Volunteer Sea Turtle Conservation Research Assistant

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Latin American Sea Turtles Association (LAST) is member of the Wider Caribbean Sea turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), an international scientific network in more than 40 countries and territories of the Wider Caribbean Region working to improve the status of endangered sea turtles in Latin-America and beyond. LAST is looking for Research Assistant and short term volunteers at our two sea turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica.
Pacuare Nesting Beach Project
The project is located in the northern Caribbean province of Limon, Costa Rica. Surrounded by beautiful nature, Pacuare beach is very remote, only accessible by boat, and it is a very important nesting site for leatherback, green and occasionally hawksbill turtles. This conservation project works together with the local community and volunteers to protect these critically endangered animals. LAST searches for alternative livelihoods for coastal communities in order to decrease the need for poaching sea turtles and their eggs and thus achieve a long term sustainable sea turtle management. Research Assistants will be responsible for leading volunteers on night patrols on 7.1 km of nesting beach to search for nesting females, collect and record biometric data and relocate nests when needed. RAs will be responsible for hatchery managemen and proper release of hatchlings, training volunteers and public presentations. Apart from the turtle related work, RA's will participate in beach cleaning events and will be asked to help out with cooking, cleaning and general upkeep and maintenance of the station.
Osa In-Water Sea Turtle Project
The project is located on Playa Blanca, close to Puerto Jiménez on the Osa Peninsula in the southern Pacific province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Osa Peninsula is a natural paradise, being home to a vast variety of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects. The Golfo Dulce, one of the four tropical fiords worldwide, hosts additionally a fascinating marine life – including sea turtles. Since 2010, Osa In-Water project has worked to better understand the dynamics of the local sea turtle populations, genetic origin and in-water habitat use and threats. LAST works mainly with hawksbill and green sea turtles. Research Assistants will be in charge of our in-water monitoring of foraging sea turtles, conducting bi-weekly surveys, which consist of capture/recapture of turtles using nets. Turtles will be checked over, biometric data collected, tagged and tissue samples for genetic studies collected. In addition to directly working with sea turtles, RAs will run the mangrove reforestation program, looking for seeds to sow in our nursery and replant them once they reach a certain size as well as other tasks within the nursery. The project also runs a sea grass bed monitoring program when conditions permit. RAs will also be asked to perform other duties including upkeep of station and cooking and cleaning duties as needed.


RAs will be considered as part of the project staff and will help with the tasks on the field and station, as well as they will have specific duties to carry out.

Pacuare Project: common duties will be serving as a group leader in the teams of volunteers that patrol the beach at night looking for nesting sea turtles, to assure that all the activities of research and protection are carried out correctly. The RAs will be responsible for tagging turtles and for correctly recording data and research information for each turtle. These data include the measurements of the turtle shell as well as of the nest that she digs, numbers on the metal tags/PIT tags, number of eggs and location of the nest on the beach. Mostly the nests should be collected and relocated in the hatchery where other volunteers in charge will dig a new nest according to the previously taken measurements, and the eggs should be placed inside in the same order as the turtle laid them. All data will be registered by the volunteers in charge of the hatchery at that time for further analysis of the data including the hatching success. The night patrols will be carried out in two shifts of four hours, one 8 p.m. to 12 midnight and the other one from 12 midnight to 4 a.m (depending on the nesting situation, personnel availability, shift hours can be modified). Moreover, the RAs will work on their own respective and specific duties according to the positions they are assigned to. Those positions and their duties are: Volunteer Coordinator and Data Base Keeper, Volunteer Trainer, Hatchery or Schedule Officer.

Osa Project: RAs will be in charge of in-water studies which include bi-weekly capture/recapture studies. Once a sea turtle is caught it is untangled from the net and brought into the boat. RAs will examine every individual to see if there are any wounds or anomalies, record biometric data (size of the carapace and plastron) and tag them with metal and PIT tags and take tissue samples for future DNA analysis. All the data (size, tag-number, sample numbers, etc.) needs to be recorded in a clean and correct manner. The research assistants will also be asked to help preparing the boat trips like: Getting the boat into and out of the water, restocking material needed on the boat (scalpels, containers, desinfectant, gloves), keeping the material tidy, repairing and accommodating the net. RAs will be asked to assist in the rescue center if needed. The mangrove reforestation program will include looking for seeds, getting mud for the plants and seedlings, sow seeds into plastic bags in our nursery and bringing the propagules to the designated reforestation place when they reach a certain size and plant them. Sea grass monitoring will recording transects when tides permit. RAs will lead short term volunteers and community activities, beach cleaning and other activities as needed.


 Be fluent in the English and Spanish (advanced) language.
 Have an academic background (undergraduates or graduates) in Biology, Marine Biology, Resource Conservation, Ecology, Environmental Education, Veterinarian Medicine, Wildlife Management, Oceanography, Zoology and/or experience in working with Sea Turtles.
 Be willing to a firm commitment to work 2.5 months in the project.
 Be interested in sharing his/her knowledge and to stimulate in the volunteers the interest for the protection and the conservation of the Sea Turtles.
 Be a responsible, hardworking, communicative, and enthusiastic person.
 Capable to live in very rustic and basic living conditions and under adverse climatic conditions. Usually it is very hot with 100% of humidity, frequent rain and very heavy sometimes. With lots of mosquitoes and/or sand flies.
 Be a tidy person.
 Be proactive, sociable, open minded and flexible.
 Preferably with first aid certificate.
 Being in a good physical condition (on night patrol you will walk on average 5 - 11 km in the dark or in-water requires good swimming skills)


Required - Biology, Wildlife Conservation, Conversational Spanish

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