By Callie Boatright, UNCW

My Internship at Masonboro Island Coastal Reserve: Part 1

Masonboro Island is a barrier island just off the coast of southeastern North Carolina. Masonboro, or Mase as the locals call it, is unique in that it is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands on the US east coast. A barrier island is an island that naturally forms just off of the coast and rolls over itself. This rollover is caused by waves pushing the sand on the shore. There are three main parts to a barrier island, a beach, dunes, and overwash. Through wind and wave action, barrier islands naturally traverse south and west, inching closer to the mainland each year. Barrier islands provide ideal habitats for wildlife such as nesting shorebirds and sea turtles. While Mase is undeveloped, it is heavily used by local surfers, fishermen, boaters and beachgoers. The North Carolina Coastal Reserve manages the island and is dedicated to conserving the island while allowing others to enjoy the beauty of it.

Callie Boatright carefully picks up a baby sea turtle to redirect its path toward the ocean.

As a student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, I was able to network through one of my professors to receive an internship at the North Carolina Coastal Reserve at Masonboro Island. I was particularly interested in the internship because it would allow me to combine both of my majors. I am a double major in environmental studies and communication studies. I chose these majors in the hope that one day I would be able to use them both to make documentaries. Through the internship I was able to combine skills from both majors to provide the North Carolina Coastal Reserve with videos to inform the public about the work being done at Masonboro Island. My internship opened many doors for me including this opportunity to publish my work about my internship.

Callie with sea turtle tracks.

My internship on Masonboro Island was not your everyday walk on the beach. I spent many mornings walking four to eight miles getting video footage and helping to locate and protect nesting sea turtles. We would arrive at the Center for Marine Science, which hosts the North Carolina Coastal Reserve at Masonboro, at 5:30 or 6:00 am to start our walks. The early arrival time was due to the mornings being much cooler and less humid which makes for an easier walk. Depending on the weather and how many nests needed to be taken care of, the walks could take anywhere from three to five hours. The tide dictated where we would start walking on the island. One morning we finished our rounds and were supposed to be picked up, but the tide out-going tide stranded the boat within ten minutes. We waited an extra hour to be picked up and staff retrieved the stranded boat the following day during high tide. Adventures like this continued throughout my summer at Masonboro. I gained many stories and experiences through this wonderful internship that I look forward to sharing in this article series!

Callie Boatright is a senior at The University of North Carolina, Wilmington, with a double major in Environmental Studies and Communication Studies. Her goal is to combine both majors toward a career in documentary films.

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