alyssa capuano

Meet SeaDoc Society's 2017 Summer Interns

Each summer, SeaDoc brings one or more rising third-year veterinary students to Orcas Island to assist with research projects in conjunction with the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor. The eight-week internship is a great opportunity for vet students to get involved in wildlife health issues. One of their primary roles is to help respond to marine mammal strandings, but they also participate in medical rounds at the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and they work closely with volunteers and spend a good deal of time educating and speaking with the public. This year's interns are Alyssa Capuano and Devon England from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Amber Backwell from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

Summer housing for the interns has been generously provided by the Hoglund family, whom we thank deeply for their support of SeaDoc. Get to know each of the interns below!

Alyssa Capuano


It is a dream come true being a part of The SeaDoc Society as a veterinary intern this summer! Originally from Long Island, I have moved coast to coast following my passion for science, education, wildlife, and the ocean. After graduating from UC Santa Barbara where I experienced the life-changing world of scuba diving, I worked as a marine science educator at the Catalina Island Marine Institute. My curiosity for marine biology brought me to the University of Miami where I completed a graduate degree in marine mammal science. My career goals to protect marine wildlife and their ecosystems through research, education, and medicine encouraged me to attend veterinary school at UC Davis. My research with Dr. Walter Boyce at UCD focuses on influenza virus exposure in marine mammals, an important link between marine mammal disease, the ocean environment, and human health. In my free time I love hiking, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and spending time with family, friends, and fellow ocean enthusiasts. I am very grateful to connect my love of the ocean and marine mammals this summer as I contribute to the important mission of The SeaDoc Society!

Devon England


My love for the ocean and the animals that inhabit it started pretty much from day one—born and raised in Southern California just 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, some of my favorite childhood memories are of spending hours at the beach looking for sand crabs or admiring the huge range of mollusks and anemones at local tidepools. This love of both science and animals transformed into a desire to become a veterinarian when I was eight years old, a path I have been following ever since. All throughout my many years of education, first during my undergraduate at Cornell and continuing through my first two years of vet school at UC Davis, I have sought out experiences to work with and learn about marine life: from volunteering at marine mammal rehabilitation centers in San Pedro and Sausalito to spending a semester abroad in Queensland, Australia home of the incredible Great Barrier Reef and the multitude of oceanic life that call it home. The SeaDoc society internship program has thus been on my radar for quite some time now, and I am beyond thrilled to be spending my final summer vacation before entering my clinical year on the beautiful Orcas Island! Working for an organization like the SeaDoc Society—which combines two concepts I am extremely passionate about: veterinary medicine and environmental stewardship—is a dream come true and I am loving taking part in just some of projects the fantastic team of Joe Gaydos, Jean Lyle and Markus Naugle have devoted their careers to. I hope to take what I learn here this summer into my future career—which I hope will in some way involve caring for marine wildlife and their ecosystems—and continue to spread the ideals of SeaDoc wherever on this planet life might take me!

Amber Backwell


My passion for wildlife and being outdoors is what led me to beautiful Orcas Island and the SeaDoc Society!  I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia (from Ontario) in 2009 to pursue a Masters in Public Health and immediately fell in love with the west coast.  I worked in spinal cord injury research for two years upon completion of my Masters, after which I flew one-way to London, England and travelled the world for just shy of a year.  I needed time to recalibrate personally and professionally and reflect on what it was that I wanted to do with my life. It was in the far west of Nepal, near Bardia National Park, on a tuk tuk ride that I realized I needed to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. Upon returning home to Canada I completed the prerequisite courses and applied to and was accepted at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I am now in my fourth year of the DVM program.  My time at the WCVM has been difficult albeit rewarding in so many ways. Last summer I had the opportunity to travel with a school club to three African countries where we volunteered with some amazing wildlife veterinarians and were able to work with many different wildlife species, my favorites being large cats and rhinos!  When I’m not in school or traveling the world, I enjoy hiking, camping, horseback riding, reading and spending time with my two cats.  The Pacific Northwest is my home now and I hope that through my career I can help protect our beautiful environment and the animals with which we share it.  The SeaDoc Society does incredible work in this area and I am so thrilled to be here learning more about the Salish Sea and helping out with Society’s various projects!

Learn more about the internship program.