Brandy Whitaker, who played on the women’s basketball team at Manchester University, works at SeaQuest in Colorado. Photo Provided
Brandy Whitaker, who played on the women’s basketball team at Manchester University, works at SeaQuest in Colorado. Photo Provided
Delanie Jones and Brandy Whitaker are thousands of miles apart geographically.

Professionally, though, they couldn’t be closer.

The two Manchester University class of 2018 graduates find themselves working to better the planet through the environment … four legs at a time.

Jones wakes up next to a beach each morning outside of Port St. Joe, Fla., where she and her fellow interns track the movements and nesting habits of female sea turtles through the United States Geological Service. Whitaker is also part of the sea life culture, as she hangs out with otters, seals, and other animals at SeaQuest in Colorado.

Both women were grateful for what the Manchester University biology staff was able to do toward the opportunities.

“(My internship) was on a Texas A&M website job board during my last year of school,” Jones, who played on the women’s soccer team at Manchester University, said. “Dr. (Jerry) Sweeten, Dr. (Susan) Beyeler and the environmental studies faculty always told us to check the link out, as there were many internship opportunities. Their guidance in that area and overall through my undergraduate career was constructive.”

Whitaker, who played for Manchester University’s women’s basketball team, shared the same sentiments.

“I don’t know where I would be without Dr. Beyeler and Dr. Sweeten (to be honest),” she said. “They were wonderful mentors and helped me build my confidence into a career path I wanted. I had started (my undergraduate work) in biochemistry and then moved to biology but, after a while, I wanted to focus on environmental science. A JanTerm trip to the Bahamas with Dr. Sweeten proved I made the right decision, and I fell in love with marine biology through that as we snorkeled and did work in the field while there.”

Jones looks to take her experiences with the USGS sea turtle project into a career as a shark biologist. “I’ve always loved sharks,” she said with a laugh. “Growing up, my parents took us on many vacations to beaches, aquariums and so on. From the first time I saw a shark, I didn’t have the fear that some people do. I wanted to know more about them.

“While sea turtles are the main focus of our work here, there is a staff member who does work (in shark biology). She’s allowed me to go out on the boat with her and assist her in her work.”

Whitaker’s career path is on course as a marine husbandress for SeaQuest.

“This aquarium is unlike any other you could go to,” she said. “It’s all interactive … you can take snorkel trips and swim with the sharks and sting rays and so on. I’m planning on getting into graduate school, too, and then hopefully getting into another SeaQuest location, maybe even in Florida.”

Two Manchester University alums and former student-athletes helping make the world a better place in each step they take … fulfilling a part of the campus’ mission statement along the way.