STC Programs: Research: Assistantships for Sea Turtle Monitoring in Bocas del Toro Region, Panama

Since 2003, the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) has worked at important Panamanian sea turlte nesting beaches in the Bocas del Toro Province and the Comarca Ngäbe Buglé, from the Changuinola River to the Chiriquí River.

Application Information for Research Assistant Positions

Research Assistantship (RA) positions are voluntary and selected RAs are expected to plan and finance their own travel to and from Bocas del Toro. Selected RAs will receive board and lodging at the STC Field Station for the duration of their time working for STC in Bocas del Toro and the Comarca.

Good knowledge of Spanish and English, education in biology or related fields, previous fieldwork experience in the tropics, experience working/living in multicultural environments, experience working/living in isolated locations for extended periods, previous experience in environmental education and availability for the entire period of the program greatly improve the chance of being selected for a position.

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:

1. Application Form (download below);

2. A cover letter explaining why you are interested in the Research Assistant position, details of any relevant experiences and a statement of your level of proficiency in English and Spanish (either a formal qualification or an indication of your written/oral comprehension);

3. A CV or resume with pertinent information; and

4. Name and email contact of three professional references.

Completed materials should be emailed to Cristina Ordoñez at

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 Program Research Assistant Position Information:

Project description: Conservation and monitoring of sea turtles
Location: Bocas del Toro Province and Comarca Näbe Buglé, Panama
Dates: Group 1: March 7 – June 15, 2017
Group 2: June 1 – September 15, 2017
Application Deadline: December 15, 2016 Extended to April 15, 2017

Project summary:
Since 2003, STC (Sea Turtle Conservancy) has worked at 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 STC has standardized monitoring, research and protection efforts in collaboration with members of communities close to the nesting beaches. In addition, education and awareness programs have been developed to highlight the importance of protecting and conserving sea turtles and other natural resources. This program has had very positive results. 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 region’s sea turtles, including predation of nests by domestic dogs, increasing pressure on coastal and marine habitats through unregulated tourism development, and the continued hunting of turtles for personal consumption and commercial purposes.

Work description:
A total of 12 research assistants (RAs) will be trained in sea turtle monitoring techniques by, and work under the supervision of, the STC Assistant Coordinator. The season is divided into two time periods, March – June and June – September, with six RAs in each time period. The Leatherback season goes from March – June, and the hawksbill season May – October. The RA team will be made up of individuals from several countries from around the world, with an emphasis on Latin America and the Caribbean. The primary responsibilities of the RAs will include tagging nesting turtles, collecting biometric data from females during nightly patrols, recording nesting activity during morning track surveys, nest monitoring and excavation, and other pertinent data collection.

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. The patrols take from 4 to 6 hours; therefore an excellent physical condition is a requirement for the RA positions.

The work will be developed in three different beaches in Bocas del Toro Province: Soropta, Long Beach and Chiriquí Beach. RAs will rotate among the three beaches while participating in the sea turtle program.

The RAs will work with the STC Education and Outreach Coordinator to develop and participate in various environmental awareness and educational activities with members of the Bocas del Toro community.

2017 Panama RA Application 

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