Gopher Tortoise Conservation Internship

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

Mackenzie Baysinger (Fall 2017)

Mackenzie BurrowMackenzie created a “Gopher Tortoise Treasure Chest” for the FWC South Region containing hands-on gopher tortoise artifacts for education and outreach activities, and refurbished the existing Tallahassee Treasure Chest. Mackenzie also served as the Education & Outreach and Volunteer Program Coordinator, planning for outreach events and organizing volunteers. Mackenzie also created outreach animal talking point cards – a tool that serves as a resource of information for those displaying the animals commonly used by the FWC at outreach events.

Mackenzie will graduate from Florida State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science. She hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a related field of study. Mackenzie also plans to apply for the Peace Corps this summer and is excited to further her work in conservation!

Nora Sullivan (Fall 2017)

Nora SullivanNora began a new project creating easily accessible spatial data files of conservation easements, granted to the FWC through previously issued Incidental Take permits (ITPs), to improve long-term management and compliance. Using ArcGIS Pro, Nora digitized 23 easements from metes & bounds information. For her secondary project, she compiled results from the local government approval survey project (spring 2017) into a comprehensive summary report. Nora’s tertiary project was to review user submissions to the “Florida Gopher Tortoise” smartphone app.

Nora will be graduating from Florida State University in spring 2019 with a B.S. in environmental science and a minor in computer science. She hopes to complete an “Honors in the Major” thesis project, related to ocean acidification, at the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, FL. Nora recommends this internship to anyone interested in wildlife, and encourages potential interns to just gopher it.

Paris Jennings (Summer 2017)

Paris JenningsParis created an eLearning course that provides training to volunteers who are interested in conducting outreach events as a representative for the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Program. Paris also served as the Education & Outreach Coordinator, and the Volunteer Program Coordinator. Her tertiary project consisted of monitoring photo submissions to the “Florida Gopher Tortoise” smartphone app.

Paris will graduate from Florida State University in the spring of 2018 with a degree in Environmental Science and minors in Education and Biology. She plans to attend graduate school and complete a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science, concentrating on Animal Behavior and GIS. Paris wishes to pursue a career in marine life conservation that will allow her to continue to be involved with education and outreach efforts in Florida.

Alyssa Schubert (Summer 2017)

Alyssa SchubertAlyssa conducted targeted outreach to private landowners throughout Florida in order to gauge their conservation interests, and promote gopher tortoise recipient sites on private lands. She additionally contacted public land managers and wildlife rehabilitators in an effort to reduce the unauthorized release of gopher tortoises on public lands, and minimize the dissemination of Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (URTD). Alyssa also reviewed the gopher tortoise website, providing suggestions on how to improve the user’s experience.

Alyssa will graduate from Florida State University in spring 2018 with a degree in Biomathematics and a minor in Environmental Science & Policy. She would like to pursue a graduate degree in Environmental Engineering with a focus on ecological systems or water resources. Alyssa hopes to have a career dedicated to protecting and serving the environment, and is greatly interested in conservation.

Theresa Dash (Spring 2017)

Theresa DashTheresa conducted outreach to local governments and the general public to promote April 10th as Gopher Tortoise Day in the state of Florida. Theresa’s efforts resulted in eight cities and eight counties officially adopting a proclamation for 2017, as well as several Gopher Tortoise Day events throughout the state, raising awareness for the species. Theresa also acted as the Gopher Tortoise Education and Outreach Coordinator, and Volunteer Coordinator, organizing and coordinating events and volunteers throughout the semester. Theresa’s tertiary project involved reviewing the “Florida Gopher Tortoise” smartphone app photo submissions for quality control.

Theresa will graduate from Florida State University with a degree in Environmental Science. She hopes to pursue a career in wildlife conservation where she can utilize the knowledge that she’s learned throughout her educational experience at FSU, as well as showcase the skills and experience gained through the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Internship Program at FWC.

Cody Shook (Spring 2017)

Cody ShookCody surveyed local governments throughout Florida about their permitting and approval process for land development activities on sites with gopher tortoise burrows. He also created a set of guidelines for citizens who want to post gopher tortoise signs in their communities and uploaded the information to the FWC Gopher Tortoise webpage. Cody’s tertiary project was to update the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Program’s list of wildlife rehabilitators. Cody says his favorite part about being an intern was attending outreach events, watching Scooter the gopher tortoise explore nature and eat flowers.

Cody plans to graduate from FSU in December 2017 with a degree in Environmental Science. He hopes to eventually pursue a career in marine conservation, and wants to spend a few years in the field before ultimately attending law school. Cody is currently working for the FWC Boating & Waterways Section.

Sarah Kettelkamp (Fall 2016)

Sarah KettelkampSarah developed an eastern indigo snake eLearning course designed for those applying for a Scientific Collecting permit for research, education, and reintroduction of the species. The course includes information about the species’ natural history, identification, husbandry, and permitting, as well as a final quiz the applicant must pass to qualify for a permit. Sarah was also tasked with contacting local governments throughout the state to establish additional Incidental Take Permit (ITP) Recipient Sites, and reviewing photo submittals to the “Florida Gopher Tortoise” smartphone app.

Sarah graduates from Florida State University in May of 2017 with a major in Biology. Sarah is completing a summer internship at St. Francis Wildlife Association, and plans to attend graduate school in the fall of 2017.

Carolyn Back (Fall 2016)

Carolyn BackCarolyn created an informational packet for Florida realtors about the laws and regulations regarding gopher tortoises living on private properties. Carolyn researched and included answers to frequently asked questions, developed a questionnaire, and contacted realtor associations throughout Florida to distribute the materials. Carolyn also served as the Volunteer Coordinator and the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Program, planning various public outreach events around Tallahassee.

Carolyn graduated from Florida State University in December 2016 with a major in Environmental Studies. She plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Master's in Urban and Regional Planning. Carolyn currently works for the FWC Division of Law Enforcement, and recommends this internship for anyone who is interested in learning about conservation and having fun while doing so.

Kristin Perkins (Summer 2016)

Kristin-PerkinsKristin's used Google Earth to determine the completion status of development projects previously permitted for the incidental take of gopher tortoises. The information gathered was used to contact developers with incomplete projects, and inform them of the humane relocation program offered by the FWC. Kristin's secondary project was to review and approve photo submissions from the Florida Gopher Tortoise Smartphone App. Kristin also acted as Volunteer Coordinator for the semester, and participated in public education and outreach events.
Kristin graduated in the summer of 2016 with her Master's degree in Aquatic Environmental Science from FSU. She plans to work in conservation or the rescue and rehabilitation of Florida's wildlife.

Jack Boeve (Summer 2016)

Jack-BoeveJack created a fact sheet on Upper Respiratory Tract Disease (URTD) to promote awareness of the condition and assist in minimizing spread of the disease. He also acted as coordinator for the Incidental Take Permit (ITP) Gopher Tortoise Relocation Program, which recruits and trains volunteers to conduct burrow surveys on ITP sites in order to assist with offsite relocation efforts. Jack also acted as Education and Outreach Coordinator, planning a total of seven events during which he educated the public in gopher tortoise conservation.

Jack will be graduating from Florida State University in the spring of 2017 with Bachelor’s degrees in both Environmental Studies and Political Science. After graduation, he plans on working to create and enforce policies that will protect our environment.

Andrea Williams (Spring 2016)

andrea-williams.jpgAndrea created a marketing packet and website to promote April 10th as “Gopher Tortoise Day” in the state of Florida.  The website provides information for local governments interested in adopting a “Gopher Tortoise Day” resolution and hosting events in their community.  Andrea was the Volunteer Program Coordinator for the semester, and helped to further implement the new Incidental Take Permit Gopher Tortoise Relocation Program.  Andrea also served as the Education & Outreach Coordinator for the semester, planning multiple outreach events and presentations for a variety of audiences.

Andrea plans to graduate from FSU in the spring of 2017 with a B.S. in Environmental Science. After graduation, Andrea would like to have a career working in environmental or endangered species conservation, after completing the Peace Corps Master’s Program.

Zack Nadrich (Spring 2016)

zack-nadrich.jpgZack ran a statistical analysis and created a summary report to assess the usage of various permit types offered by the program. Zack reviewed such parameters as permit usage by County, project acreage for each permit type, and the male:female ratio of recipient sites. Zack also worked on updating data received through our Mortality Data Webform, and created map showing mortality data throughout the state using ArcGIS. Zack worked with our intern Andrea on the “Gopher Tortoise Day” marketing packet, by creating a Facebook post that reached over 18,000 people!

Zack graduated from FSU this spring with a degree in Applied Mathematics. Zack received a job offer from Geico headquarters in Washington D.C., and plans to pursue a Master’s degree in the future.



 Previous Years Interns

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