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Carina Willcock CAS Students' summer series

Carina Willcock

EMU Alum, Class of 2019

Biology Major

Concentration: Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Diversity (EEOD).

What inspired you to pursue a degree in Biology?

"It was never a question for me. My parents used to call me their little Ellie May Clampett, from the Beverly Hillbillies, because for as long as I can remember I was always outside trying to rescue birds, cats, turtles, anything I could find, just like she was. Some things never change, and one of those was my interest in animals and nature. So leaving high school, I knew I would pursue a degree in Biology."

What did your studies in Biology at EMU primarily focus on?

"There were a lot of different classes I could choose from, but knowing I wanted to work with animals, I chose a lot of the environmental- and animal-intensive courses. These included classes like ecology, conservation biology, marine biology, herpetology, and natural history of vertebrates."

This summer Carina is serving as a "Wildlife Ecology Apprentice" at The Wilds, a safari park, in Cumberland, Ohio. In this position she is assisting The Wilds' employees with conservation projects such as bat population/health monitoring and a hellbender breeding program. The safari park is home to threatened, endangered, and vulnerable organisms. They have everything from endangered burying beetles to reticulated giraffes. Carina's tasks will primarily be surveying wild populations, habitat measurement, implementing habitat improvements and monitoring wildlife recovery, genetic analysis, population modeling, and report writing. By the end of her six-month apprenticeship, she will complete a scientific research project and present the findings to The Wilds' employees.

Why did you choose this apprenticeship?

"I chose to be an apprentice at The Wilds because this was one of the few positions I found in my search that gave me the opportunity to conduct conservation research. In my last year at EMU, I was grateful to find myself doing research with Dr. Shillington. I fell in love with it, so for me it was important that I find an opportunity where I could continue this kind of work. At The Wilds, I know the work I will be doing is crucial to conserving the species that reside there, and being able to see the impact I am making on their survival is the most gratifying work I can imagine doing."

What do you hope to gain through your apprenticeship with The Wilds?

"I am hopeful that this internship will give me the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge I have learned at EMU in a conservation setting. I also hope to continue learning through The Wilds’ training seminars for various topics like GIS and field data collection methods. There is so much I can learn from the experienced staff I will be working alongside, and I want to absorb as much as I can about as many species and field techniques as possible during my time there."

In what ways did you evolve as an academic, or an individual by completing your studies at EMU?

"Entering my freshman year of college, I knew I wanted to work with animals, but I didn’t know the importance of their presence in the environment, balance of life, and use of natural resources. I had no idea how vastly they impact our daily lives and how sensitive ecosystems are to change. Understanding their influences gave me incredible motivation to work towards conserving each species to the best of my abilities. Eastern also gave me multiple opportunities for supplementing my classroom knowledge with real-world scenarios."

How has, or will your time at EMU influence your future endeavors?

"A couple key components of my EMU experience that have already aided me and will continue to aid me in the future are field work and research. Classes that involve hands-on fieldwork have proved to be an asset. Specific classes that I gained valuable experience in species identification and data collection are herpetology, marine biology, and a study abroad course I took to Ecuador (Environment and Ecology of Ecuador). In terms of research, my independent research on cuttlefish with Dr. Shillington, I believe will open many future doors for me. Through a conservation biology course, I was part of a community partner research project with the Detroit Zoo’s Amphibian Conservation Center, which will also prove to be a crucial stepping stone in my future."

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CAS Dean's Office
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