Chelonian Internships

Turtle Survival Center Internship Program - Cross, South Carolina


The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) is offering a unique opportunity for self-motivated people to gain hands-on experience with the day to day operations of a non-profit chelonian conservation center. The TSA is seeking applicants for full time volunteer internships at the TSA’s Turtle Survival Center (TSC) in Cross, South Carolina. Introductory course for those focusing on chelonian husbandry and conservation.


About the Organization:

In 2013, the TSA centralized its base of operations by opening the Turtle Survival Center in South Carolina. In just six years the TSC has become recognized as a world-class turtle conservation center, complete with a greenhouse, veterinary clinic, quarantine facility, and multiple indoor/outdoor enclosures. This center is the TSA’s first and only U.S.-based conservation center, and is home to a growing collection of more than 600 turtles and tortoises, representing 25 of the world’s critically endangered species, and cared for by a staff of five full time employees.


Course Goals and Student Learning Outcomes:

Interns will understand the fundamental principles of chelonian husbandry and conservation.


Student Learning Outcomes:

As a result of taking this internship, students will:

1. Demonstrate high standards of animal husbandry to a diverse group of critically endangered chelonians

2. Gather and critically evaluate animal health

3. Identify and explain the basic concepts, terminology, and theories of in-situ and ex-situ conservation

4. Apply knowledge of chelonian exhibit design and maintenance.


Internship Prerequisite:



Meeting Times and Location:

Turtle Survival Center (Cross, SC), Intern House (Cross, SC). Times will vary

Instructor: Clinton Doak, Cris Hagen, Carol Alvarez. Instructors may vary due to staff changes and visiting Chelonian experts.

• Telephone: (843) 753-2159

• E-mail


Responsibilities and Expectations:

Interns are expected to work independently and with TSC staff in a team setting to fulfill the operational needs of the center. All interns will assist with the general day to day operations of the TSC. Responsibilities can include, but are not limited to:

* Providing high standards of animal husbandry to a diverse group of critically endangered chelonians

* Monitoring animal health

* Keeping accurate records

* Maintaining cleanliness of animal areas

* Propagating chelonians, including egg care and incubation

* Assisting with veterinary care procedures

* Performing basic animal medical treatments

* General maintenance of facilities, upkeep of grounds and buildings

* Horticulture/gardening, particularly in animal areas

* Assisting with enclosure design and construction

* Interacting with other interns, volunteers, students, visiting biologists, and guests

* Participation in outreach events as well as guest tours of the facility

* Ensuring security of the facility

* Completing reading assignments

* Writing one small paper and giving a presentation on the subject in an outreach setting.



* A positive and flexible attitude, strong work ethic, and willingness to adapt to a changing work environment

* Hold or be pursuing a degree in biology, ecology, conservation, zoo keeping, exotic veterinary medicine, or related field

* Demonstrated interest in wildlife and conservation

* Experience with animal husbandry (particularly reptiles) preferred

* Applicants are strongly encouraged to live in on-site housing throughout the duration of the internship

* Must hold a valid driver’s license and a personal vehicle is required

* Must be able to pass a background check

* Must be in good physical shape (capable of lifting 50 pounds)

* Attendance Policy: Attendance is mandatory to complete your internship. All interns are required to meet 320 hours of training to complete this internship.


Work Environment:

* Team oriented environment in a remote location

* Expect an irregular work schedule consisting of days, weekends, and holidays. Some workdays may exceed 8 hours.

* Ability to work outdoors in heat, humidity, and around biting insects

* On-site housing is available, which may be co-ed, and which may require sharing a room with another intern of the same gender. No pets are allowed.



Reading assignments will be handed out at the beginning of the internship. After each assignment is completed a small quiz will be given to evaluate your understanding of the material. One final exam will be given at the end of the internship. This exam will consist of multiple choice and potentially a few true/false questions. This exam is to gauge your understanding of what you have learned throughout the internship.

Tentative Schedule of Lectures and reading assignments (subject to change):


Week One: Learn the day to day routine of working at the Turtle Survival Center.

What is a turtle?

* Anatomy: variation, sexual dimorphism

* Evolutionary history

* Physiology

* Geographic distribution/zoogeography

* Diversity – review of extant families

Week Two: Husbandry and Captive management

* Diet and nutrition; feeding techniques; browse; diversity of food items

* Habitat/exhibit/enclosure design: diversity of captive habitats; public vs non; mixed species

* Temperature requirements

* Habitat quality; substrates and natural plants; lighting (natural vs artificial)

Week Three: Husbandry and Captive management cont.

* Water quality and monitoring

* Animal welfare and enrichment

* Social structure and stress: groups vs individual housing

* Identification techniques

* Restraint and handling

Week Four: Reproduction

* Sexing techniques

* Mating encounters; strategies for management

* Nesting sites and egg laying; finding eggs

* Egg detection prior to laying

* Incubation; effects on offspring; egg logs

* Diapause

* Juvenile husbandry

Week Five: Conservation

* Threats and exploitation

* Regulation: CITES, USFWS, Lacey Act

* IUCN Red List ranking

* Role of turtle conservation organizations

* In situ vs ex situ management

* Role and types of captive management

* AZA SSP program

* Conservation breeding, assurance colonies and reintroduction

Week Six: Veterinary Management

Week Seven: Outreach

Week Eight: Field Research

* Goals

* Data collection

* Trapping techniques

* Marking techniques

* Radio-telemetry



The TSA is seeking interns! Dates can be flexible but applicants must be able to apply for a minimum of two (2) months. Extensions for internships are on a case by case bases.



This is a volunteer internship position. Successful applicants will pay their own travel expenses to and from the Turtle Survival Center and a program fee of $500.00 per month. This program fee covers on-site housing while at the TSC. Applicants are encouraged to pursue funding and/or academic credit with their host institution for participating in this internship. If there are any special requirements for an applicant to receive academic credit for an internship, please let us know in your application so we may determine if the TSA can accommodate any requests.


Application Process:

Please email a letter of interest and CV or resume, with references, to the TSA’s Assistant Curator, Clinton Doak (, and include a date range of availability

"The experience I had at the TSC this past summer was unforgettable for a multitude of reasons. One of which was the chance to work behind the scenes of the front line to prevent chelonian extinctions. A lot of work and dedication goes into maintaining assurance colonies, a term I wasn't very familiar with until my internship. This was incredibly valuable to me as an undergraduate student in Wildlife Science. I also was introduced to many species not native to the United States, which increased my repertoire of knowledge. I got a lot of tactile work experience that I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else. The internship really provided me with a better idea of the path I want to take after grad school, and I personally think it might be the best thing a student interested in turtles can partake in.”

-Lyndsi Gilbert, TSA Intern 2017

Lyndsi Gilbert Manouria emys
Interns 2018