STC Programs: Research: Assistantships for Sea Turtle Monitoring in Bocas del Toro Region, Panama
Bastimentos Island National Marine Park
Since 2003, we (Anne and Peter Meylan) have worked in partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to monitor important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola River to the Chiriquí River. Key among these beaches are three in the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park, Small Zapatilla Cay, Big Zapatilla Cay and Playa Larga. For the 2017 nesting season, we anticipate having up to 6 openings for research assistants to help with this work.
Application Information for Research Assistant Positions
Research Assistantship (RA) positions are voluntary (unpaid) and selected RAs are expected to plan and finance their own travel to and from Bocas del Toro, Panama. Selected RAs will receive board and lodging in small field camps and will be expected to help with cooking and clean-up.
Good knowledge of Spanish and English is required. Applicants with: 1) education in biology or related fields, 2) previous fieldwork with sea turtles, and 3) experience working/living in multicultural environments in isolated locations for extended periods will be most competitive for these positions. Availability for the entirety of one specified time interval for the BINMP program (May through July or August through October) is required.
STC Alumni RAs have gone on to work for conservation organizations, universities and government agencies worldwide.
Applications for RA positions must include the following materials:
All application materials must be received at our office before or on the deadline listed for each program. Short-listed candidates will be contacted within four weeks of the application deadline. Please do not phone or e-mail to inquire about the status of your application.
Applicants that do not supply all requested materials will not be considered.
2017 BINMP Program Research Assistant Position Information:
Project description: Conservation and monitoring of hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles
Location: Bocas del Toro Province, Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP)
Dates: Group 1: 28 April – 31 July 2017
Group 2: 25 July – 31 October 2017
Applications will be accepted until all positions are filled.
Since 2003, Anne and Peter Meylan have worked in a partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) to monitor important Panamanian sea turtle nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola River to the Chiriquí River. Four sea turtle species are found in the waters of Bocas del Toro and the Comarca; Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Within this region, we have standardized monitoring, research and protection efforts in collaboration with STC and members of local communities close to the nesting beaches. This program has had very positive results. Approximately 750 hawksbill nests and 75 leatherback nests were recorded in the park. In the last 12 years, there has been a reduction in the illegal killing of turtles on the majority of nesting beaches in the area, and an increasing nesting trend for both Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles. Despite these advances, numerous threats remain for the sea turtles within and adjacent to BINMP, including increasing pressure on coastal and marine habitats through unregulated tourism development and the continued hunting of turtles for personal consumption and commercial purposes both on the beach and within park waters.
Up to 6 research assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the Meylans (Eckerd College and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission) and Cristina Ordoñez, STC’s Panama Coordinator. The season is divided into two time periods that together span the majority of the hawksbill nesting season in BINMP: May through July and August through October. The beach monitoring team will be made up of local Panamanians with moderate to extensive experience with the project and RA’s from multiple countries around the world. The primary responsibilities of the RAs will include day time census patrols, night time tagging patrols, and logistic support of all camp activities. Day time patrols include identifying and accurately recording all emergence and nesting activity, marking of nests for future hatching success evaluation, and performing excavations of hatched nests. Night time patrols include tagging and measuring nesting females. All RA’s are expected to contribute to recording data, maintaining the camp, cooking and cleaning, making food trips to town, and other activities in support of the project.
RAs can expect to work very long hours, throughout the day and night, often with little sleep. Beach patrols require walking between 6 to 12 kilometers in soft sand and in extreme weather conditions. Night time patrols are 5 hours long (8 pm – 1 am or 1 am to 6 am). Therefore excellent physical condition is a requirement for the RA positions.
The work will be developed in three different beaches in Bastimentos Island National Marine Park (BINMP): “Small” Zapatilla Cay (Zapatilla Uno), “Big” Zapatilla Cay (Zapatilla Dos), and Long Beach (Playa Larga). RAs will rotate among the three beaches while participating in the sea turtle program and may have an opportunity to work for short periods at other sites in the region.
For additional information about the project, see