Biology major has her hands full interning at sea turtle hospital


Intern Karina Brocco-French explains why this turtle is in rehab for a ‘flotation problem.’

Published: Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 11:25 AM.

Don’t try to pin this little gal down in any way. The way she flits through the hospital reflects her life. Born in Malaysia, Karina Brocco-French has lived in Connecticut, Spain, El Salvador, Venezuela and lastly Arlington, Virginia. She’s somehow managed to grow a few roots in Virginia where she is majoring in biology (minor in marine science) at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg.

Karina has been working in a research lab on campus, studying invertebrates like sand dollars and starfish. Our internship appealed to her because she “wanted to work with an animal that had a backbone.” And she wanted hands-on experience. Our turtles have spines, and we certainly have our hands all over them, so even though Karina says she approaches life with no expectations she got exactly what she (may have) hoped for!

Karina talks to our patients all the time, especially her favorite, “Geo.” Talking to turtles (who are pretty good listeners and generally accepting) has made it easier for her to talk to our visitors, especially the kids. And it’s made her more confident in her role as an “educator” during our afternoon tours. She’s now comfortable relating to the variety of “cool” visitors and all the questions they throw at her after spending the last month immersed in sea turtle care and talk therapy as an intern.

Karina looks at every day as an opportunity to learn something new. One of the life lessons she’s learned is how to adapt to different management styles. Even though most of our volunteers are now on the afternoon shift the interns are not left to fend for themselves. At least one team leader is always available to answer questions and guide them through new procedures, and everybody has a different approach on how to manage, and how to pass along knowledge. Adaptability is a good thing, and she sees it as a chance to “keep learning.”

Karina recommends our internship to anyone with an interest in sea turtles, proclaiming it well-rounded and an opportunity to learn new skills. In the process she’s “learned a lot about myself, especially how to work well with people.” Now that she’s comfortable conversing with turtles and people when she completes her BS she can learn how to talk to a different kind of animal, dolphins. She fell in love with the critters years ago after seeing them at a show in Spain and hopes to be able to work with them (and whales) in either husbandry or research.

In her spare time Karina likes to listen to music and dance. She hates wearing shoes but you’ll find her adorned with lots of bling and big earrings. And if you see drawings on our hospital sidewalks you’ll know the culprit by the chalk on her hands and face!

‘Hole-y’ is not the same as ‘holy’

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