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Playa Tortuga Conservation Volunteer Project, Costa Rica

Reference   (Please mention Stopdodo/Environment Jobs in your application)
Sectors Terrestrial / Aquatic Ecology & Conservation
Location Costa Rica - America South
Salary Additional Information Volunteer
Type Temporary / Contract / Seasonal
Status Part Time / Per Day
Level Voluntary & Interns
Deadline 02/03/2016
Company Name WorkingAbroad Projects
Contact Name Vicky McNeil
Telephone 01273 479 047
Email victoria.mcneil@workingabroad.com
Website Further Details / Applications
WorkingAbroad Projects logo
Also Listing:

Live in a tropical rainforest reserve on the Pacific coast, and take part in sea turtle research and monitoring, butterfly and bird research, reforestation, mammal monitoring, sea otter research, water quality studies, environmental education and more.

You can join for 1 week up to 12 weeks all year round and we have places all throughout 2013 and 2014 available.

Individuals, groups, students doing research and families all welcome.

The Project

Volunteers work within a non-profit biological research and education centre, and all food, lodging, training and research will take place within the reserve. Projects run all year round, except for the sea turtle programme, which runs from July to January only. Volunteers will take part in the projects below:

  • Sea Turtle Conservation Programme
  • Neotropical River Otter project
  • Mammal Inventory Project
  • Environmental Education Project
  • Water Quality Testing
  • Butterfly Garden Project
  • Sustainable Fisheries Project

Sea Turtle Conservation Programme

On the South Pacific beaches of Osa Costa Rica there are 4 potential species of sea turtles which can be seen nesting at different times of the year Lora (Lepidochelys olivacea), Green (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). They are all in danger of extinction. Playa Tortuga beach is an olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) nesting beach although it is possible that other species occasionally arrive.

The nesting period extends from July to December, with the peak of nesting in the months of September and October, during this period it is possible to observe an individual, every other night. Sometimes two or three. In the past two seasons we have successfully protected over 140 nests and released 5,000 plus hatchlings, each nest contains on average 100 eggs. A percentage of nests are moved to the nursery/hatchery where they are observed and protected 24/7. In the hatchery important data about the biology of the turtles nests' is gathered, such as the incubation period, nest temperature and how this influences the sex of the hatchlings, as well as observing environmental factors such as precipitation and physical environmental factors.

As part of our volunteer programme, you will have the opportunity to learn about the biology of sea turtles, especially the Pacific Olive Ridley or 'Lora' (Lepidochelys olivacea) which is the most common on Playa Tortuga. You will see adults, babies and eggs, and learn about its life cycle. By helping this project you will be part of a serious scientific research project, which provides important data for the conservation of sea turtles. Upon arrival, volunteers will receive training about the research project in which they are participating, how to use the equipment, and what work they will do as well as proper behaviour in the field. The volunteer groups will always be working with experienced staff, who will be able to show volunteers proper scientific methods for working with turtles, hatchery work, handling nesting females, eggs and data collection.


  • Care and protection of Hatchery and Camp
  • Cleaning and maintenance of the Beach (Playa Tortuga)
  • Assist project biologist with turtle data collection, monitoring (tagging) and management (including hatchling releases)
  • Relocation of eggs to hatchery or safe location on the beach. This is done when it is determined that eggs are threatened by beach erosion, tides, excessive driftwood or poachers.
  • Night patrols on the Beach- Turtle and Poacher Monitoring. 

Neotropical River Otter Project

The aim of this project is to study the habitat uses and dynamics of the Neotropical River Otter (Lontra longicaudis). Otters are characterized as having home ranges primarily on healthy rivers passing through dry forests and rainforests. As such, this project works closely with the river quality testing project, and is conducted in the same regions. Volunteers will:

• Obtain evidence of the presence of river otters in the Balso river.
• Detect sites where otters execute behaviors within their range.
• Analyse river conditions in places where otter activity is located.
• Identify factors that present a real threat to river otters.

Mammal Inventory Project

Within the Reserva, there are more than 11 species of mammals - the most common being raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, weasels, River Otters, Tayra and Monkeys. Capuchin Monkeys are easy to find into the Reserva forest, others such as Anteaters, Oposums, and Sloths are also common in the area but hard to observe.  There is also evidence of an Ocelot (detected by trail cameras) in the Balso River.  The trail cameras are an excellent tool to determinate the presence, abundance and the density of mammals in the area.  The mammals are important for the forest dynamic balance, and by getting data on their behaviour (diet) and local movements offers information that can be used in reforestation plans for the coastal area to establish Biological Corridors.

Environmental Education Project

The necessity for future generations to understand the importance of environmental conservation and natural resources management is essential. It is part of the Reserva's core mission to educate and actively involve the youth and community at large in these areas ,through conducting workshops and activities for children and their families from schools in the region.

All the running projects at the Reserva have been projected into environmental education programs, through lectures, guided tours, field trips and volunteering with schools such as Tortuga Elementary School, Puerto Nuevo Elementary School, Flor de Bahía Elementary School and Escuela Verde. We have also made site visits to several schools of the schools of Cortes district, Punta Mala, and San Isidro, where we have conducted participatory workshops and field trips.

The aim is to create environmental awareness and active stewardship among its visitors, and it is considered that the school community of the Grande de Térraba Circuit is of major importance with regard to this goal, as the children of Osa, are the future heirs of the natural resources that we are working to preserve today.

To this end, we have proposed an Environmental Education Program, which consists of a yearlong curriculum of modules based on the different conservation projects and natural resource management projects that Reserva is currently working on.  As such, the school children of the Térraba Grande Circuit are vital participants in our efforts to create and ensure a healthy coastal environment managed by a population with a strong sense of the importance of long term eco-sustainable development and management of natural resources.  Volunteers will have an the opportunity to be part of the workshops, prepare materials, make crafts, conduct and work with children of the schools during the workshops, and participate in the maintenance of our Butterfly garden, data collection, care of pupae, feed and release butterflies, as well as the opportunity to help us care for the plants.

Water Quality Testing

Extensive work is being done in this aream- testing sites can include Terraba River, Tortuga River, Balso River, local streams, the Ocean (pollutants, changes in salinity, temperature, sedimentation), and homes in the Ojochal area. Studies of special importance are the effects of uncontrolled black and grey waste water, pesticides- pineapple plantations, banana plantations, and palm industry. Another study of paramount local and worldwide importance is - the effects of plastic - in the ocean and in local freshwater sources.

Butterfly Garden Project

The objectives of the Butterfly Garden project is the investigation of native species of butterflies (Siproeta stelenes, Caligo memnon, Heraclides thoas, Dryas iulia) in the reserve and all aspects of their reproductive cycle and plant foods. Environmental education workshops will also take place, whereby members of the local community will visit the garden and volunteers will help to conduct education tours and classes. Volunteers can also help to develop workshops for local schools.

Sustainable Fisheries Project

Sustainable Fishing and promotion of sale and consumption of local Artisanal seafood. None of our local stores and few local hotels and restaurants currently support/buy from local small scale fisherman, instead supermarket fish and most fish consumed in the area is imported from Nicaragua, Panama, and 'San Jose'. There also is a great need for training of local fisherman in sustainable fishing practices. As a part of sustainable fishing project we also will launch the - Sustainable Seafood Project. We are working to design a card for restaurants and hotels as well as a pocket card for consumers. This card will name seafood items which are safe to eat A) with regard to their abundance in the sea B) for acceptable levels of contaminants. We are sourcing info for this project from various marine scientists and institutions. This project will be both a great source of information for Costa Ricans, residents and tourists who visit Costa Rica.


Additional information

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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