Two months in at the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge!

I’ve now been working at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge for more than two months and things have been going great!  I’m really starting to get into the flow of things here and feel that I’ve already learned a great deal.

One of the new experiences I’ve had in the past few weeks was the opportunity to see Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings during the day.  Sea turtles generally hatch at night when fewer predators are on the beach and without the hot sun that can hurt the sensitive hatchlings.  Sometimes, however, the hatchlings also emerge around sunrise and I was able to snap the picture below.  Seeing how small (fits in the palm of your hand!) and vulnerable the hatchlings are makes me think about how incredible it is that any of these little guys survive long enough to grow to 45 kg. (100 lb.) as adults.  For more information about sea turtles, including nesting and hatchling behavior, see this website.

A Olive Ridley sea turtle hatching making its way to sea at sunrise while people scare away dogs and vultures.

Although I’ve always thought I would enjoy studying biology in the field, this internship has reaffirmed my desire to pursue some sort of biological fieldwork in the future.  I am looking forward to applying some of these skills to my work in the Environmental Field Semester JBS program this fall.  My other goals for this internship are to learn about the local community and to improve my Spanish vocabulary. I have been able to make a great deal of progress towards these goals in a short period of time.

I am most proud of how well I’ve come to know the beach here at Ostional.  Before coming here, I didn’t think much about factors such as the tides, sand texture, vultures and feral animals or beach debris.  However, after being here for a few months, I have become increasingly aware of the many facets of the environment here.  Much of my work here entails leading groups of volunteers on nightly beach patrols in search of turtles.  In my first few weeks as a patrol leader, I struggled to orient myself on the beach at night.  Now that I’ve gained some experience, I can recognize many landmarks on the beach, even at night, and know where I am on the beach without having to check with a light.

On July 25th, the province of Guanacaste celebrated the Anniversary of Annexation into Costa Rica.  This region of Costa Rica  was part of Nicaragua until 1824, when it was annexed by Costa Rica.  This event is celebrated every year in the province with a huge festival including traditional dances and a rodeo.  I took this photo from the side of a bull ring in the city of Nicoya.  For more information about the Annexation of Guanacaste, visit this website.

Every July 25th the Anniversary of Guanacaste is celebrated with a rodeo.

Even though my future may or may not include sea turtles, the skills I’m building in my work here are definitely applicable to my future.  Most importantly, I’ve begun to understand what it takes to undertake science in a field setting.  When compared to a laboratory, there are simply so many factors which are beyond scientists’ control, including weather, feral animals, and interference by people.  Although work in the field has many challenges, I am excited to continue my internship at Ostional National Wildlife Refuge as I consider engaging in my own field investigations one day.

 

– Sarah Steele ’13

 

 

 

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