Before leaving for their study trip to Costa Rica, students in the class “Preservation efforts of sea turtles in Costa Rica,” spent weeks learning about seven different species of turtles as well as other animals they would soon discover in a wildlife sanctuary.
A group of 14 students traveled in April with Alioune Gueye (Ph.D.), Associate Professor in Veterinary Technology and Professor of Biology, Shanna Nifoussi (Ph.D.) and were joined on the trip by Mount Ida College President Barry Brown and wife Ellen Shapiro Brown.
“Each student had to research a species of turtle or another animal they might encounter in Costa Rica and do a presentation before we left,” says Gueye. “That included not only the turtles, but some of the other species of animals such as sloths, spider monkeys and parrots found at the wildlife sanctuary.”
On Ocean Days, students spent the day out on the boat, and on the beach. Nets are carefully placed in the water and once a turtle is caught, students helped bring it to the beach where biometric data are collected and recoded. The turtle is then released back to the ocean. Students’ duties included helping to carry material and field equipment to and from the boat, preparing and organizing the nets, untangling deployed nets, watching deployed nets to detect sea turtles, measuring and recording scientific data, and restraining and carrying the sea turtles.
On Mangrove Days, students were asked to help with the reforestation project. Students’ duties included the collection of seeds, gathering mud for the seeds and seedlings, sowing and planting seeds and juvenile plants in their natural habitat and maintenance work at the nursery. The mangroves that grow along the coast provide coastal protection against water erosion and sustenance for the birds, turtles, fish and other sources of nutrition. “The mangroves have suffered deforestation, from natural causes and increased pollution, “says Gueye.
Students traveled to the OSA Wildlife Sanctuary. Here, they learned how the center provides the best care possible for injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife, with the ultimate goal of rehabilitation and release when appropriate. The group also observed how the sanctuary promotes conservation through education, advocacy, and community outreach.
The students also attended a three- hour class with the project veterinarian. “It was a unique opportunity for our students to meet and learn at this deeper level about performing the physical exams, diseases specific to the turtles, parasites and other issues related to sea turtle research and conservation.”
“I think the students came away with a new appreciation for such conservation efforts. We meticulously measured the mangroves and counted the leaves,” says Gueye. President and Ellen Brown worked as hard as any of the students and that was a highlight of the trip and appreciated by the students as well.”
After the hard labor, there was time for snorkeling, and although the pollution somewhat limited what could be seen, the students enjoyed the experience.
Lauryn Samia, a senior and biology major says the trip was life changing. “The minute we got there my whole views on the world changed. I learned that over here in the states, we take so much for granted. Costa Rica was beyond beautiful and it made me really focus on the importance of living in the moment. Taking in the earth’s beauty. I hope everyone has this experience at least once in their life.
Gueye is looking forward to returning with a new group of students next year and he might have a few extra people on the trip. “Several students vowed to return to volunteer at the sanctuary.”