Loggerhead Marinelife Center is proud to announce the return of ASL Days at LMC! We are happy to offer this as a free event, made possible by our Oceans of Opportunity initiative.
This experience is led by LMC’s very own staff biologist, Jennifer Reilly, who is deaf and fluent in ASL. Guests will receive a tour of our newly renovated campus, outdoor hospital, and get to visit with our sea turtle patients! After exploring our Center, participants will receive a delicious, boxed lunch from Tortuga café. The day will conclude with a special presentation from Reilly in our auditorium.
This monthly event will be held on Nov 5, Dec 3, Jan 14, and Feb 4.
Click here for the link to sign up!
Q & A with Jennifer Reilly, Research Operations Manager and 2022 LMC Blue Staff Member Recipient.
1.) What drew you into this line of work? Was there a specific encounter that brought you to turtle research?
I grew up with an affinity for the ocean and regularly ventured out to the beach on the South Shore of Long Island, but I didn't have much knowledge or experience with sea turtles. In the summer of 2008, I was offered an internship opportunity to work with a Deaf graduate student in Hawai'i who was researching Hawksbill Sea Turtles, as well as their nesting and foraging habits. We spent the majority of the time scouting for nesting hawksbills on Big Island and Maui. We walked on the beach every night for two weeks. On the last night, we did not have any expectations and were prepared to fly back to Big Island the next day with the possibility we didn't encounter a single nesting turtle! Finally, we encountered our first nesting hawksbill on the beach that night in Maui.
As soon as I laid my eyes on the turtle, using my red-light headlamp, and watched her successfully lay a clutch of ping-pong sized eggs, my life had changed forever, and I knew what I wanted and needed to do as I went back to the mainland.
After that, I did pretty much everything to learn more about the keystone species that is the sea turtle. I took a graduate-level course in sea turtle biology and conservation at Duke University's Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina, and applied to graduate programs to pursue a Master's in marine conservation. The more I learn about the keystone species and the challenges they continue to face to this day give me the "fuel to my fire" to continue pursuing a career in sea turtle conservation.
It was 2014, after graduating with my Master's in December 2013, when I applied for and got accepted for one of the nesting field technician positions in the research department at LMC. I ended up returning to the same position in 2015 and 2016. Then in 2018, I was offered a full-time position as a Field Operations Assistant before I was promoted to Research Operations Manager in January 2020.
2.) What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with LMC?
This is a difficult question, as there are so many rewarding aspects to choose from! If I had to choose one, it would be when I get to encounter a nesting leatherback during a morning survey or night monitoring, that will NEVER get old! I get to watch her process which involves digging an egg chamber, depositing her clutch of eggs and covering it up, and making the long, arduous journey back to sea. Then, we monitor her nest for the next two months (we mark every single leatherback nest laid on our stretch of beaches) and then get to see that the nest has hatched successfully. It makes the long, exhausting hours out in extreme weather conditions all worth it.
Another rewarding aspect is when I get to give our Deaf guests a unique experience at LMC. Specifically, during a night turtle walk when their faces light up in the dark as we huddle near a Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting on the beach under the stars. These guests always leave with a smile from ear to ear, commenting non-stop on what an experience it was for them - being able to make that link between what they were told about sea turtles and when they actually see the nesting process of a sea turtle itself.
3.) What advice would you give to a young/aspiring scientist?
Chase after opportunities as much as you can, but also embrace challenges you may encounter as they define who you are. You may not get to where you want to be right away, and that is completely okay. As long as you hang onto your goals and dreams with an open mind, you will get there. Gain more research and laboratory experience by volunteering or interning at different organizations. Get comfortable with reading and understanding scientific articles. Challenge yourself to think critically. Ask questions. Be patient, accepting, and thoughtful of feedback/criticism you receive from peers and supervisors because that is how you learn and grow from experience.
4.) Any background information that you would like to share?
I am a Long Island, New York native. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a Marine concentration from Long Island University at Southampton College, now renamed Stony Brook Southampton, and with my Master's Degree in Marine Conservation & Policy from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University.
Prior to joining LMC, I did an internship in Volusia County under the Environmental Management Division's Sea Turtle Habitat Conservation Plan where I had my first taste of sea turtle nesting surveys in Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach. I am currently taking an NNOCCI (National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation) Trainer Course that will assist me in becoming an efficient communicator with the community (and through American Sign Language) when addressing climate change effects and issues.
When our local nesting sea turtles don't get me all sandy, my face buried in a 3 feet deep hole and feet up in the air, I enjoy reading books, traveling, hiking, snorkeling, photography, and baking!