top of page

The Project Terrapin Team

2019 Summer Research Staff

Project Terrapin is a growing organization that supports habitat projects throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed.  We reach over 6000 people annually.  Project Terrapin uses research to develop sound conservation projects and educational initiatives. 

Dr. John Wnek
 Research Coordinator

John has worked with terrapins at Island Beach State Park and N. Sedge Island since 2002.  He is science supervisor at the MATES School in Manahawkin, and directs terrapin research and the Barnegat Bay Student Grant Program.  John is working on diamondback terrapin conservation projects as well as mentoring undergraduate students on various projects related to terrapins and other natural resources at Barnegat Bay, NJ.

Ms. Laura Versaggi
Program Assistant

Laura has been working with us on projects including our terrapin pocket guide and electronic data forms. She also coordinates event and project information.  Laura is working as a field researcher with NJ Fish and Wildlife. She is currently  assisting with more Project Terrapin initiatives including our NOAA Crab Pot Recovery Project at Barnegat Bay, where she developed an electronic recording system for better data management. 

Ms. Serena Celestino
Program Assistant

Serena is a Barnegat, NJ native, and loves spending her spare time exploring the wetlands. She is a student at Rutgers University double majoring in Ecology & Evolution and Geology. She has published in paleoecology for research on a Jurassic aged clam bed. She is coordinating our Cedar Run Dock Road study and studies at the Edwin Forsythe Cedar Bonnet Island Refuge in Stafford, NJ


Courtney Parks is from Acme, PA. She is finishing her Marine Biology Degree through Waynesburg University, PA.  With this new opportunity through Project Terrapin, she hopes to learn how to properly mange and aid in diamondback terrapin and other wildlife conservation.  Courtney brings with her turtle experience as she was a field assistant on this project back in 2017, and worked with freshwater turtles at Silver Lake, PA.  She will help to coordinate volunteers and the population study at Cedar Run and Cedar Bonnet this season. 

Ms. Courtney Parks
Research Assistant
Ms. Emma Applegate
Research Assistant

Emma is going into her senior year at the University of Pittsburgh where she studies environmental science. Emma was an intern in 2018 and now she is a program director for NJ Fish and Wildlife at the Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center.   Emma will be coordinating terrapin surveys at Sedge this year by training interns and continuing with our conservation program on the Island.

Ms. Sophia Piper
Research Assistant

Sophia Piper is a second year student at Stockton University pursuing a degree in Environmental Science, with a focus on wildlife management. Having grown up in the Jersey Shore close to the Barnegat Bay, she has always had a passion for the conservation and protection of our coastal ecosystems.  Sophia is an interpreter at Island Beach State Park and she is also conducting research at Stockton University over the summer.  Sophia will continue to monitor and survey terrapins as she has worked with us since her high school days.

Ms. Alaina Perdon
Research Assistant
Alaina Profile Picture.jpg

Alaina is entering her second year at Washington College, where she is pursuing a degree in environmental studies with a focus on environmental communication and bay regional studies. Her time spent at MATES and doing field work with Project Terrapin instilled in her a passion for research and environmental conservation. She currently works at the Eastern Shore Food Lab studying how ancient dietary practices can inspire modern food sustainability efforts and hopes to one day incorporate estuarine species into a large-scale aquaponics system.

Ms. Belle Weimer
Research Assistant

Belle Weimer is currently entering her senior year at MATES where she is entering her seventh year of diamondback terrapin research at Barnegat Bay. Belle has also been involved in the Jersey Shore Science Fair, Ecybermission, Lexus Eco Challenge, and Christopher Columbus, she has presented her current research on terrapin dietary preferences at a regional terrapin conference in 2018. She currently enjoys fishing, kayaking, surfing, and anything outdoors. In the future she hopes to major in zoology and minor in marine sciences and to continue research in each field.  


Riley grew up in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, and is a graduate of the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science. She is currently attending the University of California, Berkeley studying Public Health and Economics hoping to work on national and global health issues from an economic lens. Her love for the Barnegat Bay began on her high school freshman year trip to Sedge Island and she has been working on the bay ever since. This summer she hopes to put her MATES education to work on the Water Quality Team. with Save Barnegat Bay and Project Terrapin.

Ms. Riley Nevil
Research Assistant
Ms. Kaitlyn Podlogar
research Intern

Kaitlyn is a Senior Biology/Pre-Veterinary Medicine major at Waynesburg University in Waynesburg, PA. She has been  working for a local veterinary clinic for the past 2 years and began shadowing in the profession as a freshman in high school. One of the Veterinarians she works for specializes in exotics, including terrapins, and she is excited to continue growing in her knowledge of exotics through this research opportunity.  

Ms. Aubrey Wingeart
research Intern

Aubrey is a Marine Biology major at Waynesburg University. "As a marine biology major, I think working with the terrapins will be a good experience for me to have, and I'm very interested in learning about field work." Aubrey will be an integral part of our Cedar Run Dock Road terrapin population study.

Ms. Emma Riley
Summer Intern

Emma is a rising senior at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) and has been conducting terrapin research for three years and plan on continuing my research in years to come. She worked with geomagnetism in hatchling Malaclemys terrapin as well as color preference based upon nesting locations. She performed with terrapin eggshell fragments in relation to the nest soil quality.  Emma presented her research at regional terrapin meeting in 2018.

Mr. Steven Holmberg
Summer Intern

Steven is entering his senior year at MATES. He has worked with Project Terrapin for the past 2 years. He was the Project Terrapin Events Chair for the 2018-2019 season and will leading the Conservation and Research Division this year. He plans to work closer with terrapin conservation this summer by furthering his research involving Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs). He has gained a love for the environment after living close to the bay, fishing all over the east coast, and traveling the world. He aspires to dual major in both environmental and aerospace engineering.

Mr. Brady Nichols
Summer Intern

Brady is a rising MATES senior from Manahawkin, NJ. Working with terrapins since freshman year, he has been heavily involved in outreach, events, and as a care leader. Outside of school, he spends much time playing clarinet or programming. He also loves the environment, enjoying activities such as birding and fishing. Continuing his love for animals, he plans to major in ecology and minor in computer science in college in order to better understand the world around us .

Teresa is a rising senior at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) and has been an integral part of our NOAA sponsored marine debris removal program. She will serve as a Project Terrapin conservation leader for the 2018-2019 school year. She will be helping with our terrapin mark and recapture projects and crab pot assessment research this summer. Teresa has a passion for working with animals and is interested in majoring in biology in the future.

Ms. Teresa Brostow
Summer Intern

Destiny graduated from Southern Regional High School this past June and is working as diamondback terrapin and program intern on Sedge Island. She has assisted with our mark and recapture program as well as assisted with relocating terrapin eggs to the hatchery on Sedge. Destiny has been a part of the Sedge Island Field Research project in the past and continues her passion for Sedge and research!  

Ms. Destiny Naia
Summer Intern

Tori is working towards her degree at Montclair State University where she studies sustainability science. This is Tori's second summer as an intern with NJ Fish and Wildlife on Sedge Island, where she is currently working with terrapins for the first time on the island. Through this opportunity she hopes to learn more about field work, the conservation of wildlife, and their surrounding ecosystems.  

Ms. Victoria Agens
Summer Intern
Summer Interns
Julianne Chan '21

Hayley Jankowski '21 
Emily Jones '23

MATES Project Terrapin is a student-led initiative and there are desginated student leaders that oversee care, education, outreach and conservation.   Over 100 MATES students are involved in Project Terrapin with each student volunteering time. 

Passionate About Conservation?
bottom of page