But it’s hardly the most unusual biology field experience she’s had. That came during a UNCG student exchange experience to Australia a year ago.
“I attended James Cook University during my junior year,” she recently said. That experience in Australia changed her career path to one focused on conservation. “James Cook has a leading tropical biology program, and I took nearly all of my upper level biology courses there. The field excursions were incredible. I never thought I would be trapping and surveying animals in the outback in the outback for three days, or trekking through mangrove forests full of spiders and mosquitos.”
“I then applied for the (UNCG Biology) sea turtle conservation course, and was accepted!” she said. “Since then, my life has been forever changed. I have been given the opportunity to join in sea turtle conservation efforts in our state and in August I will be able to say I have contributed in Costa Rica.” A class of UNCG Biology students will study several species of turtles there.
A requirement in the sea turtle course has been to take on a special project with a conservation or environmental theme to be completed in 20-30 hours. “I wanted to do something worthwhile because I knew the experience could be a great opportunity to reference in my quest for grad school.
It became her signature undergraduate research project – helping restore a local wetlands pool.
“I am now part of the restoration team, which includes US Fish and Wildlife officials and a renowned forester. Upwards of 90 hours spent constructing the management plan, attending meetings, and doing hard manual labor on the property, make up the greatest work I’ve completed in my life.”
“With this grand success under my belt, I recently found out I was accepted into graduate school. In September, I will begin my Master’s of Science in the International Environmental Management and Sustainability program offered as a joint degree by James Madison University and the University of Malta.”
Last month, she told lots of kids about conservation, sea turtles and more at the first UNCG Science Everywhere festival. Her experiences in the last two years have changed her life – and she’s ready to make an impact on the world.
“I hope to one day serve on the United Nations Environment Programme board,” she said. “I’m actively working towards my goal of impacting conservation efforts internationally.”
By Mike Harris
Visual: Candace with a non-poisonous black racer snake at the local wetlands site, subject of her undergraduate research