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BIO 197: Leatherback Sea Turtle Ecology

Study Away Program Costa Rica 2016

The Leatherback Sea Turtle Ecology was nine days short-term study abroad program focused on the environmental and cultural characteristics of Costa Rica.

Getting general information about tropical freshwater systems and water assessment.

Getting general information about tropical freshwater systems and water assessment.

This year, seven students participated in this great experience. From West Plains campus were Dalton Swindle, Stephanie Dildine, Alec Moeller and Hanna Burris. From Springfield campus were Margo Méndez, Kayla Johnson and Natasha Karpel. This biology course was completely unplugged. Students were not allowed to have their electronic devices with the purpose of making them have connection with their classmates moreover with the nature.
Leatherback sea turtle hatchling going home.

Leatherback sea turtle hatchling going home.

They had the opportunity to learn about rainforests, water quality assessments, environmental threats of the tropical regions, agricultural sustainability, environmental protection and the ecology of the Leatherback sea turtle (endangered species).
Reviewing species information after a Rainforest hike. Front to back: Natasha Karpel, Kayla Johnson, Margo Mendez, Hanna Burris, Ana Estrella, Stephanie Dildine, Dalton Swindle and Alec Moeller.

Reviewing species information after a Rainforest hike. Front to back: Natasha Karpel, Kayla Johnson, Margo Mendez, Hanna Burris, Ana Estrella, Stephanie Dildine, Dalton Swindle and Alec Moeller.

They also practiced the scientific method on their independent field researches and during night patrols they helped scientists to collect data about sea turtles’ nesting behaviors.

Rainforest:

The group spent two night in Tirimbina Biological Reserve.

Water quality assessment at Tirimbina River.

Water quality assessment at Tirimbina River.

This reserve is an educational, scientific and ecotourism destination, situated among the forests and rivers of the northern region of Costa Rica. Here students learned the importance of water quality as well how to perform a water quality assessment using biological and chemical factors.
Water quality assessment: Kayla Johnson and Dalton Swindle

Water quality assessment: Kayla Johnson and Dalton Swindle

They also learned about bats and the bat research program that takes place in this biological station. On day and night time hikes, students learned about rainforest characteristics, threats and species richness. They had the opportunity to watch green macaws (endangered species), poisonous frogs, toucans, tropical birds, snakes, and insects.

Earth University Visit:

During the visit, students learned about the university’s mission in agricultural sustainability, leadership, ethical entrepreneurship, and environmental and social commitment.

Visiting Earth University to learn about sustainability. Left to right: Fernando (University student from Madagascar), Juan Carlos Zuñiga (EPI), Dalton Swindle, Kayla Johnson, Natasha Karpel, Hanna Burris, Stephanie Dildine, Alec Moeller and Margo Mendez.

Visiting Earth University to learn about sustainability. Left to right: Fernando (University student from Madagascar), Juan Carlos Zuñiga (EPI), Dalton Swindle, Kayla Johnson, Natasha Karpel, Hanna Burris, Stephanie Dildine, Alec Moeller and Margo Mendez.

They also learned about courses, research programs and opportunities available for international students.
At Earth University. Left to right: Juan Carlos Zuñiga (EPI), Alec Moeller, Dalton Swindle, Margo Mendez, Stephanie Dildine, AnaEstrella, Hanna Burris, Kayla Johnson, Natash Karpel, Fernando (Earth University student) and Kayla Danielle (EPI).

At Earth University. Left to right: Juan Carlos Zuñiga (EPI), Alec Moeller, Dalton Swindle, Margo Mendez, Stephanie Dildine, AnaEstrella, Hanna Burris, Kayla Johnson, Natash Karpel, Fernando (Earth University student) and Kayla Danielle (EPI).

Pacuare Natural Reserve:

They stayed three days with no electricity in Pacuare Natural Reserve, located in the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. This is one of the most important areas of nesting for leatherback sea turtles. Students were learning about sea turtle biology, threats, climate change and water pollution during the day time and participating in sea turtle patrols during the night time.

Building a Leatherback sea turtle on the sand to learn about census logistics before night patrols at Pacuare Natural Reserve. Front left to right: Laura Tellez (EPI), Ana Estrella, Hanna Burris, Margo Mendez, Natasha karpel, Dalton Swindle. Back left to right: Kayla Johnson, Alec Moeller and Stephanie Dildine.

Building a Leatherback sea turtle on the sand to learn about census logistics before night patrols at Pacuare Natural Reserve. Front left to right: Laura Tellez (EPI), Ana Estrella, Hanna Burris, Margo Mendez, Natasha karpel, Dalton Swindle. Back left to right: Kayla Johnson, Alec Moeller and Stephanie Dildine.

They had the opportunity to collect data about females coming into the shore to lay eggs and to release hatchlings into the ocean.
Leatherback sea turtle hatchling going home.

Leatherback sea turtle hatchling going home.

On day time hike they saw sloths, monkeys, anteaters and an eyelash viper.
A hike in the jungle. Left to right: Natasha Karpel, Kayla Johnson, Stephanie Dildine, Ana Estrella, Hanna Burris, Margo Mendez, Dalton Swindle and Alec Moeller.

A hike in the jungle. Left to right: Natasha Karpel, Kayla Johnson, Stephanie Dildine, Ana Estrella, Hanna Burris, Margo Mendez, Dalton Swindle and Alec Moeller.

Students also had the opportunity to develop and present their small groups investigations using biological resources, and a group’s investigation based on sea turtle data.

Whitewaters river rafting:

This was the last day of adventure in Costa Rica. Early in the morning they headed to Pacuare river close Turrialba.

White water rafting in Pacuare River?... Challenge accepted! Left to right: Stephanie Dildine, Hanna Burris, Natasha Karpel, Kayla Johnson, Margo Mendez, Ana Estrella, Laura Tellez (EPI), Alec Moeller and Dalton Swindle.

White water rafting in Pacuare River?… Challenge accepted! Left to right: Stephanie Dildine, Hanna Burris, Natasha Karpel, Kayla Johnson, Margo Mendez, Ana Estrella, Laura Tellez (EPI), Alec Moeller and Dalton Swindle.

This five hours river rafting crossed the Pacuare canyon, zone of virgin rainforest. After this adventure they headed to Heredia to get ready for departure.