8 Positions, 5 Countries, 2 Years: Marine Bio Alumna Kick-starts Career with Internships

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After college graduation, some young people struggle to secure a professional position in their field.

In the two years since she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in marine biology, Juliet Gressle ’17 has landed eight.

A somewhat unconventional journey that instead of graduate school or permanent employment features pit stops across the globe from Costa Rica to the Maldives, Gressle’s career thus far has been a series of internships.

A Connecticut native, Gressle applies to about 10 internships every “season,” developing new skill sets with each placement that prepare her and make her more marketable for the next.

“The marine biology field is super competitive, and finding jobs is anything but easy,” Gressle says. “But since I’ve started working in the field, I’ve found that it’s pretty small, and everyone knows someone.”

Her first position as a marine educator at a teen summer camp laid the foundation for the majority of those that followed, focusing primarily on work with sea turtles. Her responsibilities, however, have varied.

“Almost all of my internships have had some sort of marine- and environmental-education component, which I really enjoy,” Gressle says. “On the other hand, working at a five-star resort, working at a summer camp and working at a research-based organization are all completely different.”

During her internship at a luxury hotel on Fregate Island Private in Seychelles, aside from the hands-on experience tagging hawksbill and green sea turtles and monitoring giant tortoises and several bird species, Gressle branched into the public education component of the industry, leading hotel guests on guided nature walks.

While she never saw herself working in an education-based capacity, Gressle continued with public education at her next internships with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Costa Rica and Sea Turtle Camp’s Hawaii travel program, where she taught locals and young adults, respectively, about the importance of sea turtles and marine conservation.

“I always thought I’d pursue more research-focused jobs, but I really feel like I’m making a difference educating others to care for our marine environment,” Gressle says. “I love when I can inspire people to use less plastic and care for the natural environment.”

Unfortunately, she has seen firsthand what happens when we don’t.

After a brief hiatus from working with sea turtles to work with a variety of shark species at Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas, Gressle refocused on the reptiles with Marine Savers, the marine conservation team at the Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives, this time providing medical care to sick and injured sea turtles.

From weak hatchlings and buoyancy problems to amputated flippers from ghost fishing nets, many of the issues Gressle and the team dealt with were surmountable with proper care and careful transfer, but not all of their sea turtle patients were so fortunate.

“It’s heart-breaking to see first-hand how much of an impact our trash has on these beautiful animals, and I’m very glad I have the opportunity to help them,” Gressle wrote in a blog post on the Marine Savers website, another aspect of some of her internship experiences.

One of her favorite parts of the Maldives internship was leading guests on dolphin cruises and guided snorkel trips, during which she saw hundreds of spinner dolphins, a pod of 50 short-finned pilot whales and a diversity of species in the coral reefs—which she also helped replant—like she’s never seen elsewhere.

From the Maldives, Gressle’s next stop was Santa Catalina Island, California, to work as an instructor at Catalina Environmental Leadership Program, an environmental education program for student groups from fourth grade through college.

Every day was an adventure, leading groups on guided kayak tours, day and night snorkel trips through the kelp forest and a variety of hikes. The adventure continued indoors with microscope labs and lessons on the night sky and sustainability. 

For her wanderlust, Gressle credits ocean engineering and marine sciences Professor Mark Bush’s field ecology course in the Galápagos Islands.

For the confidence and courage to pursue that passion, she credits the friends she made in college and in her sorority.

For the ability to secure and succeed in the positions she has earned, she credits Florida Tech.

“The marine biology curriculum isn’t easy,” she says, “but I feel like I had a great background knowledge in so many different subjects that would have allowed me to pursue a variety of different career paths after graduation,” she says.

And in a way, she has.

“I’ve been able to live and work in so many amazing countries—and visit even more—and I wouldn’t trade those experiences or memories for the world,” Gressle says.

Not every aspect of life as an intern is a slice of paradise, though.

“On the downside, I do struggle financially, have to apply to lots of jobs every few months and basically live out of a suitcase, which definitely isn’t easy,” she says.

But to her, it’s worth it.

“I’ve been able to see some of the most incredible marine life, I have friends all over the world, and I’ve met so many incredible biologists who I really look up to,” she said in a Q&A with Girls in Ocean Science.

Today, Gressle has switched gears back to working with sharks for a summer internship with O’Seas Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit that combines shark research with youth education to protect marine life and inspire future marine conservationists.

While helping with the foundation’s research activities, like baiting for sharks and fishing, Gressle is also part of Shark Camp, a summer camp for eighth through 12th graders.

“I couldn’t be more excited to expand my shark-handling knowledge and work with a variety of species I haven’t gotten to work with before,” she says.

What’s the next stop on Gressle’s journey? While she does see graduate school in her future, she’s not ready to slow down just yet.

“I’m not 100% sure what is next for me, but there are definitely a few more countries I’d like to try living in before I settle down somewhere,” she says. “I’m excited to see what the future holds!”

UPDATE

Juliet recently landed a full-time position at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman as a marine biologist/naturalist!

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