I grew up on a small island in South Jersey. When I moved to DC, there was no beach, no boardwalk; just an endless sea of coffee shops that makes one wonder about market over-saturation. But moving here reminded me what makes the Jersey shore, my home, such a special place.
No – it’s neither Snooki nor Jwoww. I’m talking about the wetlands environment.
What’s awesome about the wetlands is that they: (1) act as a natural barrier against storms and (2) harbor a diverse biological community. The more I learned about them, the more I wanted to be involved. That’s what led me to volunteer at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, NJ.
Here’s the backstory: every year, female diamondback terrapin turtles come up to shore to lay their eggs. Because of human coastal development, many of these turtles end up crossing land-bridges with roads. Tragically, significant numbers of pregnant turtles are killed along these land-bridges, and that has adversely affected the local turtle population.
The Wetlands Institute’s main efforts have been to restore these populations. By setting up special fencing along the land-bridges, they’ve been able to reduce turtle fatalities. They also formed special rescue teams that patrol roads and check storm drains for recently hatched babies. They’ve even partnered with Stockton University, training students to extract and incubate eggs from deceased turtles.
I volunteered in the aquarium, where rehabilitative care was given. This is where hatchlings were fed and nurtured to grow larger, faster. By doing so, the tiny turtles have a better chance of survival before being released back into the wild. Admittedly, the turtle release days are among my favorite; it’s heart-warming to see these small turtles swim off into the water for the first time.
I cared for other animals as well, including a blind adult female turtle, an eel and even an octopus! Although a lot of my time was spent cleaning tanks and preparing food, I am proud to have made a tangible impact on my local environment and in the community.
How does the old saying go? “Actions speak louder than words.”
My experience at the Wetlands Institute has inspired me to study at a school that has public service at the heart of its business model. The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School empowers its students with the skills and knowledge to lead not just in the private sector, but also in non-profits. Management and leadership are important for organizations like the Wetlands Institute to be sustainable.
I encourage everyone to volunteer as much as possible. I know time is precious, but think of it as “expanding your horizons.” Perhaps you’ll be struck with a great new idea for a non-profit, or identify an unmet need that could serve as your company’s new niche.
There are a variety of volunteer opportunities in the DC/Baltimore area. One of which is the Pauperism Project, created by our classmate and MBA candidate, Monika Mason, to fight chronic homelessness. We’ll also be organizing an opportunity for our DC students to volunteer on April 2nd for the Johns Hopkins President’s Day of Service – so keep an eye out for information on that. If you’re inspired by the Wetlands Institute, you can check them out here.