On the Expedition
Help save leatherback sea turtles from extinction at one of the most important remaining nesting beaches in the world.
Each night on the beaches you'll monitor nesting leatherbacks, measure and tag them, record nest locations, and count eggs to help the researchers determine which factors—from El Niño and La Niña to coastal development—influence nesting success for this critically endangered species.
Depending on the season, you may relocate threatened nests to the hatchery, protect hatchlings as they crawl seaward, excavate nests to determine hatching success rates, and rescue stragglers. You may also help attach transmitters or data-loggers to adults to monitor their behavior and migrations, or help maintain the turtle hatchery.
After beach patrols end, there is always time for a swim and snack at a beachside restaurant. You can spend recreational time touring the mangrove estuary, taking a sailboat cruise, using the pool at the field station, or just enjoying the beach.
Meals and Accommodations
You and the research staff will share a beachfront duplex at the Goldring Marine Biology Field Station. The field station is down the beach road from the restaurant where you will eat most of your meals. Each cabin is comfortably equipped with air conditioning, full bathrooms, and four sets of bunk beds. Most mornings you’ll be treated to a free concert of sorts by the area’s howler monkeys, a sound you’ll come to tolerate—or maybe even appreciate—as you drop off to sleep after a night on the beach.
About the Research Area
The Northwest coast and Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica is sometimes called the “Wild West” of Costa Rica. The area is covered with dry tropical forest, savannas, and pasture-like areas that are well-grazed by cattle. Adjacent areas are cut and burned annually to regenerate grassland and to prevent woody vegetation. Yet the province still holds areas of natural dry forest where Cortes trees dot the grasslands like large umbrellas.
The coastline has beautiful white sand beaches with numerous rocky outcroppings. Tidal pools full of fascinating marine organisms appear at low tides and vanish again under the waves. Mangrove estuaries adjacent to Playa Grande and Playa Langosta will be explored with a local guide. American crocodiles, howler monkeys, green iguana, ctenosaurs, countless wading birds, and tegue are the dominant large animals in the adjacent areas, which have a rich overall array of lizards, snakes, and amphibians as well. More than 60 species of birds are common in the region, and numerous migrants pass through seasonally.
Leatherback and Olive Ridley turtles nest on the Playa Grande, Playa Ventanas, and Playa Langosta beaches. The Ridley arribada (arrival) beaches at Nancite are quite close (north one hour in Santa Rosa National Park, and south one hour in Ostional). Arribadas of the Ridley turtles are impressive, with thousands of turtles emerging in one evening on small stretches of beach.