A hunger for knowledge and passion for animals drives senior and marine biologist major Aubrey Ewing to pursue her career through real-life experiences and internships.
Her most recent internship at Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida, was actually the backup after she had applied for an internship in Australia. Due to financial problems and scheduling issues, the overseas internship fell through.
While she was upset about not being able to do the Australian internship, she didn’t let that stop her and continued applying for others.
“I was like, I have to do something now. I’ve blocked a whole semester off for this … I just continued to look for those (internships). To start off, I was like, ‘I wonder if CMA is doing anything,’ because it was familiar to me,” Ewing said. “I needed to make plans ASAP so I went ahead and went with it.”
Ewing planned out most of her time and career at Northwest, giving herself open semesters she could use for internship opportunities.
Along with the internship, she also took 13 credit hours online, meaning she dedicated 60 hours every week to stay caught up with both school and her internship responsibilities.
CMA was the first one to get back to her, and so she landed an internship rehabilitating sea turtles.
“I knew I was going to, let’s say, improve and eventually do more and be more hands-on faster with the sea turtle program I ran with,” Ewing said.
A graduate of Northwest and friend Noelle Prideaux has known Ewing since high school. Prideaux and Ewing not only went to the same high school but also wound up at Maple Woods Metropolitan Community College together and later transferred to Northwest as well.
“She wants to go live on the coast and everything because that’s what she needs to do for her work,” Prideaux said. “I joke though that she’s actually going to work at Bass Pro Shop. I hate that because she’s not actually going to work at Bass Pro Shop. I told her that she can live close to me, and I can see her all the time, but clearly, that’s not what’s happening.”
This was the longest Prideaux and Ewing had been apart from each other.
Prideaux’s boyfriend even helped pay for her flight to see Ewing in December. She said it was a lot of fun.
“I got to see her in her natural habitat,” Prideaux said. “I got to see her at the aquarium giving some presentations on the turtles and everything else.”
Ewing worked with 10 sea turtles, two different species known as the Kemp’s ridley and green sea turtles. As she went through her internship, she said she learned the most from Max, a Kemp’s ridley turtle.
“The other turtles were great, but I did the same thing with them,” Ewing said. “Max was a challenge, in a good way. I learned about animal behavior in depth because of him. I learned about how to properly give the highest care best suited for him as a species ... The training, the feeding, the enrichment with him were all taken to a higher level because of how he responded and what his habits were when I first started my internship.”
Max may not have been the turtle she bonded with the most, but he helped her grow and learn animal behavior better.
The learning experience Ewing received from the repetitive regime had its high and low moments. She loved seeing Max continue his target training, but there were still parts of the internship she didn’t like.
“There’s probably one instance, where we joke about how the turtles would literally, like, how do I politely say this,” Ewing said. “You can’t. They just crap. Everywhere. Right before I would go in to feed Cocoa.”
Her least favorite moments also extended to the monotony and repetitive nature of scheduling diets, training and being a docent.
Ewing’s academic advisor Kurt Haberyan was one of the teachers she went to for one of her letters of recommendation.
“She doesn’t hesitate to dive in when she’s in the field doing some work,” Haberyan said. “Some people just don’t want to dive in and get wet or muddy or anything, but she doesn’t mind that fact.”
When Haberyan first met her, he said she was very reserved and quiet, but slowly became more expressive and confident.
Every time Ewing spoke about helping the sea turtles and the daily routines that came with the internship, her eyes sparkled with knowledge and interest as her mouth curved into a natural smile.
Her love for animals started at an early age. She remembers traveling to see family in what she considers her second home in Maine and being desperately scared of the ocean to the point where she couldn’t go past her knees, yet also having the desire to go in the ocean. As a marine biology major now, she laughs at the fear she used to harbor.
“I was that 8-year-old that watched documentaries,” Ewing said. “In the morning, it was Spongebob, so it was fine, my brain cells were still depleted just like any other kid, but at night, we would watch Animal Planet.”
It was through Animal Planet that Ewing watched the first documentary that connected to her, which was about octopuses.
She was fascinated by their ability to adapt and survive. The sheer amount of species also caught her attention along with a multitude of other aspects.
After this incident, she realized she wanted to do something with the ocean.
With her passion for the ocean and animals, she found her calling through marine biology.
Even though Ewing’s internship with CMA was an experience she doesn’t regret, she still has high hopes and plans for Australia.
“I still loved my internship with CMA, and I’m happy with the results. I will still try to shoot for Australia one day though,” Ewing said. “Keeping my fingers crossed.”
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