College:College of Sciences
Degree Program:Biology MS
Research Focus:Sea turtle conservation
Before beginning graduate school, Abby Crowder made it her mission to work with every sea turtle species on earth. There are seven unique threatened or endangered species, and she has spent the last five years traveling the world learning about the challenges of each and the efforts to protect them. She has worked with sea turtles in Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, and Australia, developing new perspectives and valuable techniques in each location.
The first-generation student earned her Bachelor of Science in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology with a concentration in Conservation Biology and a minor in Zoology from Colorado State University. Crowder then chose to pursue a master’s degree in Biology at UCF because she was incredibly impressed by Dr. Kate Mansfield and her work on the sea turtle “lost years”. She knew Mansfield’s lab, the Marine Turtle Research Group, was field intensive and wanted to continue working toward her goals while earning her degree.
Crowder is researching the impacts of decreasing sea turtle size on reproductive success. “A recent study conducted in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge found that female sea turtles nesting there are smaller than in previous years,” she says. “My research aims to uncover if this reduction in parent size impacts reproductive success and hatchling sizes.” She will also look at the juvenile populations in the Indian River Lagoon to determine if size shifts are occurring in the younger groups.
Crowder received a Summer Mentoring Fellowship for incoming and underrepresented graduate students; for her hard work and conservation efforts. The fellowship was the support and encouragement she needed while giving her a head start on her thesis work. Focusing on her research has been highly beneficial. “UCF is preparing me for my dream career by equipping me with the vital skills necessary to conduct my research and allowing me access to its extensive professional network,” she says.
Crowder appreciates the supportive environment at UCF, loving how collaborative the biology department is. Everyone works together toward a common goal. “Research, especially fieldwork, is a lot for one person to manage alone, and it’s ok to ask your community for help and support when needed,” she says. She is particularly grateful to her advisor, Dr. Kate Mansfield, for her guidance. “Moving to a new state, away from family and friends (especially at a time with COVID and massive hurricanes), can be very challenging, but she has done a wonderful job of showing her other students and me that we are not alone.”
After graduating in 2024, Crowder plans to take time to travel abroad before returning to the United States for her PhD. She advises her fellow students to be kind and avoid comparing themselves to others to see their full potential. “Remember that wherever you are in your education, research, or fieldwork, you have earned the right to be there, and you belong!”
- Received the Summer Mentoring Fellowship
- Part of the Marine Turtle Research Group (MTRG)
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