People volunteer for different reasons. The majority of our volunteers are college students, who volunteer to get experience working with wildlife, to get research experience, and sometimes to carry out projects that earn them college credits. Some want to find out if organismal biology is really what they want to do. Our minimum age limit (17 years old) and the fact that the terrapin nesting season is well underway before high schools close for the summer means that this project is not ideal for high school students, but some have made it work very well. Some high school students and college undergraduates have done such great projects that they resulted in presentations at scientific meetings and published papers in scientific journals. Students who put in a solid summer of work also can count on Dr. Burke for strong recommendation letters, which can be valuable for admissions to undergraduate, graduate, and other programs.
Students come and go but non-students are our recurring regulars, and their motivations vary. Many are true turtle fanciers, and in addition to their pet turtles they like to help out with turtle conservation in the real world. Others enjoy a chance to socialize with other turtle fans. There’s no doubt that the thrill of watching a terrapin nest, and seeing those soft creamy-white freshly laid eggs, brings them back.