Marine Conservation, Science and Research, Sea Turtles

La Vida en el Paraiso

Written by: Sukee Bennett

There’s something about measuring squirming sea turtle hatchlings that automatically puts a smile on my face. But this batch of babies was extra special. They were from a nest that I relocated on my very first patrol on Piro, way back in the beginning of September. A little over fifty days later, and the ping-pong shaped eggs I once placed in a bucket and buried in the hatchery had resulted in one hundred flipper-flapping babies. I was enthralled.

sea turtle 1Flash-forward two hours later, when my fellow Research Assistant Erin and I were leaning against a palm tree outside of our vivero de tortugas marinas (sea turtle hatchery) and reading. We were waiting on the arrival of a large group of college students and Osa Conservation employees to help us liberate our new hatchlings before sunset. As Casey (the other Sea Turtle Research Assistant in our group of three) whistled, I craned my neck around to say hello. But to my surprise, Casey wasn’t the only one demanding attention. A female Olive Ridley (Lora) was slowly hauling her body up the sandy embankment in front of me to lay her eggs. It looked as if she was using her two not-so-terrestrial but powerful front flippers to head directly to where I sat, which also happened to be directly in front of our hatchery. And it was 4:00 in the afternoon.

Olive Ridleys are in fact known to lay eggs during daylight, but typically in large groups called arribadas (meaning “the arrival” to the people where this phenomenon occurs). However, arribadas do not occur on Piro, or anywhere on the Osa for that matter. The female in front of us was clearly alone.

sea turtle 2Fifteen minutes later, she was hard at work digging her nesting hole, and the rest of our party had arrived to share in this incredibly rare and special moment. Afterwards, over three hundred babies released from our hatchery scrambled across the sand, parallel with the tracks our afternoon visitor had left. They safely entered the waves, illuminated by the setting sun.

sea turtle 3Just a few nights ago, we had another visitor at the hatchery. She was much larger and slightly more ornate; a Green turtle (Verde). And rather than having the light from a setting sun framing her, we had one of the clearest nights I have ever witnessed. Countless constellations blanketed the sky, adorned with the occasional shooting star. As we walked in the sand, the pressure from our bare feet sparked a bioluminescent lightshow: blue, fluorescent, and sparkling. I grew tired as we waited for the Green to dig her nest, but I hardly dared to close my eyes in fear of missing something.

I have less than a week left here now, but moments like these will stay with me for a lifetime. Working in sea turtle conservation is a grand privilege within itself, but there truly is no other place like the Osa.

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Promoting Healthy Rivers with the Osa Community

Written By: Tabea Zimmerman

On Friday and Saturday, December 11-12, Piro Station bustled with activities from the Ríos Saludables de Osa (RSO) year-end workshop. Fourteen community members from across the Osa Peninsula plus four staff members gathered for a time of sharing and reflection, re-training, and envisioning for what Ríos Saludables would like to achieve in 2016. Our workshop goals were for community volunteers and staff to get to know each other (we had several monitoring groups join us for the first time!), to provide training and practice with all monitoring protocols, and to create a space for these citizen scientists to reflect on the first year of the RSO program as well as to share ideas for expanding and strengthening this network of stream monitoring and community education.

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Bacteria Testing

We began the morning with introductions and then delved into learning the basics of bacteria testing and E. coli. Participants learned to plate and incubate water samples to later count and analyze bacteria colonies. Detecting the presence of E. coli colonies is especially important for streams and creeks that serve as sources of drinking water for surrounding communities. On Friday afternoon, we presented the theory and methods for our chemical monitoring. We put this knowledge into practice in nearby Río Piro, with the more experienced monitoring groups explaining and training our newer RSO members. Everyone loved watching the water samples change colors from chemical reactions during the pH and dissolved oxygen tests!

12360052_1077661145611513_344362589382343604_n.2A two-day workshop meant participants had several opportunities to enjoy the beautiful life and sights surrounding Piro Station. We all walked to the beach on Friday afternoon to watch a fiery sunset over the Pejeperro rocks and Pacific Ocean. After a delicious dinner, some herpetologist volunteers (who study reptiles and amphibians) led a night walk through the stream. We found a giant shrimp, huge bull frog, several toads, frog eggs hanging on leaves and branches, a couple spiders and crabs, and even a poisonous terciopelo (Fer de lance) snake! For the early birds in the group came a pre-breakfast walk to Piro beach for a sparkling sunrise. While we definitely worked hard during this workshop, it was fun to also explore the ocean and rainforest surrounding us!

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Piro Beach Sunrise

On Saturday morning Alejandro, a wonderful colleague from the Universidad de Costa Rica, introduced the biological monitoring aspect of Ríos Saludables to workshop participants. Using hand-held colanders, kick nets, and forceps, we practiced collecting and identifying over 20 species of macroinvertebrates in Río Coyunda. Among our favorite species were the mayflies, shrimp, water scorpions, and caddisflies (which can build their own homes out of leaves or pebbles!).

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RSO participants then learned how to record and analyze data from the macro-invertebrate sampling. In addition, Tabea presented a new online database called CitSci, which will serve as a space for RSO members to access and analyze data from their monitoring efforts. This website provides tools for comparing data across sites and over time, which will prove useful when sharing this information with local audiences and using it in advocacy to protect aquatic resources.

We finished the workshop with a discussion about what monitoring groups find most important in their work with Ríos Saludables. A common interest is to expand stream monitoring and education into schools in local communities, with RSO participants serving as leaders and facilitators for these activities. In addition, Osa Conservation (OC) staff are excited to see several RSO members willing and capable of taking on more leadership within the Ríos Saludables program. They may serve as contacts to assist newer monitors with tests and protocols, communicate with community leaders or school teachers to involve local students in RSO monitoring and other activities, and provide a unifying force to the broader network of Ríos Saludables participants. OC staff look forward to transitioning RSO towards sustainably functioning and being managed within local communities.

No workshop is complete without distributing certificates of participation and beautiful new Ríos Saludables de Osa t-shirts! We are now an official united force for the conservation of and education about our Osa Peninsula streams. A big thanks to all the OC staff involved in the preparation of this workshop and to the community participants who are making this program a success!

Ríos Saludables de Osa workshop completed!

 

Photo credits of: Alejandro Muñoz, Jim Palmer, Tabea Zimmermann