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The Project Terrapin Team

2021 Summer Research Staff

Project Terrapin supports habitat enhancement throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed.  We reach over 6000 people annually. However, with the recent pandemic, we are working safely and cautiously.   We continue to use 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 winding down his career as science supervisor at the MATES School in Manahawkin, and directs terrapin research and the Save Barnegat Bay Student Grant Program.  John is working on diamondback terrapin conservation projects as well as mentoring undergraduate and graduate students on various projects related to terrapins, habitats, Climate Change and natural resources at Barnegat Bay, NJ.

Ms. Mae Skrba
research Coordinator

Mae is a program and internship coordinator with NJ Fish and Wildlife at North Sedge Island.  She is an instructor with the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) and a graduate of UNC Wilmington and earned a Masters at Stonybrook University.  Mae serves as research coordinator at N. Sedge Island, which will focus on terrapin nest site assessments and mark and recapture of terrapins with the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone. Mae will supervisor and coordinate undergraduate interns throughout the summer months. Mae is a member of the Project Terrapin Steering Committee.  

Michele has been working with diamondback terrapins in conjunction with the Terrapin Nesting Project at LBI and in collaboration with Project Terrapin.  She conducts terrapin research in the Holgate section of Beach Haven as coordinator of the Rosema nesting initiative.  Michele is also a research advisor for the Mordecai Island Land Trust where she conducts wildlife surveys for shore birds and nesting terrapins.  Michele is also coordinating research at the Clam Cove Reserve and assessing terrapin nesting at the sand washover site in Holgate as part of the reserve.  

Ms. Michele Budd
Research Coordinator
Ms. Courtney Parks
Research Coordinator

Courtney Parks is from Acme, PA. She is currently in the graduate program at St. Joseph's University, PA, under Dr. Scott McRobert. She completed her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at Waynesburg University, PA.  Courtney is focusing her research on the nesting ecology of terrapins and is a veteran at Project Terrapin. Courtney brings her turtle experience as a field assistant on this project back in 2017 and 2019, and worked with freshwater turtles at Silver Lake, PA.  She will help to coordinate volunteers and the terrapin nesting study at Cedar Run Dock Road this season. 

Ms. Aubrey Wingeart
Research Assistant

Aubrey is a senior marine biology major at Waynesburg University. She plans to attend graduate school after she completes her undergraduate degree. She loves animals and has an interest in wildlife conservation. In 2019, Aubrey worked as a research intern for Project Terrapin. She looks forward to working with Project Terrapin again this summer and hopes to learn more about conservation and fieldwork.

Ms. Madison DiFonzo
Research Assistant

 Madison is an undergraduate at St. Joseph's University, PA who worked on the nesting ecology of diamondback terrapin at Barnegat Bay.  Madison conducted nest assessments at some of our key study locations throughout southern Barnegat Bay. 

Ms. Nicole Nguyen
Research Intern

Nicole is a rising senior at MATES. She has done independent research for 3 years with award-winning projects such as researching acoustic properties of sediments and acoustic treatments on biofuel microalgae. Nicole is also an environmental activist as Co-Art Marshall of the Sunrise Movement Point Pleasant Hub as well as a Chapter Leader and mentor of Stemnova Ocean County, teaching others on urban sustainability and social justice. In her spare time, she likes to work on digital drawing and animation as well as traditional drawing. She also loves working with kids as well as animals!

Ms. Emily Jones
Research Intern

Emily is a rising senior at MATES. She is a Project Terrapin Senior Leader who is coordinating our diamondback terrapin Outreach division.  She has worked with terrapin research in the past and is a three year research student at MATES.  She earned first place in the New Jersey Academy of Science Earth and Space Science category.  As a senior, Emily is part of our Research and Development Program and will be organizing Outreach Programs for middle school students during the school year  

Mr. Brady Nichols
Research Assistant

Brady is a recent MATES graduate who is an undergraduate at Bowdoin College, ME. Working with terrapins since freshman year at MATES, 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  is  majoring in ecology and minoring in computer science in college in order to better understand the world around us . We are thankful for all that Brady does.

Ms. Alaina Perdon
Research Assistant
Alaina Profile Picture.jpg

Alaina is entering her fourth 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. Alaina continues to work with Project Terrapin and contributes to our annual research and conservation reports.

Ms. Lauren Halloran
Research Assistant

Lauren is a recent graduate of Berry College in Georgia with a degree in environmental science.  She was a recipient of a 2020 Save Barnegat Bay Student Grant where she assessed water quality throughout the Toms River to determine pathogen levels as part of a project that is part of a "fix and find" sources of pathogens along the River.  Lauren will assist with our numerous research projects at Cedar Run Dock Road in Manahawkin as well as a project to re-introduce a terrapin back to the wild after being part of the illegal pet trade/  

Volunteers Extrodinaire
Thanks to the Burger Family for their dedication and support this summer. Our monitoring efforts would not be possible without Joseph, Lisa and Anthony! 
Ms. Sophia Piper
Research Assistant

Sophia Piper is graduated Stockton University this spring with 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 served as an interpreter at Island Beach State Park and  conducted research at Stockton University.  Sophia continues to monitor and survey terrapins as she has worked with us since her high school days. She contributes to our research reports and assists us with analyses. 


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. 

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