Wednesday, January 27, 2021

NECWA Intern Highlight - Coleman Earner

Coleman with dead Common Dolphin at Linnell Landin, Brewster, MA.

Hello! My name is Coleman Earner and I am in my Junior year at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA). I am currently studying Marine Science, Safety, and Environmental Protection (MSSEP) with a minor in Marine Biology. From a young age, I was fascinated by the ocean ecosystem and all of its moving parts. Since then, I’ve known for certain that I wanted to pursue the field of Marine Biology. During my time at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, I became especially interested in the phenomenon of stranded marine life. Participating in marine wildlife rescues and field research are activities that I’ve wanted to become involved in for a long time. I first heard about NECWA through one of Mass Maritime’s Career fairs as well as recommendations from various fellow students, which drove me to become more involved with their program through a MMA Winter Co-op Program. 


Dead Ocean Sunfish stranded on
Great Island, Wellfleet, MA.


My first day of fieldwork at NECWA consisted of walking Great Island in Wellfleet, MA in search of a stranded Ocean Sunfish carcass that was reported to NECWA the day before. The primary goal of this expedition was to report and record any washed-up marine life as well as learn the basics of proper searching and data collection. Along with another intern from MMA, Jack Gerrior, we successfully located the fresh Ocean Sunfish carcass and began collecting the requisite photographs and data. This experience was extremely invigorating and piqued my interest in further field research. I was fortunate enough to be able to work-up a fresh Ocean Sunfish carcass, as this instance would be the last new Ocean Sunfish stranding of the 2020/2021 stranding season.


Live Loggerhead Sea Turtle rescued by Coleman Earner
and Jack Gerrior at Beach Point, Truro, MA.


Along with various necropsies of Torpedo Rays and Ocean Sunfish, I was lucky to be involved with a number of rescues such as various seabirds and the rescue of a live Loggerhead Sea Turtle. As I was walking from Top Mast Resort south to Cold Storage Beach, I saw this turtle in the surf being pulled back out to sea. I had to wade into the surf to rescue this cold-stunned turtle and contacted Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet for a pick-up. Being part of rescue efforts directly was an incredible experience and I am very thankful that I was able to make a difference. 


Coleman photographing a dead torpedo ray on
Point of Rocks Beach, Brewster, MA.


During my time with NECWA, I also appreciated the direct and in-depth instruction provided by my supervisor, Krill Carson regarding the "how-tos" with beach rescues and necropsies. I picked-up a variety of techniques quickly such as how best to survey beaches for stranded animals and proper techniques used for data collection and measurements. My internship experience at NECWA has given me insights into the various elements of marine biology and fieldwork, including necropsies, photo-ID and video documentation. I also learned how to thoroughly document strandings through GPS positions, body measurements and weights. Back in the lab, I participated in tracking weather conditions and being involved in data input and analysis. Rescuing marine animals in need and analyzing stranded marine life data has piqued my interest in marine biology fieldwork even further. 


Live Loggerhead rescued from Beach Point, Truro, MA

My hopes for the future would be to find a career in the field of Marine Ecology, Seabird Protection, or general Coastal Conservation efforts. If you would like to learn more about Mass Maritime’s MSSEP Program, click HERE

Article by Coleman Earner, Junior at Mass Maritime Academy