The Marine Education Fellowship (MEF) in Costa Rica was a trip focused on Biology Teachers/Instructors that are directing study away programs in their schools. The group was comprised by fifteen teachers and two EPI instructors. During this seven days trip we were able to learn about tropical ecosystems (marine and terrestrial).
The first day, we established the objectives and goals for our trip. Our next three days we spent in Pacuare Natural Reserve (PNR), a marine research station at the Atlantic coast. Here we were able to meet the researchers and the projects that they are running in the place. We took lecture about sea turtles life cycle, tropical ecology, turtle census protocols, and research methodology.
Every evening we patrolled the beach (3.5miles north, 3.5 miles south) without light from 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM looking for leather back turtles (endangered species and the biggest sea turtle in the world). The group was divided into three different shifts (8 PM-12 AM; 10 PM-2 AM; 12 AM-4 AM) each one was comprised by five participants (teachers), one research assistant, and one interpreter. Once we found the turtles we helped to collect data about nest and animal size.
The last day in PNR we did our mini-research using the information from the research methodology lecture. After leaving PNR, we visited a local high school. Here we had the opportunity to share with local students and teachers; and to learn about Costa Rican educational system. Then, we moved to the rainforest at La Suerte Biological Reserve where we expended the next two nights. The curricular activities included: sustainable development, rainforest ecology, and correlative field investigations. We had the opportunity to observe the rainforest during day and night time hikes.
The last day on the Atlantic coast, we did an 11 mile white water rafting trip at Pacuare River. Finally we returned to San José province (Pacific coast) to take our flights and return home. After participating on this fellowship, I realize that this type of educational trip will be very valuable for our students as a future Study Away program.