Sun, Sand, and Sea Turtles: Ueunten interning at Cape Lookout National Seashore

Release Date: 6/21/2013

Trent Ueunten, a senior environmental studies major from San Jose, Calif., is spending his summer as a wildlife management intern for Cape Lookout National Seashore, near Harkers Island, N.C.

Ueunten's day-to-day activities are largely centered on monitoring and protecting the sea turtle population of the barrier islands.

"I am working as a wildlife management intern under the park's resource management division, specifically patrolling and looking for sea turtle activity," Ueunten explained. "The most common sea turtles that nest on the barrier islands are loggerheads (Caretta caretta). Other sea turtles that nest on the barrier islands are green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Kemp's ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), and leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea)."

Ueunten's sea turtle research closely resembles the research he conducted at Ozarks. In fact, Ueunten was awarded the People's Choice award during University of the Ozarks' first A.R.C.H symposium this past semester for his poster presentation titled Distribution and Abundance of Semi-Aquatic Turtles in Johnson County, Arkansas.

With the internship, Ueunten is able to spend several hours each day focusing on turtle research. Cape Lookout National Seashore is protected by the National Parks Service, an agency of the United States Department of Interior, and the turtles that nest there are threatened species.

"Every day I have to get up in the morning and start patrolling for turtle activity no later than 7 a.m.," he said. "I need to complete the sea turtle patrol by noon due to the incubation of the eggs. After I finish my turtle patrol, I then check the rest of the nests that have already been recorded to see if there has been any disturbance, such as predators. When I find time after completing my turtle patrol, I try to tag along with my co-workers to look for piping plovers or oystercatchers, [two types of birds that frequent the islands]."

Ueunten is thrilled to have the chance to do something he loves every day and still gain valuable knowledge for his future career.

"My plans after graduation are to try and get involved with the National Parks Service or any other fieldwork for a year. After a year of working, I hope to go to graduate school, and I'm looking into University of Oregon, specifically," he said.

Ueunten is grateful to Ozarks and his professors for preparing him for to take advantage of this opportunity.

"I feel like my education at Ozarks has prepared me to take advantage of this particular opportunity by encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone on numerous occasions," he said. "The classes I have taken and the extracurricular activities that I have participated in at the Ozarks have all combined to make me more independent and ready for this internship."

Trent Ueunten, a senior environmental studies major from San Jose, Calif.

Trent Ueunten, a senior environmental studies major from San Jose, Calif., is spending the summer conducting research on sea turtles as a wildlife management intern in North Carolina.