My students have the wonderful opportunity to spend a week in Costa Rica, learning about its ecosystems, its renewable resources, and its sea turtles. We start in San Jose, traveling to Arenal, and then end up on the coast at the small Pacific coast community of Playa Grande.
During this trip, the students are surrounded by experts– Dr. Mario Bozo, one of the men responsible for Costa Rica’s vast National Park system accompanies us on our trip to Carara National Park and tells students about the importance of National Parks as well as about the flora and fauna in the park.
Once we reach Playa Grande, students interact on a daily basis with graduate students and biologists at the Goldring-Gund Marine Biology Station, including Dr. Nathan Robinson. The not-for-profit, The Leatherback Trust, is based out of the station as well as being a research station (and an Earthwatch location). Students learn about leatherback sea turtles, black turtles, and hatchlings from the biologists who are studying them.
Students help with leatherback sea turtle nest excavations, learn about aggressive snails, and have the opportunity to release hatchings and watch female turtles nest on the beach. While this year, we didn’t get to see a leatherback female nest (which is a truly magical and majestic experience), we did get to see an olive Ridley lay her eggs.
Pacific leatherback sea turtles are critically endangered and the nesting beach at Playa Grande is one of the few remaining beaches (leatherbacks come back to the same beach where they were born). The students were lucky enough to interact Dr. George Shillinger, the Executive Director of the Leatherback Trust and Skyped with Dr. Jim Spotila, founder of the Leatherback Trust.
This trip is truly a once in a life time opportunity for the students–between the experiences, the opportunities to learn directly from experts, and the chance to help a critically endangered species, the students will remember this trip forever.