Our Summer Postcard Series Continues With a Letter from Evan Williams ’17
The third in a summer postcard series featuring letters from students, Evan Williams ’17 writes from her summer Environmental Policy and Conservation Internship working on the Georgia coast barrier islands.
I never left the US this summer, but my Global Engagement internship has taken me to a place more than 1,000 miles from both my hometown in Colorado and my second home in Wellesley, a place where my accent sticks out and some local foods are completely new to me. The Georgia coast is made up of 100 miles of barrier islands separating the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland, and is famous for its big tides, shrimp, and expanses of green marsh grass. The area provides winter calving grounds for right whales, nesting beaches for sea turtles in the summer, and the name for the organization I’m working with—One Hundred Miles.
One Hundred Miles is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization that focuses on protecting, preserving, and enhancing the Georgia coast. This summer, I’m working on a research project on erosion control techniques and their economic and environmental impacts.
My internship has been fun because it has combined two fields I am interested in: economics and ecology. I’m also learning a lot about working in the nonprofit sector and how environmentalism and conservation works on the Georgia coast.
The history and landscape is different on each of the 14 major barrier islands here. St. Simon’s Island is developed and residential. Sea Island is a high-end private resort island. Sapelo Island is home to Geechee communities, whose blend of West African and American culture is unique to the Georgia and South Carolina barrier islands. Several islands are under conservation easement, meaning they can never be developed, and are home to breeding sea birds, dolphins, alligators, and horseshoe crabs. Most islands are accessible only by boat.
One of the best parts of my job so far is getting out and exploring. I’ve tagged along on a survey of nesting oystercatchers, gone out on a sea turtle nest patrol, kayaked 12 miles down the Ogeechee River, and taken a car ride up to Savannah with an osprey in a plastic box.
The nesting sea turtles are an especially important part of life here in the summer. The whole community follows nesting reports, and fleets of volunteers as well as technicians from the state Department of Natural Resources patrol the beaches looking for new nests (which are marked with a sign and some protective netting to keep people and animals away).
When I went out with a turtle technician, we found two nests and relocated one of them. I sat on my knees on the hot sand in 95-degree heat, a combination of sand, sweat, and sunscreen sticking to my arms, legs, and face. Reaching into the nest cavity, I carefully removed 177 loggerhead turtle eggs, each the size and texture of a Ping-Pong ball with a flexible, leathery shell. The eggs filled a 5-gallon bucket to the top. I put all the eggs back into a replacement “nest” that the turtle technician had dug in the sand. She let me do the fun parts since I was a total newbie.
While those turtle eggs spend the rest of the summer incubating, I will continue to work with the five inspired, hardworking women who make up One Hundred Miles. My coworkers got me to try grits for the first time the other day, and I’ve had a couple other encounters with Southern cuisine—fried okra is ok but boring—yet I still have no idea what a hush puppy is.
This summer is only the second time I’ve ever been on a beach, so I’m taking advantage of every chance I get to go on a fast boat ride. I bike to work every day—despite my intolerance for humidity—under old trees decorated with Spanish moss, and this simple image will remain one of the most beautiful things I’ll remember from this summer.
Till next spring, then (I’ll be studying abroad this fall),
Evan Williams ’16 is an economics major. She will be studying abroad in Cordoba, Spain, this fall.