Las Baulas National Park, Guanacaste, Costa Rica — The world population of leatherback sea turtles has fallen by more than two-thirds in the last 20 years. Emerging during the Cretaceous period, these majestic and gentle animals have survived for more than 100 million years but now face extinction—within one human lifetime. Imperiled by egg poaching, hunting, the lights of coastal development, and long line fishing practices, leatherbacks are also under threat from climate change and ocean pollution.
One of the most important remaining nesting areas in the Pacific Ocean, the three scalloped beaches of Las Baulas National Park have won national protection thanks to the dedication of Drs. Frank Paladino and James Spotila, and countless volunteers who’ve worked tirelessly to stop poaching of turtle eggs. For more than 15 years, Earthwatch teams have supplied nesting data to conservation officials to guide turtle management and have established conservation partnerships with local groups. The local community is now invested in the success of nesting efforts, making it a model for sustainable coastal communities around the world.
Meet the Scientists
Dr. Frank Paladino
Welcome to our 15th year of Costa Rican Sea Turtles. Costa Rica is exotic but tame: The people are friendly, the water is warm, and there is plenty to see and do. The leatherbacks are remarkable. Watching one of these huge animals haul onto the beach and lay its eggs is a fantastic experience. The scientists and staff are highly trained, motivated, and experienced in field biology and look forward to working with you. See you in Playa Grande!
Dr. James R. Spotila
Dr. Spotila is the Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has over 100 reviewed scientific publications in professional journals in the areas of physiological ecology of vertebrate animals. He has been conducting research on sea turtles in Costa Rica since 1978. He has a Ph.D. in Vertebrate Biology from the University of Arkansas (1970) and has been a professor for more than 30 years at both Buffalo State University and Drexel University.
Dr. Richard Reina