Category Archives: Eco-Volunteer


STC Awarded Top Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tour 2019!

Sea Turtle Conservancy is excited to announce that we’ve made it onto the Top Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tours 2019 list!

Curated by Terra Incognita – a social enterprise seeking to promote the best examples of ethical ecotourism worldwide – we’re part of a group of nearly 40 incredible tours across Costa Rica working to conserve the environment, support the well-being of local people and educate visitors and hosts.

“Costa Rica is often the first place that comes to mind when we hear the word ‘ecotourism’, yet it can still be challenging for visitors to choose a responsible tour,” said Kristi Foster of Terra Incognita.

The list includes a transparent explanation of how all tours contribute to conservation, local communities and education, and is open to reviews from guests who’ve participated in the tours. Groups on the list are doing everything from cleaning up beaches and donating to community projects, to offsetting their carbon emissions and encouraging their guests to do the same. Some are actively contributing to conservation research, while others are empowering local conservation ambassadors through environmental education and capacity building.

STC offers several different eco-tour options. Click below to learn more about each trip:

You can view the Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tours 2019 list at www.terra-incognita.travel and join a movement to create positive change for people and planet through travel.

To learn more about sea turtle experiences offered by STC, visit https://conserveturtles.org/get-involved-sea-turtle-experience/

8th Annual Eco-Explorers Summer Camp at the Barrier Island Center

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

The Barrier Island Center, nestled in the heart of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach, Florida, is bringing back the Eco-Explorers Summer Camps program in 2016. The camps run throughout the month of June and are offered to children ages 9 to 15.

 

Giant Red & Brown Striped Hermit Crab Snorkeling Finds

Participants will enjoy unforgettable experiences, from snorkeling to explore life below the ocean surface and kayaking and paddle boarding to observe first-hand the diversity of life on the Indian River Lagoon, to surfing to further connect with the very beach that attracts more nesting sea turtles than virtually any place on Earth.

Camp dates:

  • June 6-10
  • June 13-17
  • June 20-24
  • June 27-July 1

 

IMG_3002Each session offered will cost $325 and includes transportation, certified aquatic instructors, equipment, t-shirt, a year-long Sea Turtle Conservancy honorary e-membership and a complimentary guided sea turtle walk with preferred reservation! To enroll, complete and fax THIS FORM to 321-952-3207. You may then call 321-723-3556 to make your payment. For more information, visit our website. Enrollment is limited to 13 per week and spots fill up quickly! For questions, please email donnalee@conserveturtles.org We hope to see you there!

 

 

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Fifth Annual “Sea Turtles Dig the Dune” Workshop – Feb. 7th

Volunteers plant sea oats at the ACNWR during the 2014 workshop

Volunteers plant sea oats at the ACNWR during the 2014 workshop

Join STC on Saturday, February 7 at 10 a.m. at the Barrier Island Center (BIC) for a morning of planting sea oats throughout the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (ACNWR) as part of our Annual Sea Turtles Dig the Dune Workshop!

The ACNWR is one of the most important nesting beaches in the world and stretches across 20.5 miles between Melbourne Beach and Wabasso Beach along Florida’s east coast.

Coastal residents and communities will be given free sea oat seedlings and planting permits.

Together we can help to restore the dunes and sea turtle nesting habitat of the ACNWR!

After a morning of plantings everyone is invited to return to the BIC, which is located in the heart of the ACNWR, at noon. Long time sea turtle biologist Larry Wood, leader of the Florida Hawksbill Project, will then give a presentation.

Photo by Karla Munoz

Photo by Karla Munoz

Wood will discuss his team’s recent studies documenting the abundance, origins and activities of the hawksbill sea turtles that inhabit coral reefs off south Florida’s coast. Refreshments will be served.

At last year’s workshop, more than 100 volunteers joined forces to plant more than 5,000 sea oats!

Enrollment in the FREE workshop is limited, so call 321-723-3556 to make your reservation by Friday, January 30.

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      This workshop was partially funded by the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate.

Contiki & TreadRight Sponsor Tour de Turtles

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) is excited to introduce one of our newest Tour de Turtles competitors, Esperanza! Esperanza is an adult green sea turtle that will be outfitted with a satellite transmitter on July 4, 2014 in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, the most important nesting site of the endangered green sea turtle in the Western Hemisphere. She was named by her sponsors, Contiki Holidays and The TreadRight Foundation, via a Facebook contest. Esperanza is the Spanish word for “hope.”

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Green sea turtle participating in Tour de Turtles in Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Photo by Ralph Pace.

This is the first time Contiki and TreadRight have partnered with STC for the Tour de Turtles. This unique new partnership is multi-faceted and puts the spotlight on sea turtle conservation in popular tourism countries.

Contiki, a travel company that was started in 1962, offers travel tours in 46 countries to 18 – 35-year-olds. The TreadRight Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 2008 by Contiki and other travel brands to encourage sustainable tourism among their brands and the places they visit.

Lauren McPhillips, public relations and partnership manager for Contiki, said sponsoring a turtle in Tour de Turtles was a simple decision for them because the program increases a sea turtle’s chance of long term survival and, “aids in enabling a greater understanding of these majestic sea creatures and their migration patterns.”

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Sunset in Costa Rica by Ben Brown.

In 2011, Contiki began Contiki Cares, which focuses on becoming a more sustainable organization by encouraging their travelers to respect and care for the places they visit so those places can be discovered for generations to come. They also partnered with environmental activist and documentary filmmaker Celine Cousteau.

According to McPhillips, “Contiki is obsessed with all things sun, sand and surf, and have made ocean conservation the focus for partnerships.”

McPhillips said Tortuguero is a popular stop for travelers who go on Contiki’s Costa Rica trip, and that it’s evident sea turtles are essential to Tortuguero. Both Contiki and TreadRight had recognized STC’s work in preserving the places they travel to for quite some time.

They also admired that STC creates opportunities for young, aspiring researchers and conservationists, she said.

Shannon Guihan, program director for TreadRight Foundation, said it was a combination of those things that made a partnership with STC “a perfect fit.”

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STC in Tortuguero. Photo by Seattle Dredge.

In honor of Earth Month this year, Contiki sent Cousteau along with 12 young storytellers to Tortuguero to explore the country’s beauty, learn about STC’s mission and tell the story of it all in their own ways. The group consisted of bloggers, writers, photographers and more who came from all over the world including countries like the Philippines, the United States and New Zealand.

During their trip, the group of storytellers regularly posted to various social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share their experience. They also put together an inspiring video documenting their weeklong visit to Costa Rica, highlighting STC’s work with sea turtles.

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Sea turtle eggs. Photo by Seattle Dredge.

Contiki has pledged to sponsor an additional turtle in Tour de Turtles if the documentary video reaches 250,000 views. If you haven’t checked out the video yet, you can watch it online at http://www.contiki.com/storytellers.

Since the Storytellers trip, every Contiki Tour that goes through Tortuguero will have the opportunity to adopt a turtle through STC.

In addition to sponsoring a Tour de Turtles competitor, Contiki and TreadRight also sponsored the research of a member of STC’s Research Assistantship Program.

McPhillips and Guihan said they are looking forward to seeing how their efforts aid in the research and survival of turtles like Esperanza and can’t wait to share the results with their travelers.

STC would like to thank Contiki and TreadRight for helping our cause!

Eco-Volunteering: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Eco-Volunteer Adventure is a unique and educational way to take part in travel that helps conservation. With hands-on opportunities, Eco-Volunteer Adventures are designed to get you up close and personal with sea turtles! Click here for a sample turtle program itinerary or read on for a first-hand account of Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Eco-Volunteer Program, written by Eco-Volunteer Heather Suffron.

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So there I was, hiking along the beach in the middle of the night, large caliper in hand, as the hot tropical breeze rushed against my face while I searched with my patrol partners for mama sea turtle tracks in the sand and felt the need to pinch myself for the umpteenth time to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. But it wasn’t a dream, though it very much felt like one.  Nor was it an episode of Planet Earth or National Geographic or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, though it felt like one.  I was actually walking the beach while the Caribbean surf splashed at my side, and the moon illuminated the night sky as we scanned the sand.  And I was actually working to help monitor, protect, and gather data on these magnificent creatures as an Eco-Volunteer with Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC)!

Gathering sea turtle data under a beautiful night sky. Photo by Ralph Pace

Gathering sea turtle data under a beautiful night sky. Photo by Ralph Pace

Having chosen to take some time off work to participate in various volunteer projects around the world, I was in the midst of my week with STC on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.  I researched and chose each of my projects based on location, type of volunteer work, cost, and integrity and effectiveness of the program, and I could not have been happier with my experience at STC.

I participated as an Eco-Volunteer at the field station in Tortuguero, an incredibly unique and sensitive location that serves as nesting habitat for green, leatherback, hawksbill and the occasional loggerhead sea turtle – all of which are either threatened or endangered species.

morning turtle - ralph pace

A late nesting green turtle returning to the sea in early morning

Participants in the Eco-Volunteer program can join for one to three weeks, and there is often a birding research option, as well. Each sea turtle nesting season, a group of Research Assistants (RAs) live and work at the field station for three months at a time. As an Eco-Volunteer, I, too, stayed at the field station in a very clean and well-appointed research residence and was welcomed into the fold.

STC Tortuguero Research Station Dorm

STC Tortuguero Research Station Dorm

While there, I participated in a number of nighttime beach patrols, as well as a few early morning track surveys.  This is truly on-the-ground, hands-on work with the RAs; we checked nesting turtles for tags and general health, measured their shells, and logged the data during beach patrols, and counted new tracks and monitored a number of nests during the track surveys.

Sea turtle tracks on the beach. Photo by Heather Suffron

Sea turtle tracks on the beach. Photo by Heather Suffron

Getting to know the coordinators and RAs was an additional joy.  They were full of life, energy and ideas, and are clearly interested in, and dedicated to, helping protect the planet and its wildlife.

Working with turtles is an experience I will simply never forget.  The females frequently return to the same beach they were born in order to lay their own eggs, nesting several times in the same season. They are amazing creatures, and I felt truly humbled and honored to be working with them and getting to do things that most travelers and tourists never have the opportunity to try.

Furthermore, I was incredibly fortunate to be there when a number of hatchlings emerged from their nests, and the experience of watching tiny baby sea turtles make their way across the beach to dip their flippers in the sea for the first time is pretty powerful and special!

tort hatchling surf -ralph pace

Green sea turtle hatchling

I was also able to learn more about STC’s efforts within the community.  In addition to research on the beach, the STC staff and RAs are involved in community outreach efforts, environmental education, and ongoing discussions with local groups and organizations. With time and continued advocacy, I think even more progress will be made towards further preservation efforts.

All in all, I had a thrilling experience while at STC – and one in which I felt very involved. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and I’m so glad I took it!

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STC has available Eco-Volunteer opportunities for leatherback turtles, green turtles, and birding! Eco-Volunteers must be 18 years or older (16 years or older accompanied by an adult). This experience is ideal for educators, couples, spring breakers, groups, or anyone who is interested in helping sea turtles and making a difference. Eco-Volunteer Adventures run from March through October. Options include 1, 2 and 3 week sessions. For more info, visit STC’s Eco-Volunteer page online or click here to register for a program.

RAs at sunset - ralph pace

Several RAs and volunteers catch the last touch of evening light in Tortuguero.

GUEST POST: Reflections of a Sea Turtle Eco-Volunteer

Being an Eco-Volunteer for the Sea Turtle Conservancy is definitely an adventure! To get to Tortuguero, I first took a bus ride through the mountains and then to the coast. From there I boarded a small boat to take me through the canals. It was here that I first started to experience the wonderful wildlife that can be found in Costa Rica. From monkeys, to iguana’s, countless native birds, and butterflies there is always something to see.

Once I arrived at the station, I learned how to measure and record data for when a turtle is nesting. Right away I was included in the night patrols and various activities that take place during a usual week at the station. During the week I got to know the research assistants better and learned about the countries that they are from.

The night patrols are not always successful in terms of seeing turtles but there is always something interesting to see, from the brilliant night sky to small crabs that glow in the dark. Since nature, and turtles, are not always predictable, I recommend staying for two weeks. That way there are more opportunities to see a turtle.

Seeing a turtle was definitely the highlight of my trip! I was able to count the eggs and help check her flippers and shell for any damage. Being so close to these amazing animals is truly a life changing experience. Working with the turtle up close gave me a new appreciation for these creatures, while also motivating me even more to help conserve them.

Staying two weeks also gives you time to become a part of the weekly schedule and see even more wildlife. There is always something to do in or around the station: going in to Tortuguero for shopping or food, bird watching, relaxing on the beach, taking a canal tour or even just reading a book. Costa Rica is truly a beautiful country, from the plants, to the animals, and even the gorgeous sunsets.

Being an Eco-Volunteer in Tortuguero is definitely a once in a life time experience. If you have the chance, you should definitely go!

By Rachel Bladow