Interns 2015

Allison Bleich


Missouri State University


My name is Alison Bleich and I am originally from Central Illinois.  I graduated in May of 2013, with my Bachelors in Wildlife Biology.  Since graduation, I have worked with bobwhite quail in Texas, Florida, and Missouri. I also spent last summer working in Nevada with sage grouse.  Although my experience is with game birds, my true passion lies with reptiles!  Working with sea turtles has been a dream of mine for several years now, and I am beyond thrilled to get the opportunity to intern at Sea Turtle Inc.!

The Kemp's Ridley is my favorite sea turtle species, because this was the first sea turtle I saw in person at a release in South Padre. I am also very excited to be going back to Texas, and one reason is for the music. I love going to shows and a majority of the bands I listen to are based out of Texas. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family, painting, traveling, and discovering local restaurants and coffee shops. Being a part of Sea Turtle Inc. this summer will be an amazing and rewarding experience, and I am eager to get started!

Heather Hughes


Auburn University


I am originally from Maine and have my undergraduate degrees in Wildlife Sciences and Spanish. After college I traveled around for different seasonal jobs from South Florida to Alaska, Denver, and Puerto Rico. One thing I realized from working in these various environments was how much I loved being on the coast and working with marine ecosystems. I’m very excited to be an intern with Sea Turtle Inc this summer because I am planning on attending graduate school in Marine Biology in the near future. My hobbies include camping, snorkeling, scuba diving, and traveling.

My favorite sea turtle species is the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) because I had the opportunity to see them while snorkeling off the coast of Puerto Rico. Watching them swim and graze on sea grass was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.

Hilary Fransden


University of Texas at Brownsville

I am from St. Augustine, Fl and am currently pursuing my Master's degree in Biology. I enjoy traveling, scuba diving, exercising, and watching movies.

My favorite sea turtle species is the leatherback because they are incredibly massive, have adorable hatchlings, and are the sea turtle species on which I conducted my first scientific research.

Jill Pegnataro


Salve Regina University

My name is Jillian Pegnataro, I'm 23 years old and live in Woodbridge, CT. I recently graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Biology. In the summer of my junior year I had an internship at Salve. Our research was studying the effects of climate change on near shore species. My work focused on the American Lobster and later that year I wrote my undergraduate thesis from the data I collected.

My senior year I decided to study abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica. I took three science classes and an intensive Spanish course. Each course had different excursions to experience what we were learning hands-on. I traveled all over the country and was able to learn so much in those three short months.

I am very passionate about protecting the environment and love conservation. Marine biology and the ocean have a special place in my heart. For as long as I can remember I have always been fascinated by the sea and the creatures that live there. I'm so excited to begin my next journey at Sea Turtle Inc. and to follow my passion for marine biology.

My favorite sea turtle is the Leatherback. I know that their nesting sites aren't found in the Gulf of Mexico, so the chances of my seeing one is slim to none but they are still my favorite. I like them because they are so different from other sea turtles. They are still considered a reptile but they are able to regulate their body temperature. Being such a large animal they are able to generate more heat and also use counter current heat exchange to warm their blood. To me that is amazing. The female Leatherback is also unique because she wont always nest in the same place and are found mainly in the open ocean. The hatchling of a Leatherback sea turtle is just as small as other babies sea turtles, but when they mature to their full size they can be up to 1,500 pounds. The unique characteristics of a Leatherback is what makes me so interested in them and why they are my favorite.  

Joey Bauer



Unity College

My name is Joey Bauer and I am from Farnam, Nebraska.  I double majored in Wildlife Biology and Marine Biology with an interest in captive wildlife care. When not hitting the books, I enjoy hiking, swimming, biking, horseback riding, reading, and going to the movies.

Choosing a favorite species of sea turtle is difficult for me because I find each fascinating in their own way. I hope over the course of my career I have the opportunity to work with each one.

Kara Koenig



My name is Kara Koenig and I am from Newtown, PA. I majored in Marine Biology. My hobbies are outdoor activities (especially running, skiing), reading and playing the piano.

My favorite sea turtle is the Leatherback! I love leatherbacks because they truly are majestic giants. Not only are they the largest species of sea turtles, but they also are unique in the fact that they lack a hard bony shell. Their carapace is instead composed of tough rubbery skin and thousands of small bones, giving them their beautiful “leather” appearance. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to work with them! 

Kimberly Nielsen


Kimberly-NielsenUniversity of San Diego

As a native Southern Californian, I have always loved the ocean. Some of my first and fondest memories are of exploring tidepools with my family, and as such I have had a love for marine animals, especially sea turtles, my whole life. From a young age I knew I wanted to study marine biology, and so after high school I went to study Marine Science (biology pathway) at the University of San Diego. During my time as an undergraduate I studied abroad on the east coast of Australia, which is where I had my first encounter with sea turtles in the wild. After graduating from USD, I worked as a research assistant on a sea turtle conservation project on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. There I worked together with a team of assistants and volunteers to protect the eggs and hatchlings of olive ridleys, green sea turtles, and even one leatherback. I enjoy snorkeling, diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, and reading scientific books and papers. I am so excited to be interning with Sea Turtle, Inc!

I love all sea turtles, but my first experience with them in Australia especially endeared green sea turtles to me, as swimming with them on the Great Barrier Reef was my first time with these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Samantha Grimes



Marian University

Hi there! I’m from Plainfield, Illinois, and I graduated with a B.S. in Biology in 2014. I plan on continuing my education in marine biology and/or environmental conservation in the near future. In my free time, I bowl and am blessed to have competed in college. Since graduation, I continue to bowl in leagues and tournaments and spend time with my 3 dogs and 20-lb cat.  I’m also a big crafter. I spent the summer of 2013 working in the Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at Mote Marine in Sarasota, Florida, and I can’t wait to get back to the amazing animals that I love!

My favorite sea turtle would have to be the Loggerhead because they look so bulky and rough, and then you watch how carefully they make their nest and it’s completely the opposite… and the hatchlings are SO CUTE (but aren’t they all?).  I’m excited to experience Sea Turtle, Inc.’s atmosphere and be around people who share in my calling.