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The Project Terrapin Team
2024 Summer Research Staff

Project Terrapin supports habitat enhancement throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed.  We reach over 6000 people annually.  We work with multiple partners including Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, the Terrapin Nesting Project, Stafford Township,  Long Beach Township and New Jersey DEP Fish and Wildlife. 

Dr. John Wnek
 Research Coordinator

John has worked with terrapins at Island Beach State Park, N. Sedge Island and Cedar Run Dock Road 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. Michele Budd
Holgate Research Coordinator

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 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. Mae Skrba
Sedge 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 supervises and coordinates undergraduate interns throughout the summer months. Mae is a member of the Project Terrapin Steering Committee.  

Ms. Kayla Sullivan 
Research Assistant
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 Kayla is a senior at Stockton University pursuing her bachelor's degree in Marine Science. She’s an accomplished student-athlete with a passion for the environment, and more specifically marine life. Kayla’s passion stemmed from a life-long love for animals. This interest translated smoothly into an associate's degree in Environment Science from Raritan Valley Community College. Kayla is now focusing on a water quality project for Save Barnegat Bay and is excited to continue learning about everything the field of marine science has to offer.

Ms. Jordy Pedrick
Research AssistnanT
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Jordy is a rising Junior at the University of Rhode Island majoring in Marine Biology with a concentration in Wildlife and Conservation Biology. While at school, she recently worked on a research project developing a photo ID tracking database of the Southern Stingrays that migrate to the Cayman Islands. Jordy has grown up spending time on Long Beach Island and is excited to branch out to terrapin research this summer. She has a passion for working in marine conservation. Outside her science interests, Jordy loves doing anything outdoors, including hiking, paddle boarding, scuba diving and snowboarding in the winter.

Ms. Hope Brehm
Research Assistant
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Hope is a sophomore at Stockton University, NJ studying marine science, with a focus in marine biology. As well as being a full time student, Hope is also co-captain of the IHSA
equestrian team at Stockton. Hope has lived on the Jersey Shore her whole life and loves being outdoors! Hope is a recipient of a Save Barnegat Bay Student Grant focusing on water quality at Jeffrey's Creek, and, of course, assisting with diamondback terrapin research! 

Ms. Mary McKenna
Research Assistant

Mary is a Junior at the University of Rhode Island studying Marine Biology, focusing on conservation science. She is working on an independent project through Save Barnegat Bay, investigating the dietary composition of Diamondback Terrapin in the Sedge Island Marine Conservation Zone, with a focus on macro and microplastic presence. Mary is passionate about research and outdoor education, and hopes to continue a career involving marine ecology and food web dynamics.

Ms. Nora Morton
Research Intern
Ms. Elizabeth Rao
Research intern

Lizzy is a junior boarder at Peddie in Hightstown, New Jersey. She is a music fanatic, singing in the school choir, playing piano in the winter musical pit band, and playing classical music in her free time. She’s also a coxswain on the varsity rowing team and an editor for the Peddie News. When she’s not in a practice room or on a boat, Lizzy is probably scrolling through Instagram or reading New York Times articles. She has been in Peddie’s Terrapin Head Start club for two years and will be leading it next year. 

Ms. Giana D'Altrui
Research intern

Giana is an International Baccalaureate student at Fort Myers High School in Fort Myers, Florida. She is a member of the National Honor Society, a varsity track and soccer athlete and an ambassador for CRAM Peer Tutoring. Giana served as a water quality researcher for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation following Hurricane Ian. In her free time, she enjoys boating, reading, drone photography and surfing.

Research internS

Aarya Sood '25

Briana (Finn) Ecke '26

Lily Nadler '26

Rhea Dudhwala '27

Isabel Kopsaftis '27

Arushi Sood '27

Ms. Serena Celestino
Program Coordinator Emeritus

Serena is a Barnegat, NJ native, and loves spending her spare time exploring the wetlands. She is a graduate of Rutgers University double majoring in Ecology & Evolution and Geology. She has published in paleoecology for research on a Jurassic aged clam bed. She worked with the Nature Conservancy and American Littoral Society.  Serena continues working with us on special projects that tie science, art and better understanding together to promote our terrapin conservation initiatives. 

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! 

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?
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