Almost a year after completing the ORCA Marine Mammal Surveyor course, yesterday I was able to volunteer on my first survey, ‘looking out for whales and dolphins’ on the Brittany Ferries route between Plymouth, UK, and Roscoff, France.
I spent ten weeks as a research assistant for Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST) on their Osa In-Water Project. This is one of very few projects that aims to study sea turtles in their foraging environment rather than on nesting beaches (which only make up 2% of the life cycle, and where you can only study adult females and hatchlings). I worked with hawksbill, green and Pacific green turtles. The project also has a mangrove reforestation element, and aims to work with and within the local community.
Our last day off was spent swimming and sunbathing and generally being very lazy and soaking up the Costa Rican sun. Then it was time to say goodbye to our volunteer, with only a couple of days before we got to meet our replacement research assistants. Some toucans turned up in our papaya tree and the macaws seemed even more numerous than ever, just to remind of us of how incredible our home for the past ten weeks has been.
We said goodbye to J a week ago, which really started to feel like the beginning of the end of our time here. This week we’ve had three pretty successful ocean days, including catching an adult male hawksbill to set our second satellite tracker on.
This week has flown by, with a lot of new and different experiences including putting a satellite tracker on a turtle and an intense three-day seagrass survey.
In the past week we’ve built a mud pit, entertained a group of nearly 30 kids for a day, visited Corcovado National Park, watched whales from shore, and I got bitten by a turtle. When I mention hazards of the job, I’m not entirely sure if I’m talking about the turtle bite or how spoilt I have become about seeing incredible wildlife.
We had a record-setting week, with the busiest ocean day yet, but otherwise it’s been fairly relaxed with a small opportunity to stretch some mental muscles that I have enjoyed, and now I am sat in a hotel in Puerto Jiminez with hot water, (admittedly a bit rubbish) wifi, and a tour to Corcovado National Park booked for tomorrow!
As strange as it is, I am already halfway through my time with LAST. It is getting quieter as it becomes the low season here, but we have still had plenty turtles this week. The low volunteer numbers also mean it is time to do some seagrass sampling soon, which I’m excited about.
So I’ve been here for a month now, and as usual the time has flown by and is only getting faster, with just another six weeks to go on the project, which means I’m halfway through my total time in Costa Rica.
For most of this week, we haven’t had any volunteers, which is an interesting change of pace but in some ways a necessary one to catch up after a hectic first fortnight. I’ve enjoyed having time and space to sort myself out and get to grips with things better, but am now feeling ready to welcome the next volunteer who is arriving in a few days.