STC Programs: Environmental Education: Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Sea turtles play a very important role at an ecological level, transferring nutrients to the nesting beaches, helping to maintain the diversity of species in the oceans and as indicators of water quality, among others. But their tremendous expedition doesn’t end there. They also represent one of the most charismatic species in the ocean, motivating endless movements and conservation campaigns and acting as emblems and symbols in communities.

Research and conservation in sea turtles has existed since Dr. Archie Carr arrived to Tortuguero, Costa Rica where the main focus was to learn more about them, protecting endangered populations and avoiding massacres by collecting and analyzing data together with local communities.

Recently, sea turtle projects have added Environmental Education and Outreach Programs (EEOP) to the equation, trying to achieve the perfect formula for conservation. From an educational perspective, sea turtles can help conservationists achieve and enhance environmental awareness on people, as they have the power to change environmental attitudes; therefore, it is incredibly valuable to use them as ambassadors of marine ecosystems.

The Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has incorporated EEOPs in their turtle conservation projects in the Central American Caribbean since 2007, and has begun formalizing them recently, focusing on their professionalization and perseverance.

The premises on which the STC’s Tortuguero Educational work is based are:

  • Working together with communities
  • Establishing constant and long-term projects
  • Evaluating educational and outreach projects
  • Working with strategic alliances / key actors
  • Working from a socioeconomic, cultural and environmental perspective

The main environmental issues in Tortuguero are:

  • A lack of environmental attitude, non-sustainable consumption habits.
  • Waste management (overuse, lack of knowledge on consequences).
  • Natural disconnection (lack of nature’s respect, little contact with the forest, the channel system, the sea, the beach as an ecosystem …)
  • Impact on the population of sea turtles (egg and meat consumption, light pollution).
  • Social problems (lack of leisure alternatives, unstructured homes, low self-esteem …).
  • Lack of involvement in the community and authorities

STC is working to address environmental issue in Tortuguero through:

  • Conservation of marine turtles (biology, threats, habitats, satellite telemetry …)
  • Waste Management (reduction, impacts, reuse, separation …)
  • Sustainability (consumption)
  • Environment connection (concepts, observation, integration …)
  • Marine and terrestrial ecosystems (ecology, trophic networks, threats, biodiversity …)

The main educational programs that STC has developed in Tortuguero are:

  • Junior Assistant Program: Young people from the Tortuguero community embark voluntarily on this adventure that will allow them to work directly with sea turtles in their nesting habitat. In addition, they receive a complete course with theory and personal research projects.
  • “Desembólsate” Program: After a strong campaign and working hard with the community, in collaboration with the  Tortuguero National Park and local associations, the village supermarkets are offering cloth bags produced by STC, in order to reduce the use of plastic bags, and consequently, waste.
  • Library and play center: An open space during school holidays and weekends with educational materials and environmental workshops for children and youth from the community.
  • Reforestation projects: Working with the community, schools and hotels to reforest the beach line and thus, protect marine turtles from impacts such as artificial lights.
  • Artificial light projects: Working with the community, hotels and public institutions for the management of the lights in the beach line
  • Eco-labeled: A Program aimed at small hotels in the community in order to certify the ones that collaborate with the protection of sea turtles in Tortuguero. Those establishments joining the program and fulfilling the proposed requirements, are given an identifying sticker that sets the difference with the rest of the hotels.
  • Educational workshops in the kinder, school and high school. An Educational Program with activities in the field of formal education

Do you want more information on how to start a “local program”?

For more information about STC’s educational work in Tortuguero, email


STC’s Junior Research Assistant Program
STC Engages Local Kids in Turtle Conservation