25 Sep A Week in the life of a Sea Turtle Volunteer
Research Field Assistant – Erin Peeling
Arriving at the field station on Day One:
I was accepted to be a Research Field Assistant for the Sea Turtle Conservation program in late August 2015. Within two weeks, I was already off to Costa Rica. Because everything happened so quickly, I was nervous about what my job would be like and how I would adjust to living in a new country. Despite my worries, I could not have asked for a better time volunteering here on the Osa Peninsula.After spending one night in Puerto Jimenez, I took the Colectivo, the local bus, to the Piro Research Station. I enjoyed the scenery as we transitioned from farmland and ranches to the beautiful primary and secondary rainforest. After exchanging greetings at the station, I was shown to the cabin that would be my home for the next three months. After about ten minutes to settle in, I got right to work, and I went with Manuel Sanchez, the OC Sea Turtle Program, Coordinator, down to the turtle hatchery to perform a temperature check on the turtle nests. While I was there, I got to release my first Olive Ridley hatchlings into the ocean. It was such a special experience, and I realized that that it was something that not many people get to see in their life.
Beginning at 4:00 am on my second day, I joined in on my first turtle patrol of Piro Beach. I was trained to identify turtle tracks and nests, find and remove eggs, and relocate the vulnerable nests to our hatchery. Later my second day, I hiked to the hatchery to perform another temperature check. During this hike, I took my time and looked for animals, took pictures, and just sat and watched the waves. I remember thinking to myself, “wow, I can’t believe this is where I work”.
The early mornings were difficult at first, but now I truly enjoy going to sleep when the sun goes down and waking up with the sunrise. I am getting good sleep, exercise, and especially good food. I am already noticing that I feel happier and healthier than ever.
One of the best parts of my first week was my trip to Matapalo, a nearby surfing beach, with another Research Field Assistant, Tabea. We saw so much wildlife there along the way. We saw coatis, tyras, and spider, squirrel, and howler monkeys all within the hour. When we made it to Matapalo we set our stuff down and both ran straight to the water. It was the first time either of us had gone swimming in the ocean since we had arrived. The water was a beautiful aqua blue and the perfect temperature. We did not get out until it was time to leave. We had to walk the entire way back, but that did not matter, as I felt completely refreshed, mind and body, by the ocean.
Recently,three more research field assistants have joined the team. It has been great working with other like-minded people who care deeply about conservation. We usually spend our nights talking, playing card games, watching movies, or playing music. I have been having so much fun every day that I am here. Nothing beats the feeling of releasing turtle hatchlings into the ocean and knowing that you help first hand in the conservation of these endangered species. My co-workers are wonderful and the scenery is incredible. With endless opportunities for adventure, I cannot wait to see what happens next.