STC Programs: Environmental Education: Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has been conducting sea turtle research and conservation in Tortuguero, Costa Rica since the 1950s. STC’s main focus was to learn more about sea turtles and protect endangered populations by collecting and analyzing data.

In 2007, STC began incorporating Environmental Education and Outreach Programs (EEOP) in STC’s efforts to protect the green turtle nesting population in Tortuguero. 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 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.
  • Visitor’s Center: The Visitor’s Center has displays about the sea turtle species that nest in Tortuguero, their life cycle, migratory routes, and the research that was started in the early 1950s by Dr. Archie Carr and is still carried on today by STC. Visitors can also learn about STC’s educational efforts in the area, including a Junior Research Assistant Program for local high School students. More information about STC’s Tortuguero Visitor’s Center.

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