‘Outdoor classroom’ inspired North Kingstown resident to excel at URI

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 8, 2007 – North Kingstown resident Michele Martel says that she was “sort of a tomboy” as a youngster, spending her days in the woods, playing with bugs, and enjoying the outdoors. And that’s exactly what she has enjoyed most about her University of Rhode Island education.

“I loved the past four years because most of my classes were outdoors where we would romp through the woods and wade through ponds looking for frogs,” said Martel, who will be graduating from URI on May 20 with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and conservation biology. “It was so much fun and so unconventional that it was perfect for me.”

When she wasn’t exploring the outdoors for her coursework, Martel was exploring the outdoors for internships and summer jobs.

She spent the summer of 2005 as an intern at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown catching sparrows to test their blood for mercury, studying fish in a newly restored part of the refuge, and conducting shorebird surveys. She later worked for Save the Bay monitoring salt marshes in Bristol and Barrington.

This year she worked at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown as an education intern.

“I help with after school programs and environmental camps during school vacation weeks, leading the participants on salamander hunts and other fun stuff that kids like and I like, too,” she said. “I’ll be working there this summer as a teacher/naturalist for their summer camps.”

In addition to her URI classes, Martel spent a semester studying at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington “because I wanted to go on an exchange program, but I didn’t want to go too far away. And it was right on the beach. I took an environmental law class there that turned out to be one of my favorite courses.”

Martel plans to take a year off and explore her options before deciding what her future holds.

“I’ll probably start substitute teaching because I really love working with kids,” she said. “My mom is a teacher, and for the longest time I wanted to be a teacher, too. But then I got into wildlife and science.

“I might want to get into environmental consulting as well. There are more environmental consulting jobs out there than wildlife biologist jobs, so that’s something I want to explore.”

Martel knows that she will eventually pursue a graduate degree, and she’s pretty certain it will be at URI.

“I wanted to go to URI for as long as I can remember,” she recalls. “I lived nearby and knew it had a great marine biology and wildlife biology program. It turned out to be one of my best decisions ever.”

URI News Bureau photo by Michael Salerno photography