Trip Start Oct 30, 2008
7Trip End Ongoing
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So what am I doing down here? I am working as a volunteer research assistant for the ISV Leatherback and Pacific Green Sea Turtle Research Project in Ostional. Ostional is on the west coast of Costa Rica and it is a very nice little town, right next to Playa Guiones where Chris and I went last year for a wedding. Guiones is much more developed than Ostional with a lot of ex pats, its nice to be able to go there if we need something from the store or something. Ostional is a very small close knit community of Costa Ricans and it is very centered around the turtles because on the beach here there are what are called arribadas of Olive Ridley turtles where they come once a month by the thousands to lay their eggs. The people in the town work to clean up the driftwood from the beaches so that the turtles can nest and they also are allowed to take a portion of the first eggs laid, it is the only place where it is legal to take eggs in costa rica and its allowed primarily because the first eggs laid would be destroyed by the later turtles that come to nest and the community can benefit financially from the sale of the eggs. We actually just arrived at the tail end of the largest arribada of the year and missed most of it but get to witness all the stinky rotten eggs littered on the beach as well as the sick/old/disabled turtles who came at the tail end. Many of them just made it to the beach, laid their eggs and then died. There are lots of vultures and dogs on the beach that are eating the eggs and dead turtles. Soo its not quite a beautiful pristine beach due to all of that but it is still very pretty and apparently we've arrived at its worst and it will just get better from here on out.
The other people I've met so far are Megan who is the coordinator and is from Australia, Linda the other research assistant from Australia, also Danilo and Andrey, two of the Costa Rican research assistants. They are brothers and are from the Carribean coast, Rolo is the local research assistant from Ostional. Everyone is young and very friendly so it is a good team. There is also Lynda who is a long term volunteer from Germany. She is staying with a family in the village while the rest of us except for Rolo are sharing a room at the MINAE, ministry of the environment, station.
We haven't quite yet gotten into all of the work that we will be doing for the next few months but we have done two morning patrols of the beach. We leave at five thirty in the morning and walk about three kilometers down the beach and then back to the station. The point of the morning surveys is to look for leatherback or green turtle tracks from the night before which signify that there is a nest. This morning we found a green turtle nest which was pretty neat. It is definitely a LOT of walking, it helps that it is early so it isn't too hot yet. Starting Tuesday night we will begin night patrols of the beach, so we will be walking the beach from either seven to midnight or midnight to five am looking for nesting leatherbacks and green turtles. When we find them we'll measure them, check for tags and also possibly collect the eggs from the leatherbacks if they are nesting in a bad area. The leatherbacks are critically endangered species and there aren't many left, they showed us some statistics from a nearby big leatherback nesting beach and in nineteen eighty nine there were over a thousand nesting and then in two thousand three it was down to just seventy. On our beach the nests often have a zero percent success rate if they are left in their original spot, so starting this week we will be building a hatchery on the beach for the relocated eggs. Tuesday we will get 5 more volunteers and will learn how to train them which I'm excited about.
What else...the food is good but we literally have rice and beans at EVERY meal, even breakfast. There is a really good cook so it is nice not to have to make our own meals. I feel like they eat a ton here and I feel like I'm eating a lot too but then I remember that I'm also using a ton of energy walking miles and miles every day. Like today we woke up, did a morning patrol then came back and started our walk to Nosara. It is about a two hour walk, luckily after forty five minutes we got a ride with a local guy who was headed there. He also gave us a ride part of the way back which was nice, especially because he had air conditioning, haha.
I'm definitely picking up Spanish and the local RAs are eager to help us learn. Danilo and Andrey speak pretty good English, all of which they've learned from volunteers on turtle projects. That makes it much easier so when I've got almost a whole sentence put together I can still ask them "como se dice/how do you say" the word I don't know and they can translate for me, rather than just kind of being stuck and unable to get the point across like with someone who couldn't translate the words I don't know.
Soo I think that is all for now...I'll try and update this every week or so. Miss everyone at home. Hope everything is going well and you all survive the drama of the election.