A recent graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi's Honors
College will take the international stage later this month when
she makes a presentation at an environmental conference in Africa.
of Mobile was selected to join scientists and other scholars from
across the globe June 18-22 for the second International Conference
on Chelonian Conservation in Dakar, Senegal. Watters' presentation
is titled "Large Scale Mortality of Diamondback Terrapins as
a Result of Drowning in Commercial Traps."
Watters took part in a National Science Foundation project in New
Jersey that provided research experience for college undergraduates
in science, engineering and math. Watters' research that summer
focused on coastal conservation.
from Mobile, I've always been interested in coastal habitat,"
said Watters, who received a degree in environmental biology during
spring commencement exercises. "Last summer was my opportunity
to get involved in research. I decided I would spend the summer
to see if this is what I wanted to do (for a career) and I knew
then it was the right choice."
in the project, Watters was fascinated by the efforts being made
to help the northern diamondback terrapin, a species of turtle that
lives only in salt marshes. Thousands of the turtles reportedly
drown in abandoned commercial crab traps every year, threatening
the species' survival. Watters' research includes seeking ways to
reduce the death rates of the turtle.
are similar threats to other turtle species around the globe, and
hopefully my paper will encourage other scientists to work toward
solving the problems in their own countries," she said.
the faculty of the Southern Miss biology department and the Honors
College for providing her with the education and field experiences
to earn the opportunity to participate in the conference. "I've
loved my years at Southern Miss," Watters said. "I've
had a great experience with the biology department. Everyone there
goes out of their way to help you. Plus, I've had a lot of work
outside the classroom and that's made my education an even more
Last year Watters
was part of a Southern Miss student team that used NASA facilities
to test the effects of microgravity on jellyfish. Her trip to Africa
will be sponsored in part by the Honors College, the Southern Miss
Department of Biological Sciences and the Wetlands Institute, a
nonprofit wildlife charity based in New Jersey.
As an Honors
College student, Watters was required to write a thesis, which she
said was good preparation for graduate school. She plans to take
a year off before pursuing graduate studies and will work in Hattiesburg
this summer studying the gopher tortoise. "It's been a lot
of work, but it's been worth it," she said of her undergraduate
biology professor Dr. Frank Moore said he's proud of Watters' achievements.
"Christina is a bright, hard-working student whose enthusiasm
for biology is contagious," he said. "The chance to participate
in an international conference on turtle conservation fits so well
with her interest in conservation biology."