A summer of burrows

By Maddie Paris, Guest Writer

Hey there, NERRds! Today we have a special blog post written by one of our summer interns here at the GTM Research Reserve. So sit back, grab your coffee, and we hope you enjoy!


Working at GTM has been a whirlwind. Among many other skills, I’ve learned how to design and implement a research project, how to remove a tick with my bare hands, how to crack loggerhead sea turtle eggs (pierce and peel), how to work independently, and how to recognize and scope a gopher tortoise burrow.

Gopher Tortoise burrow

I was given a great deal of responsibility from day one, and I like to think that I rose to the occasion (after many moments of panic that I had no idea what I was doing). A wasp sting, thousands of ticks, an incredibly long waiting period for a permit, pygmy rattlesnakes, and the Florida heat all attempted to do me in, but the great people at Guana succeeded in making this summer a great experience for me.

Working with such wonderful volunteers was most certainly an internship highlight; interacting with such a friendly, hardworking group made every day enjoyable. I am glad to report that I brought back every volunteer that came out with me, although we did have a few scares along the way. Losing volunteers in the woods and contracting Lyme disease were my two biggest fears, and I as far as I know, I was successful in avoiding both.

Every day I’d come home from the woods, my mom would sigh and scold me as she picked off ticks and freckles alike. I longed for the day my scoping permit would be issued from the state and I could go back to the dunes, but I put my head down (literally) and surveyed as much of the GTM peninsula as possible. All in all, we found 567 gopher tortoise burrows along the dunes, dam, and northern peninsula area, an impressive number that provides GTM with data to monitor this threatened species over time. This internship forced me to become a leader, allowed me to problem solve, and gave me a plethora of other transferrable research skills. I’m still not exactly sure of what I want to do in life, but I’m grateful to GTM for bringing me one step closer.

Maddie Paris

Maddie is studying Biology and Marine Science and Conservation at Duke University. While her research interests vary, she is driven to contribute to the study of environmental science in her future career. Maddie was a summer intern at GTM NERR where she conducted a gopher tortoise survey within the northern component of the Reserve.

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