Witnessing humpback whales migrating in Hawaii and sea turtles hatching in Costa Rica may seem like a dream for wildlife enthusiasts, but for Max Larreur ’15 these awe-inspiring moments are reality.
Larreur majored in biology, specializing in the ecology and conservation track, with a minor in chemistry while at Franklin College. He also was highly involved on campus. He was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Chi Beta Phi national science honorary society and the football team for two years. Though his life on campus was busy, Larreur found ways to make his college experience even more productive and meaningful through a series of internships.
As a sophomore, he earned his first internship with the Ocean Mammal Institute in Hawaii, where he was part of a research team that documented the effects of boat traffic noise on humpback whales.
“We were out in the field every day for a month, tracking pods of whales and recording tons of data. The experience definitely helped me realize how much I love field work, and that I really want to make it my career,” recalled Larreur.
After one internship, Larreur was hooked on earning more and gaining additional field experience. Through an opportunity facilitated by Franklin associate professor of biology Ben O’Neal, Ph.D., Larreur interned as a research technician with the Forbes Biological Station in Illinois, where he observed, tracked and documented data on birds in the wetlands.
After that, he landed a third internship, this time with the Turtle-Trax branch of Programa Restauración de Tortugas Marinas (PRETOMA), a marine conservation and research organization working to protect ocean resources and promote sustainable fishery policies in Costa Rica and Central America. Larreur was part of a research team assigned to monitor Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula for nesting sea turtles. Upon discovery, the team transported sea turtle eggs to an enclosure that protected them from poachers. Larreur’s duties included tagging the sea turtles and collecting their biometric data; their shell measurements made it possible to determine their age and correlating level of health.
The work was rewarding, especially after Larreur learned the full impact of the research efforts.
“I got a report from my coordinator when the season ended in December, and we drastically reduced the amount of nests poached and preyed upon while increasing the amount of successful nests and sea turtle hatchlings making it to the ocean,” Larreur said.
Upon graduating from Franklin, Larreur took a gap year to pursue his fourth internship, this time with the Mexico-based Prescott College Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies. Larreur explained that he took the internship to strengthen his marketability among top graduate school programs and to learn more about fields of specialization within wildlife biology.
The current internship has Larreur stationed in Sonora, Mexico, working on various water bird research projects in which he studies nesting success and population density. Larreur is excited that he also is leading an independent research project involving ospreys along the Gulf of California.
“This internship has helped tremendously in terms of preparing me for graduate school and expanding my knowledge of different field techniques. I’ve also learned skills in areas other than field research, which opened my eyes to other research opportunities that I greatly enjoy and can be helpful in,” said Larreur.
With the experiences of these amazing opportunities, Larreur is ready to pursue the next chapter in his career and attend graduate school at Kansas State University. Though he has achieved much on his own, Larreur said he is forever grateful for the support he received at Franklin.
“My most influential professors at FC were without a doubt Drs. Ben O’Neal and Alice Heikens (biology faculty). They both have been key people in my career and in helping me prepare for the many experiences I’ve had over the past couple years. I have no way of showing how truly grateful I am for all their help, but I attribute all the success in my undergraduate research career to them. I couldn’t thank them enough for everything they’ve done for me,” Larreur said.
His education, hard work and internships have set him up for success in his dream career in traveling the world and working with wildlife.
“The reason wildlife matters to me is because we wouldn’t be alive without it. It plays such an important role in our lives, and some people never open their eyes to see it. Some people don’t know that it’s dying more and more every day. I want to help protect it so maybe those people will one day be able to see how amazing the environment and our ecosystem are. I’m motivated by wildlife because I want to see it thrive again,” said Larreur.
If that means heading far and away to where the wild things are, then Larreur is ready.
“The close connections I had with all my professors were what allowed me to have such a great college experience. My professors never gave up on me or said no when I asked for help. The professors and all the opportunities I had at Franklin College helped me realize at the end of four years that I was ready for whatever comes next, and adulthood isn’t so scary,” said Larreur.
For more information about what a degree from Franklin College can do for you, contact the Office of Admissions at (800) 852-0232.