This week we are featuring a guest post from our Volunteer Coordinator, Dan, who traveled to Costa Rica this summer to study nesting leatherback sea turtles.
Is that a Volkswagen Beetle up ahead in the surf? Walking the beach in driving rain, the pitch black night interrupted only by the blinding strobe of lightning strikes, it is hard to distinguish shapes. It certainly appears large enough to be a Volkswagen. But Volkswagens don’t crawl or dig nests. They certainly don’t lay eggs. Oh my, What we are seeing is no car. This is a six foot long, 1,000 pound nesting leatherback sea turtle. Welcome to the Pacuare Nature Reserve in Costa Rica!
This summer, I had the pleasure of co-leading a group of teen volunteers to this remote Caribbean coastal land. There we were tasked with not only patrolling the beaches to alert staff members of any sightings of these giant reptiles, but also with collecting data related to their nesting activities. Teen volunteers measured the adult females, counted eggs, observed any external injuries and assisted with the covering up of the nest.
We worked with Ecology Project International, a non-profit organization that develops field science partnerships between high school students and local experts. The students learned how to conduct field science research and actively help protect threatened and endangered species and habitats.
As Volunteer Coordinator at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, this trip has proved invaluable. Relaying information to volunteers, as well as visitors, about species that I have seen in their natural environment has a lot more street cred than simply reciting facts and figures. Describing their size as it relates to me, talking about the shape and texture of the eggs, describing the texture of the shell or carapace is far more effective coming from someone who has lived it. It was an experience I will never forget, and the sights and experiences will live on in every retelling of our adventure.
While Dan and the rest of the group were in Costa Rica, they wrote a live blog straight from the field that was posted daily. Check out their blog posts to relive what the group did each day. Are you a teen that is interested in joining us next summer? Contact our Education Curator, Jennifer, at 910-772-0505 for details about the Fort Fisher Aquarium’s upcoming summer trip in 2016.
Our loggerhead yearlings are still growing by the week! Turtle A weighs 2137 grams and is 24.6 cm long. Turtle B weighs 2353 grams and is 25.0 cm long. For more information on what to do with those numbers, please check out our lesson: Hatchling to Yearling.