I found my niche!
Meet Camille Sims, a biological aid at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge working to help sea turtle hatchlings make it to the ocean and assisting with habitat management for migratory birds. This is a post in our Young N’ Wild series.
Since high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in wildlife conservation and natural resource management, but I didn’t know how to build towards that dream. Ever since I was a little girl I always had a deep infatuation with the world around me. In my eyes, I knew everything had its purpose and its designated job or niche. Now that I was coming of age, I had the desire to find mine!
I applied to a program with the Student Conservation Association and two interviews later, I was thrilled to accept a job at Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
While there, I worked in areas of maintenance, administration, visitor services, and my favorite – wildlife and habitat management. Though I had a fulfilling summer at Rappahannock River Valley, I couldn’t get enough of the Refuge System and what it stood for. I didn’t want to go back home! Before I knew it, it was summer of 2012 and I was headed down to Virginia Beach to work at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge as a biological aid!
I am now spending my second summer at Back Bay, and I help with the sea turtle program. The refuge follows detailed protocols to make sure sea turtle hatchlings survive and make it to the ocean. I patrol the beaches on an ATV to locate crawls and nests, help with nest excavations and relocations, and help release the sea turtle hatchlings.
Check out this video of a loggerhead hatchling making its way to the ocean!
Water management is another important part of my job because Back Bay was established to conserve habitat for migratory birds. There are 15 wetland impoundments on the barrier island portion of the refuge. East of the barrier island is the Atlantic Ocean, while the west side borders the Back Bay, a freshwater bay connected to the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound. This freshwater is our source for the wetlands, so we are constantly monitoring the weather and water levels to determine how and when we can hold or drain water. In the spring and summer seasons, we try to lower the water levels for shore and marsh birds so they can use their long beaks to hunt in the sand and mud for worms and crustaceans. However, in the fall and winter seasons, we try to raise the water levels for waterfowl so they can dive for their food. The access to both fresh and salt water at the refuge creates a unique place for migratory birds.
Working at Back Bay for the last two summers, I have contributed to their conservation mission. My catch phrase is “Every day is a good day at Back Bay!” There is never a dull moment and every day I learn something new. I have learned that it really does take a team effort to operate a healthy refuge. I took initiative to get where I am today and I’m working to become a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish Wildlife Service someday. Conserving wildlife is my passion, and I think it’s safe to say I have finally found my niche!