Carly Sharp Restores Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

University of Florida senior Carly Sharp started out her career as a Gator majoring in pharmacy. After taking “Wildlife of Florida” as an elective class her first semester of school she decided to shift her course of study. “Simply put, I fell in love with the class and decided to change my major right away,” Sharp said.

Since switching her major, she has become interested in botany, invasive management control, and entomology. “If the opportunity comes, I would like to do research in the botany field. Due to the current crisis of climate change, I would like to research how specific crops and plants react to a changing climate,” Sharp explained.

This past summer, Sharp served as an intern for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in Cambridge, Maryland on a Hurricane Sandy restoration project. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, she relocated to the area and found herself predominantly working on the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, but she was often required to travel to other parts of Maryland’s eastern shore. She spent most of her time on the project working with invasive plants.

“I scouted and sprayed pesticides for areas containing Japanese stiltgrass, an invasive plant in the area,” she said. “I also examined local forests that were cut 20 years prior to determine if active management was needed for an area unsuitable for wildlife.”

In addition to these duties, Sharp also conducted osprey surveys, studied the effects of erosion on a nearby island, and worked with kids for local fishing derbies. Every day on the internship, Sharp worked alongside another intern. Their manager, a biological technician, would explain a project that needed to be carried out – some would last one day and other projects would take several weeks.

“Overall, I gained tremendous respect for conservationist and individuals within the wildlife field. There were some days I honestly wanted to give up after walking miles in 90-degree heat wearing hip-waders and a bug jacket,” Sharp explained. “However, at the end of the day, I acknowledged how important the work was for this field. I also learned how challenging it can be to move to a new place, in the absolute middle of nowhere. Thus, I now know how much biologists have to give up to work within this field.”

Beyond learning the ecology of the area, Sharp said that she was taught how ecological management is actually conducted. She worked with the lead biologist, outreach coordinator, manager for funding and other office staff at the FWS. “It was interesting to see how the entire staff depended on one another to successfully carry out a project. Unfortunately, I also learned how difficult it is to receive funding for land and restoration projects, even for an organization under the government,” she said.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the internship involved learning how to drive a boat. Sharp was required to obtain her motorboat certification the first week of her internship. “I had no experience with boats so it was rewarding learning the ins and outs of trailering, towing, and driving a boat. On the last day of the course, I got to drive a boat into a marina where we docked at a seafood restaurant,” she said. “Although steering the boat was fun, devouring the best crab cake sandwich had to be the most memorable memory of the day.”