoise Treasure Chest” originally created by an intern in Spring 2011 for FWC’s Southwest Region. She wrote a post for the MyFWC Facebook page on the issue of “Tortoise Dumping”, to dissuade citizens from moving tortoises found in yards and neighborhoods to public lands. Kelly also participated in public outreach and education events.
Kelly graduated from FSU in May 2015 with dual degrees in Environmental Science and Biomathematics. She is now working for the FWC Captive Wildlife Office.
Nicholas Rodriguez (Spring 2015)
Nick created a fact sheet directed towards homeowners that frequently encounter gopher tortoises in their yards and neighborhoods. The main focus for the fact sheet was addressing the interactions between pets and gopher tortoises. He also helped in the implementation of the gopher tortoise volunteer programs and served as education & outreach coordinator.
Nick graduated from FSU with a degree in Environmental Science, and is currently working on applying to law school.
Lauren Loria (Summer 2015)
Lauren continued to manage the GIS geodatabase created by previous interns by entering gopher tortoise population and burrow survey data. Lauren’s secondary project involved maintenance of the gopher tortoise waif permit spreadsheet, which included the distribution of a questionnaire to permit holders in order to update records and contact information. Lauren also coordinated the gopher tortoise outreach and volunteer programs, and planned several new education and outreach events for the summer semester.
Lauren is majoring in Environmental Studies at FSU, and is scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2016. Lauren intends to intern with the Student Conservation Association after graduation, and is planning to pursue a Master's Degree in environmental science.
Morgan Stephenson (Summer 2015)
Morgan created a “Procedure for Investigation of Large-Scale Gopher Tortoise Mortality Events.” The procedure will act as a contingency plan to minimize additional gopher tortoise deaths in the case of a possible large-scale mortality event, as well as prevent such events from occurring in the future. Morgan’s secondary project involved recording and analyzing gopher tortoise mortality data in order to determine where patterns of roadside mortality may occur. Morgan also contacted licensed wildlife rehabilitators throughout the state, in order to update the gopher tortoise rehabilitator spreadsheet.
Morgan will graduate from FSU in May 2016 with a degree in Biology. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in the non-profit sector as a species conservation biologist.
Brian Hutchinson (Fall 2015)
Brian created a Gopher Tortoise Training Manual for Florida State Attorneys to assist with the prosecution of gopher tortoise violations. The manual was created to inform state attorneys of the laws and case history specifically pertaining to gopher tortoises. Brian also continued Lauren’s previous work of updating and maintaining the gopher tortoise waif permit spreadsheet. Brian’s final project was the creation of the FWC Law enforcement Field Guide for gopher tortoises. The guide is intended to be a quick reference for officers to use in the field when responding to gopher tortoise calls and complaints.
Brian graduated from FSU in the summer of 2015 with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy with a minor in Psychology. He is currently working for the FWC Captive Wildlife office.
Courtney Benter (Fall 2015)
Courtney created the Best Management Practices (BMP) Fact Sheet to help minimize the potential for agricultural and silvicultural practices to have adverse impacts on gopher tortoises. Courtney also helped to implement a special-use permit for the transport gopher tortoises to FWC approved locations, and worked with the FWC Volunteer Program to help create the new Incidental Take Permit Gopher Tortoise Relocation Program. As Education & Outreach Coordinator, Courtney planned multiple outreach events throughout the semester, allowing the program to reach diverse audiences of multiple age groups.
Courtney will graduate from FSU with a B.S. in Biology in the summer of 2016. Courtney plans to procure a Ph. D. before pursuing her dream of working for the United Nations to prevent the illegal trade of wildlife.