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Saving the Sea Turtles At the New England Aquarium, Julia Luzzio ’25 is expanding her horizons and gaining hands-on experience working with wildlife.

“W&L equipped me with the resources I needed to be successful when looking for an internship.”

~Julia Luzzio ’25

Washington and Lee University rising senior Julia Luzzio ’25 is expanding her animal care horizons this summer as a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation intern at the New England Aquarium in Boston. A biology major on the pre-veterinary track from Goshen, Kentucky, Luzzio has worked with domestic and farm animals before but knew she wanted to work with wildlife to expose herself to different areas of veterinary medicine. Luzzio worked with W&L’s Office of Career and Professional Development to find the perfect fit for her summer internship and is gaining meaningful experience on her path to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

Julia-Luzzio-turtle-400x600 Saving the Sea TurtlesLuzzio helps with animal care in the rescue department at the New England Aquarium.

What is your background in working with animals?
This internship is my first experience at an aquarium, but I have worked in animal-care settings before. I worked at the Louisville Zoo in the elephant enclosure throughout high school and have worked as a veterinary technician/assistant at multiple clinics for several years. I also volunteer at numerous animal shelters and am a proud member of the W&L riding team.

Where are you interning this summer?
I am a sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation intern at the New England Aquarium in Boston. As a pre-veterinary student, I was searching for an internship in the zoo/exotic animal area, as most of my experience is with domestic or farm animals. During my search of zoos and aquariums throughout the country, it was clear the internship at the New England Aquarium was a perfect fit.

What does your day-to-day look like at your internship?
I serve the rescue department by assisting in various animal care and maintenance areas. My day may include preparing food, assisting clinicians in animal treatments, giving oral medications and vitamins, recording data on swimming and eating habits and performing various maintenance tasks. I recently had the opportunity to assist with the release of several of our rehabilitated turtles!

What has been your favorite part about your internship so far?
My favorite part of my internship is any time I spend in the clinic, assisting the clinicians or watching the veterinarians work with the animals. Sea turtles are a struggling species globally, and the animal care workers at the aquarium actively involve me so I can witness their efforts firsthand and assist in the healing of these beautiful animals.

Julia-Luzzio-Fenway-600x400 Saving the Sea TurtlesLuzzio at a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

How has W&L helped prepare you for this internship?
W&L equipped me with the resources I needed to be successful when looking for an internship. Guidance from the Office of Career and Professional Development and assistance from my adviser, Paul Cabe, professor of biology, made the internship search a positive experience. Similarly, the coursework I’ve completed for my biology major has allowed me to have productive and informed conversations with clinicians and biologists at the aquarium about animal health, conservation and environmental sustainability.

I also was fortunate enough to have my internship fully funded by a Johnson Opportunity Grant. Financial support from this program enables W&L students like me to take advantage of summer internships, jobs and research they would never be able to participate in on their own. My current internship is providing an invaluable growth experience, through both gaining experience that will support my career goals and enhancing my perspective through living in a new city. Thank you to everyone involved!

What is the value of getting hands-on research and field experience as an undergraduate?
W&L has granted me numerous opportunities to experience hands-on research and field experience over the past three years. I spent two weeks in Yellowstone National Park as part of a research team and participated in fieldwork in the Chesapeake Bay. Working hands-on in these environments has helped me narrow down my long-term career focus and to contribute to the scientific community in a very real, very important way.

How does this internship fit into your academic ambitions and career goals?
I plan to attend veterinary school, and this internship is allowing me to learn about areas in veterinary medicine besides domesticated and farm animals. Working with wildlife such as the sea turtles at the New England Aquarium has allowed me to tie my biology major and interest in conservation to my pre-veterinary aspirations and gain experience that will last me a lifetime in my field.

Julia-Luzzio-Mass-Statehouse-600x400 Saving the Sea TurtlesLuzzio visits the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

What is the most surprising/interesting thing you have learned or encountered during your internship?
The most interesting thing I’ve encountered in my internship is the entire idea of the threat to sea turtles in the Northeastern region. The majority of our animals come in due to cold stunning. The sudden and prolonged temperature drops in the fall and winter near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, can cause sea turtles to become lethargic and have difficulty migrating back to warmer water. Their condition can deteriorate to the point of not being able to swim, and, without intervention, many will die.

Who has inspired you during your time at W&L?
One of the people who has inspired me the most at W&L is Dr. Mike Hepner. Mike is a retired veterinarian and is now a laboratory technician at Washington and Lee. Mike has supported my passion for veterinary medicine, advised me with his real-world perspective and helped me find opportunities in Lexington to continue gaining clinical hours. Thank you to Mike!

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