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Ocean Spirits Leatherback Sea Turtle Volunteer Project, Grenada

Reference   (Please mention Stopdodo/Environment Jobs in your application)
Sectors Terrestrial / Aquatic Ecology & Conservation
Location Grenada - America South
Type Temporary / Contract / Seasonal
Status Part Time / Per Day
Level Voluntary & Interns
Deadline 05/10/2016
Company Name WorkingAbroad Projects
Contact Name Vicky McNeil
Telephone 01273 479 047
Email victoria.mcneil@workingabroad.com
Website Further Details / Applications
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Volunteer in the Caribbean and take part in leatherback sea turtle monitoring, research, and community outreach programmes on the island of Grenada. Featured on ITV's series "Secret Caribbean" with Sir Trevor McDonald.

You can volunteer with sea turtles for 3 weeks up to 12 weeks from March to August every year. We have places all throughout 2014 available.

Individuals, groups and students doing research all welcome.

The Project 

Research Assistant Leatherback Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme

Duties will include:
  • Night patrols of the main leatherback sea turtle nesting site
  • Flipper tagging of unmarked females
  • Data collection – carapace (shell) measurements, egg counts, nest relocation
  • Morning surveys (on foot) of adjacent beaches
  • Nest excavations
  • Maintenance and preparation of research equipment
  • Summer camp organisation and participation
  • Carnival ‘Turtle Mas’ camp – costume design and creation
  • Assisting with organised sea turtle watches for school/community groups & tourists
  • Camp maintenance and cleaning
  • Cooking 


As we move into the 21st Century, marine turtles continue to face the foreboding prospect of extinction.  Legal and illegal fisheries, incidental by-catch, loss of habitat and the harvesting of eggs have all contributed to the demise of sea turtle species throughout the Caribbean region and the entire globe.  Working together with local communities, government departments and international and regional organisations, Ocean Spirits are working to ensure that the spectacle of a nesting or foraging turtle remains a key component of Grenada's uniquely vibrant biodiversity.

Your experience as a Research Assistant sea turtle volunteer will:

  • Provide hands-on field experience with the world’s largest sea turtle - Research Assistants are not just observers but active members of the research team.
  • Directly help the reduction of illegal egg poaching activities - the presence of nightly research patrols has reduced this threat by more than 60%.
  • Contribute to the preservation of Grenada’s turtles through local educational events.
  • Increase community participation – The very presence of Research Assistants coming to Grenada to volunteer with sea turtles generates local interest in marine turtles and the significance of Grenada’s coastline to these species.
Ocean Spirits
Ocean Spirits is a registered, non-profit marine conservation organisation based in Grenada.  From its inception in 1999, Ocean Spirits have focused primarily on the conservation of marine turtles found throughout Grenada's coastal waters and beaches.  As a member and the Country Co-ordinator of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST) for Grenada, we work at a national and regional level, with support and expert advice which ensures we are continually striving to meet universal, conservational objectives and make valid contributions to the international scientific community.
As a result of the tagging programme, we have documented the interchange of tagged turtles from neighbouring islands (and one from Panama, more than 1,200 miles away!) and vice versa; this information is vital when we consider the varying legislations and international boundaries this species cross during their lifetime.
In early 2009, Sir Trevor Macdonald and ITV (UK television) filmed Ocean Spirits at work - and the programme "Secret Caribbean" was aired on ITV1 throughout 2009 and 2010, an inspiring documentary for anyone planning to volunteer with sea turtles in the Caribbean!

2014 marks the 15th year of the sea turtle leatherback monitoring programme. During the nesting season (March – July) Research Assistants & Project Supervisors will patrol the key nesting beach at night for nesting females, assist in the application of tags and collect biometric data - this is very much a hands on sea turtle volunteer programme. You can expect to complete approximately three to four night surveys per week (8pm to 6am) during their three week stay.
During hatching season, beginning in May, night patrols will also include the possibility of viewing emerging nests. As with all turtle related duties, training will be given as to the correct protocols to adhere to when working with hatchlings. This aspect of night work will also coincide with the daytime work of excavating extinct nests to establish hatching success and/or reasons for levels of nest mortality. You will be carrying out nest excavations from May. 
Morning surveys are carried out each morning at 6am on selected nesting beaches on the east coast of the island. You will walk stretches of beach each morning looking for leatherback (and occasionally other species such as hawksbill) tracks, nests and any hatchling activity (approximately 2 miles). The nesting activity will be recorded along with any disruptive activity such as egg poaching or sand mining and the tracks covered over. Morning survey can take between 45 minutes to over and hour to complete depending on activity.

Despite adverse weather conditions and long working hours the collection of general population and individual specific information is the programmes highest priority. Without this insistence of a scientifically rigorous approach our data would not be considered robust enough on which to base serious resource management recommendations that we may make. For that reason, you must be able to adhere to strict scientific guidelines to participate in this sea turtle volunteer programme.

Another important aspect of the sea turtle volunteer programme is education.  You will be involved in any school turtle watching field trips or community groups who arrange to join us on our nightly patrols. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to introduce a leatherback sea turtle to someone for the first time.

The Ocean Spirits Summer Camps (July/August) are focused on environmental issues and personal development with a heavy emphasis on hands-on activities (e.g. trial SCUBA, organic chocolate factory (solar powered), organic banana plantation, internet lessons etc). We aim to nurture their genuine interest and encourage these future stewards of Grenada to act responsibly with regards to their environment. You will be required to contribute towards summer camp programme events, preparation and assist in the day-to-day running of the camps. The cultural differences between the Caribbean and Western cultures make this experience and education for you too. You do not have to be a teacher, or have had any training or extensive knowledge of the environment (we have plenty of material to help with this); you need to be confident and prepared to help the students on a one to one basis and at group level. It is hard work – but great fun!


It may seem like an excuse for a party, but our community relationships have been successfully built upon ‘doing the Grenadian ting’! Each year (August), Grenada like all the other Caribbean islands, have a Carnival. In 2004, Ocean Spirits took its turn by playing ‘Turtle Mas’ in the local villages. Alongside designing amazing turtle costumes and banners, the team and local fishermen danced their way through the night, bringing the problems of egg poaching to the communities in a culturally specific way. It was a major success and while it will take some planning and organisation, this year will again give us a chance to enjoy the celebrations with the communities we work with and contribute in a very positive way to the future conservation of sea turtles and their eggs in the area. Be prepared for paper mache, paint and lots of glitter!


Additional details

For more information regarding this opportunity, please visit the main project page here, or contact Vicky McNeil here. The application form can be found here, though it is advised that applicants express interest before applying, in order to discuss personal situations.

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