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A big thanks to volunteers

Blogpost by Mariam Weyand, Sea Turtle Biologist

Osa Conservation relies on the help and support of volunteers to maximize our conservation impact, like many non-profits. Fortunately, we have diverse people coming to discover, help and get involved in our programs. We can separate them into two important groups: short term participants, such as students, families and tourists, and long-term volunteers.

In 2018, we had the luck that many individuals came and helped us with field work in the Sea Turtle Program. They all came to discover the great experience and hard work of relocating sea turtle nests and releasing neonates. They all helped a lot, and I would like to thank them all in this blog, because, after all, what would we do without them?

Volunteers from UNED helping Mariam Weyand and the rest of the Sea Turtle team to reinforce the protective bamboo wall against the strong high tide by filling bags with sand behind it.

Here an example of the great work they did in 2018:

We really enjoy working with groups of volunteers and students, such as World Challenge, UCR (University of Costa Rica) and UNED (State University at Distance). Thanks to their help, we have been able to build a new hatchery! They first filtered the sand on the whole surface of the future building, then built the structure and reinforced it when needed by filling bags with sand behind the protective bamboo wall. They also participated in daily patrols, hatchling releases and beach clean ups.  Every helping hand really counts!

The long-term volunteers, like the groups, participated in many of the other projects at Osa Conservation and were a huge help to each program. The additional manpower they provided to the Sea Turtle Program allowed us to split into two teams, and perform double the amount of work! Moreover, each one shared their own knowledge to improve the different aspects of the projects. At the end of their stay, it was like saying goodbye to full-time team members.

Volunteers from UNED helping the Sea Turtle team to reinforce the protective bamboo wall by pushing a trunk in front of it. Without all of them, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.

Each and every volunteer did a great job at giving a hand in the day-to-day activities. By sharing their energy and knowledge, they participated in the constant improvement of the organization.

So, on behalf of the Osa Conservation Sea Turtle Team, THANK YOU everyone for your help! We hope that we will have the pleasure of working with you again and the opportunity to meet more amazing and dedicated people like you!

Dedicated to Pablo Rodriguez who was an exceptional UNED volunteer. May he rest in peace.

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Connecting hammerhead shark populations from the Eastern Tropical Pacific

Blogpost by Mariana Elizondo Sancho, Álvaro Ugalde grant awardee

Sphyrna lewiniis one of the nine species of hammerhead sharks, and it lives across the tropics worldwide. This species is categorized as Endangered, since its populations have declined more than 50% in the last 10 years, according to the IUCN. This shark is threatened by fisheries, both as bycatch and as directed fishing, since their fins are highly valued in the international fin market. 

Hammerhead shark school in the open waters from Cocos Island in the Pacific of Costa Rica. Photo: David Garcia

This shark has an interesting behavior in which females come to coastal waters called nursery areas to deliver their pups. Juveniles remain in these areas for their first years, so coastal marshes and wetlands are an important habitat for their nurturing. In Costa Rica, these areas are threatened both by habitat degradation and by fisheries. One of the most important nursery areas is the Golfo Dulce in the southern pacific of Costa Rica. 

After this first stage of life, adults move to open waters and islands, where constant migration is observed. Once in open waters and near the Cocos Island, this shark is specifically targeted for its fins. Protecting this highly mobile animal that can migrate long distances is a hard task since its populations are not in a specific geographic place during their whole lifetime. 

Also in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, population structure is not well known. Is it one population or are there several? Do females prefer specific nursing grounds to deliver their pups? Understanding population structure and movements of hammerhead sharks is vital to establish regional management and policies.

DNA extraction of hammerhead shark tissue. Photo: Mariana Elizondo

I have been researching the connectivity and genetic population structure of S. lewiniin various coastal nursing areas in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panamá. The results of this research will be important to provide biological information for management plans that will aim to protect specific important geographical areas for this species’ persistence.


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