Displaced by Irene, Wallett shares wildlife ecology experiences

For more information, contact Barb Steadman - 843.857.4199

HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Aug. 26, 2011 – Coker alumna Whitney Wallett, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biology and a concentration in ecology this May, returned to her alma mater today with some real-world experiences she’d rather not have had to share.

Following graduation, Wallett landed a student internship at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, located on the north end of North Carolina’s Hatteras Island (10 miles south of Nags Head), which is under emergency evacuation orders.

Temporarily displaced from her new home on the Refuge by the threat of Hurricane Irene, Wallett joined Assistant Professor of Biology Jennifer Borgo’s wildlife ecology class this afternoon.

“Although we all wish she was visiting for a different reason, Whitney’s visit gave my students a close-up look at what it means to be a wildlife biologist,” said Borgo. “This was an opportunity for them to talk candidly with a friend who’s doing in the field what they’re studying in the classroom.”

“I am very excited to tell people about wildlife biology. I am seeing things so few people ever get to see – baby sea turtles hatching, their crawls, the biology behind our nation's refuges,” Wallett said.

In addition to sharing some of the nuts and bolts of working as an intern on a wildlife refuge, Wallett told Coker students about the past 48 hours she’s spent helping to prepare for the hurricane.

“Three sea turtles clutches on the refuge remain unhatched,” she said, “and, unfortunately, there’s not much we can do to save them at this point.  However, we were able to finish work on a few biological samples stored on the island so that they could be transported safely to a state facility well out of Irene’s path.”

In the final day before the Refuge employees received the official order to evacuate, they were also able to board up the visitor center and safely store various interpretive signs that normally mark turtle safety zones and tern nesting enclosures.

Looking ahead, Wallett tried to describe her feelings about Irene.

“It seems like life has a way of laughing at your plans,” she said. “I don’t know what we’ll find when we return.  For now, I’m praying that the storm doesn’t do what people expect.  If it does, though, I hope that I’ll be able to treasure the experience I’ve had, learn from it and move forward.”

Whitney plans to pursue graduate studies in wildlife biology at Clemson University in the Fall of 2012.


Photo:  Whitney Wallett, Coker College Class of 2011



Coker College readies undergraduates for personal and professional success through a distinctive four-year program that emphasizes a practical application of the liberal arts as well as hands-on and discussion-based learning within and beyond the classroom. Coker is ranked among the “Best Colleges” in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review. Located in Hartsville, Coker is within two hours of the cultural, financial and recreational resources of Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach. For more information contact Barb Steadman: 843-397-9959 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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