Thursday, January 28, 2021

NECWA Intern Austyn Morin

Hello! My name is Austyn Morin. I am currently a senior at Stonehill College, majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Spanish and German. I have always been interested in the outdoors, spending lots of my free time hiking and fishing in Vermont. This has allowed me to gain a deep appreciation for the local wildlife. Those experiences have inspired me to pursue a career in wildlife biology and conservation.

Austyn (on left) and David (right)
with rescued live sea turtle.

So, naturally, I wanted to do something that would allow me to work with the wildlife of Massachusetts.  I first heard of NECWA through Stonehill College and other students that had interned here. The first activities I participated in had to do with NECWA’s Ocean Sunfish Project, which involved responding to stranded Ocean Sunfish reports and returning them to the water if they were still alive. On one chilly November morning in East Sandwich, I had the opportunity to help return an Ocean Sunfish to the water. On other occasions, I have walked beaches looking for stranded Ocean Sunfish, tagging, taking data, and performing necropsies on the carcasses.

Austyn assisting a live Ocean Sunfish
I also had the opportunity to walk beaches looking for other type of stranded marine wildlife on Cape Cod and even managed to find a few live cold-stunned sea turtles. This was a very gratifying experience as I had never seen a sea turtle before outside of the New England Aquarium. Overall, I learned a lot about the local weather patterns and how the Cape's geography affects these animals and causes the strandings every year.

Austyn taking data on a Torpedo Ray

More recently, I have participated in NECWA’s new research project for the Western Atlantic Torpedo. This project is focused on the only electric ray that is native to our New England waters. I was involved with on-site necropsies as well as data analysis back in the lab. Using ArcGIS Pro, I was able to create  maps that show the location of the 63 torpedo ray carcasses NECWA was able to document this stranding season. The most interesting map is the one that shows the mass stranding of torpedo rays that occurred in late December on Long Point Beach in Provincetown. In this location, NECWA was able to document 41 torpedo ray carcasses that stranded along this 1.3 mile stretch of beach that borders Provincetown Harbor. 

Austyn documenting a Torpedo Ray

In the future, I hope to pursue a career in wildlife biology and conservation while implementing my passion for GIS. To learn more about Stonehill's Environmental program, click here.

By Austyn Morin, Senior at Stonehill College