Northern Essex Community College Student DiLuzio Out to Save Endangered Penguins

Heather DiLuzio says she believes “every species is important, and it’s my calling to be the voice for the voiceless,.” (Courtesy photograph.)

Northern Essex Community College biology student Heather DiLuzio is on a mission to save endangered penguins halfway around the world.

DiLuzio will be interning with the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds for six months, starting at the end of this month.

“I believe that every species is important, and it’s my calling to be the voice for the voiceless,” says DiLuzio, whose family had dozens of pets and even rehabilitated several wild animals while she was growing up in Littleton.

DiLuzio credits her Northern Essex biology professor Diann Cahaly with helping her discover how to use her voice. “She has really sparked an interest in my curiosity of conservation and evolution. We have spent quite a bit of time on the impact humans have on the environment.”

DiLuzio will work in the Chick Rearing Unit, caring for African penguin hatchlings. The hatchlings require feeding every three hours and close monitoring of behavior and temperature. Her duties will also include a procedure called “candling” the egg, which involves shining a bright light against the eggshell to determine the viability of the embryo and how far the embryo has developed. The process from egg hatching to release usually takes three to four months. The foundation has successfully released almost 8,000 African penguin chicks back into the wild.

DiLuzio already has a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University in business. She’s been working at a nonprofit in North Andover for the past six years and recently became a licensed wildlife rehabber. She started to explore getting her master’s degree and thought she’d test the waters at Northern Essex first.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in school. I ended up at NECC because they had quite a few classes I was interested in,” she said. “I felt it would be a good way to ascertain if I would like to pursue a master’s in marine or conservation biology. I had no idea how beneficial it would be to me!”

Since the internship it is unpaid, DiLuzio seeks to raise $15,000 to help cover some of her travel and housing costs and living expenses. Northern Essex is providing a $5,000 scholarship through the NECC Foundation.

Those who wish to learn more about  DiLuzio’s internship and help her on her mission may visit her GoFundMe page online.

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