Throughout 2012, the staff at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center worked with students from a local high school, West Career & Tech Academy (see Students Help Desert Tortoises). The students were very interested in science and receiving hands-on experience, and we were happy to help out any way we could to expose the students to real-world experiences and to gain a little help of our own. West Tech started an internship program and asked us to participate; we, of course, were happy to help and keep the partnership alive. We thought of a number of projects the interns could work on and found the perfect fit. Our first interns, Gendie Gonzales and Cheyenne Taylor, were interested in participating in duties at the DTCC, but since it’s winter here, we had to come up with an indoor project that would benefit all.
An experienced biologist had collected over 4,000 biological samples (such as plasma, red plasma, red blood cells, ticks, and oral swabs) from desert tortoises at various Mojave Desert sites over the past summer. We needed help banking or organizing all the sample-filled tubes that were in plastic bags with a date on them when given to us. Banking these important samples is not an easy task and takes a lot of time and meticulous effort to ensure no mistakes are made. These samples are important, because they will be around for a long time and will help give us invaluable information about wild desert tortoise genetics and health.
The internship is a great way to give students a look into a career in conservation biology and give us a helping hand at the DTCC. We look forward to the continuing partnership in 2013!
Angie Covert is a research coordinator at the San Diego Zoo Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. Read her previous post, Promoting Desert Tortoise Care.