First Recipients of the National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation Scholarship Fund Chosen at the University of Central Florida
Larry Wood, Ph.D.
Recently, the National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation established a scholarship fund at the University of Central Florida in support of their Marine Turtle Research Group, led in part by Dr. Kate Mansfield (visit https://sciences.ucf.edu/biology/marineturtleresearchgroup/). The funds will support tuition and fees for one full academic year for each of three qualified students, along with the various equipment and publishing costs associated with their research projects. So far two students have been selected to receive their scholarships, and we wish them the best of luck as they embark on their academic careers! Here are their stories:

Hello I’m Jen Rote! I’m originally from Pennsylvania and transferred to UCF in the Fall 2018 semester. I had my first research experience when I took a tropical ecology course with a study abroad trip to the Bahamas at the Gerace Research Center. This learning experience on collecting and analyzing data on intertidal invertebrates gave me clarity that I wanted to pursue a career in field research. Once I finished my Associate’s degree I started to explore universities to transfer to.

I stumbled across UCF and discovered the Marine Turtle Research Group. Based on my previous research experience, I knew working with the turtle lab would be something I would enjoy and provide me with further knowledge on properly collecting data, various field research methodologies, and inferential analyses. The UCF MTRG ended up being a major deciding factor for me choosing to transfer to UCF. Despite having no guarantee of working in the turtle lab, I made it a top priority to reach while attending UCF. I completed the UCF MTRG internship last summer. After the internship I started working with Dr. Erin Seney, researching Kemp’s ridley turtle diets, by analyzing samples collected in the Gulf region from 2011-2015.

My research interests include studying population ecology, animal behavior, and biodiversity conservation methods. My ultimate career aspiration is to develop conservation and management strategies for IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) red list species. Working with imperiled species, like marine turtles, provided me with the knowledge and skills to one day become a successful naturalist and conservation biologist. I hope to continue working alongside the turtle lab and I have set a new goal to present research at the 2021 International Sea Turtle Symposium. Thank you for the generous scholarship to students like me who want to help conserve our planet and all its inhabitants. I know someday I’ll make a difference.

My name is Monica Reusche and I am a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida. My undergraduate degree was in biology with a focus on ecology, evolutionary, and conservation biology. I have been a member of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group for three years and have loved every moment of it. I began my turtle journey as an intern and did my first research project using stable isotopes to evaluate habitat use of juvenile green turtles in the Indian River Lagoon with and without fibropapillomatosis. From there I continued to work with sea turtles and began a new project that became my undergraduate honors thesis which used mtDNA to study the population structure and diversity of juvenile green turtles foraging on the coast of Florida.

Now that I have graduated, I have begun looking into graduate programs that will allow me to continue studying sea turtles to further our knowledge of their biology and facilitate their conservation. Ultimately my goal is to have a better understanding of how the different life stages of sea turtle populations can be protected to ensure their long-lasting existence. I think the biggest tool we have for conservation is educating the public and creating a sense of awe and responsibility. Because turtles are so long lived it can be hard to see the long term impacts that everyday actions may have on their survival, but when people are able to see and understand how intricate and connected the world is the idea becomes less abstract. As I continue to work and study, I hope that I can share my perspective and love for sea turtles with others who may never have the chance to experience it for themselves.

National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation
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