Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Students Help Save Sea Turtles, Forever

Costa Rica Outward Bound students heading to Playa Avellanas this summer will be making a big difference for Costa Rica's sea turtle population.  While "turtle season" does not really begin until eggs are laid around September and October, there is a lot of work to do for aiding their conservation.

Recently Laura Statesir, our Program Director, contacted Marc Ward from an organization called Sea Turtles Forever (Tortugas Para Siempre en espaƱol) which aids in sea turtle conservation efforts year-round.  She was looking for some environmental philanthropy for our beach-bound students, and to her happy surprise, Marc agreed, noting:
"I love what you guys do... very cool program and important these days to facilitate young people on their path....  My niece did Outward Bound... and loved it."
Laura and Marc then began discussing possible service projects for all of our students heading to Guanacaste province, and planned for our students' to help with their Habitat Restoration Project.

Marc & Rachel Ward, founders of Sea Turtles Forever in 2001, noted some key problems inhibiting Costa Rica's sea turtle population growth:
  • poachers stealing eggs 
  • a lot of fishing line: very destructive to many forms of wildlife
  • extremely large amount of trash: harmful to turtles that eat it; deadly to hermit crabs that kill themselves by crawling into open containers with water (the morning sun boils it) 
During turtle season, STF combats the poachers by doing night patrols with the goal of scaring off the poachers and collecting turtle eggs (to harvest them).  But during the off-season, there is a much larger project to be done: The Marine Plastics Survey.  This is where Costa Rica Outward Bound students come in.

In this Marine Plastics Survey, Sea Turtles Forever hopes to prove that the area in Northwest Costa Rica is a plastics sink: an area where trash - dumped from all over the world - collects after getting picked up by currents.  By doing so, they are not only cleaning up beaches to help the populations from decreasing year after year, but they are also bringing attention to the area for further efforts to improve the situation.

Volunteers will work to not only clean up a 100-meter stretch of beach, but also to document and clean everything they find.  As you might imagine, this can be quite time-consuming.  Marc and his main patroller, Joey Beshore, are incredibly excited about Costa Rica Outward Bound's ability to make this project possible.

Why is so much importance placed on this species?  Sea turtle biologists have proved that protection of sea turtles is vital to the world’s ecology because of their broad migration patterns.  Well that, and we can all agree how adorable they are.  You can see it on the face of Hannah Curran (shown top right) who participated in helping newly-hatched turtles during our Water &; Wave Semester course last December.

Those two facts alone are enough to make our students love the idea of keeping sea turtles alive forever.

To learn more about this project and their efforts, contact Marc or Rachel Ward at or 1-503-739-1446.

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