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The Science Exchange

About

Sea Turtle Internships for College Credit!

The Science Exchange is the only non-profit organization that creates affordable, customized, field-based research internship packages for college and graduate students from around the world. Our Mission is to train the next generation to become scientifically literate, international team players through our two-month STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) research internships in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Reviews

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Diana Rubi
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Science exchange program (Sea turtles internship)

his program was an amazing experience.

It gave the chance to work with a vulnerable Sea turtle specie ("Golfina") and I could understand how important is to support this kind of wildlife conservation programs.

I had the privilege to write a scientific paper related to nesting techniques. Even it was published on a bilingual and international magazine.

It helped me to improve my CV.
As a Veterinarian I want to continue my studies with this particular animal.

The program also immerses you into a multicultural experience

Pros
  • If you are student or graduate is a good experience to build your CV
  • Language practice
  • Cultural exchange
Cons
  • If you don't stand nature ( mosquitos, bad weather) is not for you
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Joshua
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Reef Fishes and Corals in Akumal, Mexico

My experience was unique because I was able to work with fishes and corals on an academic venture. Future travelers should not worry about the area being unsafe, but they should know introductory Spanish if staying for a long amount of time. Additionally, be crafty with your food if you have no reliable, cheap way of going out of town - there is no large grocery store in Akumal. Don't go if you don't care for "beach life" (snorkeling, swimming, nighttime parties, etc.). Everyone in town is nice, but don't pet the dogs.

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Jack
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Science Exchange

The Science Exchange is truly a unique experience. Getting the opportunity to study sea turtles on a beautiful remote beach for two months is a once in a lifetime experience and one that has everlasting memories. I was lucky enough to be an intern for The Science Exchange during the summer of 2019. During this time, I was helping to conduct research on Hawksbill Sea Turtles just south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was by far one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Getting to work so closely with the animals and making a meaningful difference was only part of that made that summer so special. The friends I made, experiencing the culture, and getting to know the people within the small village was just as rewarding as the research itself. I highly recommend this program and my only regret is not staying longer!

Pros
  • Great and unique research experience. Can get up close with the animals you are studying
  • Connect with a variety of different people from different backgrounds
  • Experience a new culture and way of life
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Marek
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I enjoyed every second

I enjoyed every second beeing an intern. I have met so many amazing people. You all made me the happiest vet student EVER! Thank you!The Science Exchange is an amazing program that has opened many doors for me. A participation is a great way to gain some unique knowledge, experiences. I am so glad I did it.
If given the chance, I recommend everybody to visit the CIIDIR (Instituto Politécnico Nacional) in Guasvave and to meet its inspiring and dedicated scientists, there is so much to learn from them.

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Jose
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The Science Exchange Sea Turtle Program

My time at the Science Exchange represented one of the best learning experiences of my academic and personal life. The program surpassed all my expectations. It allowed me to grow as a scientist within a real-world conservation project, while also offering much enrichment in the way of cultural and linguistic exchange. Coordinators were flexible and understanding of our needs as interns, which made the whole experience even more welcoming. Furthermore, the program gave me the opportunity to grow within a fun, safe and exiting new environment. Importantly, I received sustained mentorship before, while in the program, and after the program was over. This individualized mentorship has continued well after my project was completed. Therefore, I consider myself lucky to still have the opportunity to work and learn from Science Exchange mentors like Dr. Elizabeth Whitman and Katherine Comer Santos. These mentors understand the importance of creating an inclusive research environment which can produce good science as well as qualified and mindful scientists.

My experience with the Science Exchange was positively life-changing; I would encourage anyone with an interest in research, sea turtles or working abroad to join them on the beach!

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

What originally inspired you to intern with The Science Exchange?

My original inspiration to intern with the science exchange was the opportunity to get more research experience as well as work with such an amazing animal as the sea turtle.

Describe your typical day.

My day to day activities as an intern included eating an early breakfast and then heading out to collect data on the beach such as sand specimens and measurements of the shoreline. Then we came back in time for lunch after which we would take as down time until after dinner where we would set up the patrolling schedule in two shifts: early and late according to the tide.

On the patrols we would scout the beach for sea turtle nests and for nesting female sea turtles. When we would find a nest we would dig it up, take a couple data points (eg. Number of eggs, width of the mothers tracks, tide, sand samples and sector of beach where nest was found) and bring the eggs back to the hatchery so they will be safe from predation.

When we would cross paths with a turtle nesting we would take her measurements, tag her with an identification number, collect her eggs and then take them to the hatchery. The next day with the sand samples we would cook the sand to get measurements of the water content and then sift the sand to measure the grain size.

How has this experience impacted your future?

This experience has helped me understand more about myself than any other experience I have had to date. I personally grew quite a bit in the fact that I was responsible for a project bigger than myself which led me to be more responsible. Also, traveling with only my research partner in a foreign country made me more resourceful making me be more willing to ask other for help.

Professionally it has been a help with trying to apply to other internships and has helped with choosing what sector of biology I could focus in on.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Katherine Comer Santos

Job Title
Director
Katherine founded and directs The Science Exchange. She is an Adjunct Research Associate at San Diego State University’s Biology Department where she earned her master’s degree. Other international exchanges include a FIPSE-and Phi Beta Delta-sponsored internship with the University of Barcelona studying avian distributions, 2.5 years of volunteer work in sustainable agriculture with the Peace Corps, and living with a host family during a study abroad program in Granada, Spain. Her personal interests are sea turtles, travel, surfing, and capoeira.
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What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

We are a non-profit, and intern enrichment is the most important thing to us. Enrichment means:

- Personal – a heightened sense of identity, greater self-confidence, better relationship building skills, higher tolerance, a broader world view.

- Cultural exchange – learning and teaching new ways of speaking, living, learning and working.

- Academic – if the intern has not used the scientific method to reach conclusions about their research data we have not done our job;

- Giving back – our interns usually have the goal of helping save sea turtles or other marine animals. Although we cannot guarantee the animals will be present during their internship, we make sure all interns research and/or help improve the animals’ habitat and most of the time our interns interact with wild animals as well! If we provide enrichment for our interns, they may give back to the non-profit through future donations, marketing, referrals, etc. But most importantly, they will give back to our communities and the planet.

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

For me, it was a struggle to learn Spanish, and took me 10 years of studying and 4 months of living in Spain to “get it”. But being fluent has changed my life completely. I now live, work, and dream in Spanish, and some of my best friends speak Spanish.

Generation Y is the future, the planet is in their hands, and they must learn to be good global citizens. Although more people are learning English in other countries, we must learn and respect foreign cultural and work norms to solve our global conservation problems.

Therefore, it is imperative that every young person take that trek and immerse themselves in a foreign environment, and at least try to learn the host language. The internet has made it very easy to stay in touch so it is not as scarey anymore to leave behind your friends and family.

What does the future hold for The Science Exchange - any exciting new programs to share?

Our next step is to provide internships for local college students in Latin America so that the English-speaking intern can practice more one-on-one cultural exchange, and learn science and conservation from a different perspective. Also we need the local Generation Y to be scientific experts and conservationists in their own communities, because they are the stewards.

To that end we will be fundraising for local scholarships, and creating a training center in Mexico where all interns will work closely with our bilingual staff on performing the literature review, forming research questions, writing methods, and practice collecting data.

Then they will spend about 6 weeks in the field, and return to the center for a final week to analyze the data and write results, conclusions, and recommendations. And, of course, share stories of their adventures. We hope to publish many more scientific papers with our Latin American and domestic interns as co-authors.