October 22, 2015

Results from season 2014-2015

The 2014-2015 Leatherback and Pacific Green sea turtle season was closed on April of 2015. This season was very successful as we had strongly committed research assistants, international and local, all of them highly motivated and passionate about the project efforts. Also we did received support from lots of volunteers that came to join us. Everything was essential for the good development of the project!

Interesting were the results obtained for this season. In previous seasons we have documented between 19 and 42 nests at Ostional beach, usually done by 8 different nesting females. This year we only had 4 leatherbacks arrived to the beach which laid a total of 8 nests, all of which we protected on our hatchery. The nesting for this season has been very low and we hope that it is more a consequence of El Niño phenomenon ongoing for this year than the real expected decline of the population. Lets see what happens in the following years!

In the table below you can see the results obtained of all the work done in last season.

Number of total activities
Number of females nesting
Number of total nests
Number of nests relocated to the hatchery
% Hatching success
Numbers of Hatchings released
Leatherback turtle
Pacific green sea turtle

Before we go we would like to give a deep recognition to Andrey, Wade, Yohan, Elmer, Christina, Sarah, Callie for their big effort done this season; your job was amazing! Thank you guys! 

Also to all the volunteers from International Student Volunteers and WorkingAbroad that came to help us in this conservation effort, thank you so much. 

Special thanks to Yeudy and Pablo, from the MINAE, for helping us in the development of the project. And thanks to the support given by the Costarrican Ministry of Enviromental and Energy. 

Also thank you so much for the support that this year we received from the Rufford Foundation as without them we wouldn´t be able to develop this project.


February 23, 2015

Close to the end of the season!

It's been an amazing two months in Ostional. We are not looking forward to saying goodbye! Although this second half of the nesting season has been slow, we have still learned a lot about the nesting ecology of sea turtles and the maintenance of hatchery nests and hatchlings. We only observed and collected eggs from one leatherback and one black sea turtle during our stay. It's possible since leatherbacks are very pelagic and not always faithful to a certain beach that the females went to another beach to nest this year, as leatherback and black turtle tracks have been reported on beaches adjacent to Ostional.

It could also unfortunately mean there may be more of a decline in the population. Threats caused by humans are driving marine turtles to extinction: fisheries bycatch, climate change or ingestion and entanglement due to plastic debris in the ocean are some of the many hazards that this species are facing. To a leatherback, a floating plastic bag looks just like a jellyfish which is its main source of food. Therefore we have done several beach clean ups at the refuge with our volunteers. Beach clean ups are a simple way for people to get involved with conservation on their own beaches because taking responsibility for trash, even if it's not your own, makes a difference. Clearing debris also makes way for the hatchlings to reach the ocean quickly. In addition, we have removed fish hooks from the mouths of several olive ridley turtles during night patrols as well. 

We have only 5 nests left in the hatchery, 4 leatherbacks and 1 black nest. We are still inputting data to determine hatchling success but several of our nests especially blacks have done well, with hatchlings numbering in the 60's. Hatchlings are emerging every few days, we measure and weigh a sample of turtles from each nest and at night we release them; this is a very special and fun moment especially with volunteers and tourists. After a couple of days that the nest have hatched we do the exhumation to see how has the hatching success been.
The February arribada of olive ridley sea turtles occurred at the beginning of this week and with it lots of people arrived to the beach interested in viewing the turtles. To be able to see both turtle nesting and hatchling releases in one visit makes a very educational and special experience for people and hopefully interests them in their conservation. Sea turtles are especially sensitive to bright white lights so whenever visiting a nesting turtle beach always remember to use a red light and no flash photography!
The arribada has been a memorable time for us as well. Not only is it just an amazing sight to see, we have gained lots of experience tagging and collecting data on turtles since our leatherback project found very few turtles this season.
Ostional is truly a beautiful place. We have been able to explore the area on horseback in the rainforest plus hike with our volunteers through the nearby mangroves to learn about its ecology. 

We are going to miss our starry nights looking for tracks in the sand! We are off to study more about biology and conservation and hope to continue working in the field and maybe even return to Ostional someday!
Pura Vida!
Christina, Sarah, Callie

January 26, 2015

Second period of the season!

Since the beginning of the project there has been new people coming and going, new volunteers and new staff. At the beginning of January new research assistants arrived to work at the project, Sarah, Callie and Christina, coming from North America and from Australia. This second blog is written by them:
Greetings from beautiful Ostional!  We can’t believe we have already been here for 3 weeks!  So much has already happened.  At the start of our second week we got to witness our first nesting leatherback (Baula) and arribada of olive ridleys (Loras).  So far this season we have had 19 nests total from 4 leatherbacks and 8 blacks (Negra).  The hatchery has had 8 leatherback nests and 11 black nests, and currently there are 6 leatherback and 4 black left.  So far this season the hatchling success has been incredible – our last leatherback nest hatchling success was 82%!

We’re about to say goodbye to our first group of 17 ISV volunteers.  They have been helping us on patrols, with hatchery duty, hatchling releases, and exhumations.  And have been great fun to have around!  We’ve been able to take day trips to explore some amazing places around Guanacaste and have had a great time around the base with community soccer games and kitchen dance parties.  It will be sad to see them go, but we are looking forward to meeting the next ISV group and more independent volunteers coming.

The people of Ostional have welcomed us into their community with open arms.  They’ve joined us on some of our day trips and the volunteers are enjoying spending time with their homestay families.  We are participating in a community spay/neuter clinic to help with the overpopulation of stray dogs, which we hope will also have a positive impact on the nesting turtles by reducing egg predation.

 It is currently dry season, which has been living up to its name with not a drop of rain. The days are quite hot but it cool down considerably at night, just in time for patrol. The night patrols have been amazing and during breaks we always try and learn new constellations.  The shooting stars and bioluminescence in the sand always give a magical feel to walking the beach at night.  “Sunset o’clock” has become a daily ritual of heading to the beach to watch the spectacular display of colors.

We have really loved our time here and are looking forward to the next 1.5 months and all the inspiration, challenges, and experiences that it will bring!

Christina, Sarah & Callie

November 25, 2014

Beginning of the season 2014-2015

It has been now 18 days since the project has started. 18 days of new people arriving, new faces, new knowledge and new energy to start the 2014-2015 season. This year Andrey has come back! He has come to be the field coordinator and he will be also leading some of the ISV groups arriving to Ostional; all his expertise has helped to have a nice and smooth beginning. Yohan, Elmer and Reiner have joined us as local- costarrican research assistants and Wade, direct from Canada, as the international research assistant.

Our first work of these days has been to build the leatherback and black turtle hatchery. Here is the experience of building the hatchery from Wade:

“…Building a turtle hatchery involves the excavation of sand to a certain depth, approximately one meter and as large as you want to go to have a grid of 75 x 75 cm plots. This hatchery was dug to have 10 x 6 plots, so approximately 10 x 6 x 1 m. This work included sifting sand low tide sand and wheel barrowing it or hauling it to the hatchery in burlap sacks. Needless to say for a Canadian coming from cold wet fall weather to Costa Rican hot, humid days this was tiring work that wore a guy out and trying to keep up to the guys already here was tough as they all worked exceptionally hard.

This work continued for days with new volunteers joining and helping out, with sessions usually from 5 am to around 8.30 am and from 3pm to around 5pm; grueling and hard sessions were, however, they were good grounds for meeting people, learning about your newfound friends and co-workers….”
Not only building the hatchery we have started with the fun turtle patrolling; two shifts, one from 7pm until 12 midnight and the other from midnight to 5 am, walking through the 7 km beach trying to see the first nesting females of the season. But before this, research assistants and volunteers made some training sessions on the beach building a sand turtle, and they receiving an information session given by power point prior to heading out.

All this work, hatchery and patrolling, continued for a week until the hatchery was done and everyone, who had been out in the heat with bits of sleep here and there for a week, was very excited about this. We celebrated by sleeping!

The weather has been beautiful, we have met all sort of people, the community as always very friendly, we were able to watch our first “arribada” and our international staff ( Wade) is settled into the Pura Vida lifestyle!  

Thank you to Andrey, Wade, Yohan, Elmer, Reiner, Cornwell group, UNA group and independent volunteers that have helped us to have this nice beginning!

We will be keeping you updated in the following month about news happening at the project!!

Pura Vida!