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Costa Rica is a tropical country of 51,100 km2 terrestrial, but with a marine extension of 589,163 km2, with many volcanoes, mountains, rivers and beaches on both coasts of great natural beauty; it has approximately 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica has a tropical climate with two seasons: Dry, from December to April; and Rain, the rest of the year.
For these reasons, year after year thousands of people from different countries of the world, choose Costa Rica as a tourist destination.

Where is the sea turtle Project?

Our sea turtles research and conservation projects are located on the north side of Costa Rica, in the province of Guanacaste, canton Santa Cruz, district of Cabo Velas, close to the community of Matapalo. The beaches Nombre de Jesús, Zapotillal, Real and Honda are located approximately 12 kilometers north of Las Baulas National Marine Park.
The Beaches are adjacent and separated by rocky cliffs with abundant vegetation, in the canton of Santa Cruz and province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica.


Figure.
Location of sea turtle nesting beaches under the Kuemar monitoring program in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

Sea turtles of the world
Sea turtles are reptiles that have lived on Earth for more than 100 million years. They evolved from freshwater turtles. Through their long history they have survived drastic changes in the environment, the same ones that caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs. They have physiological and anatomical adaptations to live in a marine and terrestrial environment. Sea turtles are cold-blooded animals and use sunlight to warm their bodies because they are not able to maintain a constant body temperature. Sea turtles breathe through the lungs, emerging to the surface from time to time to breathe. They have a shell: dorsal and ventral, which both serve as protection for internal organs. The Baula (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtle is distinguished by its soft shell, covered by a thick layer of leather-like skin. Turtles lack teeth in their jaws, they have primitive ears, but an excellent sense of smell and good vision under water.
Their fins are long (the length of the shell) and they have one or two reduced claws on the front fins, with the exception of the leatherback turtle, which lacks claws.
The tail of the male is longer than that of the female, and is used to hold the female at the time of mating.
They dive to great depths, mainly the Baula turtle, with a maximum recorded depth of up to 1300 meters (Eckert 1989). During the dive, sea turtles lower their heart rate and their brain works with reduced oxygen concentrations.

Species that nest on the study beaches:
Green/Black Turtle (Chelonia mydas agassizii): This is the species that nests in greater quantities.
The Black Turtle’s carapace length can reach 120 cm and weigh up to a total of 230kg. This species inhabits shallow waters around coral reefs, estuaries and bays. Its diet consists of seagrass and marine algae.

Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea):
The average carapace length is 66cm and total weight fluctuates from 35-50kg. They live in tropical and temperate waters. The Olive Ridley mainly feeds on benthic crustaceans, such as: crabs, snails, tunicates, sessile, shrimp and algae.

Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea):
The curved carapace length can reach 180cm and can weigh up to a total of 500kg. They are associated with pelagic environments and deep waters. The Leatherback feeds on marine invertebrates, but its diet mainly comprises of jellyfish.

Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata):
The adults are between 65 and 95 cm in length and weigh about 60 kg. Their shell consists of overlapping bony plates of dark brown, amber, yellow or coffee colour.
It is common to see them in coral reefs; their main diet is made up of sponges; their jaw has a “peak” shape, which allows them to reach
the food located between rocks and corals.
This species of turtle is captured mainly for its shell, since it is used to make jewellery which has a high commercial value. It is the most tropical of all sea turtles and is distributed in the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Their nesting on these beaches is not very frequent.

About Us

WHO ARE WE?

KUEMAR is a non-profit organisation which promotes conservation of marine turtles through research, outreach and voluntary work. KUEMAR was founded in 2013 by two Costa Rican biologists who have been carrying out research on marine turtles, together with other conservationists, since 1994. KUEMAR is currently continuing this research in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

WHAT DO WE DO?

KUEMAR has established a permanent research project which studies the biology of marine turtles on nesting beaches. KUEMAR research assistants patrol the beaches every night in order to find turtles, collect scientific data and protect nests and eggs from poaching and nesting disruption.

Through outreach activities, KUEMAR increases the awareness concerning the importance and the threats to marine turtles and the preservation of their coastal marine habitat. Students, tourists and local town inhabitants are the target audience, in order to enable them to recognise how marine turtles provide benefits to marine ecosystems and the local communities.

Through volunteering, KUEMAR offers an opportunity for local, national and international volunteers to participate in beach patrols, the collection of data, the monitoring of sand temperatures and in outreach activities. Volunteers are fundamental to the project and their support is essential in order to reach conservation objectives.

Staff:
-Biologa Elizabeth Vélez, Director-Research
-Biólogo Randall Ureña, Community Outreach and Public Advocacy Coordinator
-Karol Cano, Field Coordinator Assistant
-Maricela Gutiérrez, General Services

Background

In 1994, a group of friends, biology students from the National University of Costa Rica, started the conservation and protection project for sea turtles at Langosta Beach, one of the three sea turtle nesting beaches forming Las Baulas Marine National Park, which formerly focused on monitoring the Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) nesting ecology. Furthermore, other sea turtles such as the Green/Black sea turtle (Chelonia mydas a.), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) nesting activity was protected and included in the monitoring. Scientific data from the project has been published in peer-reviewed journals as well. Since 1994, 7 different research projects were executed in fulfilment of several degrees: 3 for Bachelor’s, 3 for Licenciatura and 1 for a Master’s on Marine and Coastal Sciences.

In 2002, the first conservation efforts took place when sporadic patrols were made in order to collect data about the nesting events of Green/Black sea turtle at Nombre de Jesús and Zapotillal beaches. However, it was only since 2006, that nesting monitoring was performed on a regular basis and for a longer period throughout the night. It was then possible to achieve a permanent research and protection project, which is very important to reveal more information about sea turtle populations, and to eradicate one of the most threatening activities for sea turtles: egg poaching for use as food. Currently, these beaches are considered to be amongst the most important nesting sites for Green/Black sea turtles on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and are some of the most relevant on the Tropical Eastern Pacific coast. Some of the data is included in the Costa Rican national report for the Interamerican Convention for Sea turtles Protection and Conservation.

This project is led by recognized and experienced marine biologists, two knowledgeable sea turtles field assistants and one person in charge of meals and the kitchen. This team is supported by local and international volunteers, who collaborate to achieve the proposed conservation objectives which are as follows.

MISSION:
This is an organization that promotes the conservation and the protection of sea turtles through means of research, outreach and voluntary work.

VISION:
We are a leading organization in the research and conservation of sea turtles, whose efforts are developed jointly between different actors of civil society and state institutions. At the same time, we promote a positive impact on human well-being and populations of sea turtles which maintain their ecological functions and the critical habitats on which they depend, and in sound and sustainably managed conditions.

Projects

Research and conservation of sea turtle populations:
The Conservation project on sea turtle nesting takes place throughout the year; however, there is an increase in the number of sea turtles nesting from September to April.

Objective: To generate technical and scientific information needed to contribute to decision makers in order to manage and conserve sea turtle populations and their critical habitats in the North Pacific of Costa Rica, as well as nest protection activities and community outreach.

Research includes:

• Identification of females and their location on the beach.
• Biometry of female turtles.
• Location of turtle nests.
• Relocation of eggs to safer locations (occasionally).
• Temperature monitoring of nests and sand.
• Excavations of sea turtle nests.

Internship:
Research assistant: If you want to apply for a research assistant post, contact us and we will send you the corresponding information.

Community outreach and public advocacy:
The sea turtle nesting season is low during May, June, July and August, so volunteers will support activities concerning environmental education and community outreach most of the time.

Objective: To increase environmental awareness and individual responsibility concerning the management and the conservation of sea turtles.

Activities include:
• Organize talks for environmental education and the celebration of environmental dates in Matapalo Elementary School. Also, support specific projects such as: teaching English, handicrafts, school and community projects, etc.
• Painting and placing signs with information for visitors for environmental education purposes. These will be located on the beach, in schools or in nearby communities.
• Carry out beach cleanings every week on nesting beaches. This activity includes separation of wastes and their proper disposal.
• Collaboration in reforestation campaigns.
• Collaboration in river clean-up activities.

Volunteering

The work of volunteers in the conservation and protection of sea turtles project is extremely important. Through their work, volunteers help conserve sea turtles and their critical habitats, having a positive impact on the populations of these ancient marine species.

Our organization devotes time and resources for this specific cause to help in the conservation of sea turtles and at the same time to educate through educational tours, to give talks in schools, companies, local guides, universities, among others, focusing attention on the biological and ecological importance of sea turtles and their critical habitats and how this also has an impact on human well-being.

Voluntary work and participation into local communities:
Objective: To support research and promote community outreach concerning conservation and sea turtle populations.

Volunteers become collaborators and their support is essential to the field coordinator and research assistants. The activities carried out by the volunteers are as follows:

• Night patrols
• Maintenance and cleaning of nesting beaches, in order to eliminate obstacles that may prevent nesting of sea turtles, egg hatching and emergence of newborns.
• Maintenance of signposts on beaches.
• Collaboration in cleaning and maintaining order in the house.
• Collection of temperature data of the beaches
• Collaboration with the research assistant regarding all work that is required on the nesting beaches.
• Assisting in the excavation of nests to determine hatchling success.
• Release of hatchlings.
• Biometric Measurement of Turtles.
• Maintenance of facilities and accommodation.
• Development of information signboards.
• Various tasks that may arise according to the needs.
• Participate and collaborate in activities of community outreach and public advocacy.

COST:
The detail of the costs will be sent to you by email.

WHAT IS THE FEE INCLUDES:

Day1:
A collaborator of the group will pick you up at Juan Santamaría International Airport and take you to “Las Nubes Eco-Center”, for food and general information.

Day 2:
Transportation from “Las Nubes Eco-Center to the bus station TRALAPA heading towards Matapalo Guanacaste where a local taxi awaits and will take you to the project for the Conservation and Protection of sea turtles. Once at the Project, lodging and food will be accessible.

Day before departure from Costa Rica: transportation (from San José to “Las Nubes Eco-center”, for a meal and thereafter transfer to the airport).

WHAT IS THE FEE NOT INCLUDES?:

• Air tickets.
• Entrance and exit taxes.
• Medical insurance or accident insurance REQUIRED.
• Personal expenses.
• Internal travel expenses.
• Transportation from Sea turtle Project to Matapalo (Day of departure from your participation in the Project).

Las Nubes Eco-Center:
We warmly welcome you to Las Nubes Eco-Center, originally thought of as a Restaurant and Conventional Mountain Cabins, but the need and interest on our part in the conservation of the environment has made us rethink and gradually raise awareness about the need to preserve what nature has given us.

We are located 20 minutes from Juan Santamaría International Airport. With easy access to places of interest such as Poas Volcano National Park, Barva National Park, Catarrata de La Paz and La Paz Waterfall Garden, Territory of Zaguates and Doka Coffee Estates.

Why stay here? We are close to 2 main cities like Alajuela and Heredia, our average temperature is 23 degrees and we are located between the Poas and Barva volcanoes. Sustainability is part of our lives. Our cabins are rustic but comfortable.

Our goal apart from the protecting the environment is that you as our guest feel happy, comfortable and relaxed and able to enjoy the peace of the place. As a biologist and administrator of the place I want to welcome you to Las Nubes, a place that breathes peace and nature!

Support Us

WISH LIST
If you would like to help the sea turtle projects, we need many items that we use frequently at the projects and that you may like to bring with you and donate. This would be greatly appreciated.
The items needed are as follows:

Patrol Gear
Waterproof pouches (West Marine model 7699747) Large
Equipment Bag (waterproof)-Backpacks (small size).
GPS
Compass
Alarm clocks
Flashlights and headlamps (three types of light, redshould turn on first)
Batteries D Alkaline (packets of 2)
Batteries AA Alkaline (packets of 3)
Batteries AAA Alkaline (packets of 4)
Cameras (waterproof)
Surgical Gloves (powder-free, S/M/L)
Bags for eggs
Waterproof paper (A4, Rite in the Rain, able to print with inkjet)
Clipboards (A4 / A5)
Water bottles (Nalgene style)
Tape measure (3m / 50m)
Vanodyne (sterilising liquid)
Tag applicators
Tags (MONEL)
PIT tags: BIO12.C.03V1-PLS (Description: biomark GPT12 pre-load sterile)
Scanner for PIT tags: GPR Plus (Global Pocket Reader Plus) (www.biomark.com). Flagging tape

General
First Aid Kit
Insect Repellant
GPS
Field Guide Books
Special cases for laptops, for humidity
USBs or external hard discs
Scientific turtle books
Laptops
Tablets (for use on patrol)
Small generators
Small solar chargers
Walkie talkies. Strong speaker (for talks, especially when raining.)
Projector

Stationary
Ink Cartridges (black). Epson TX130
Ink Cartridges (Colour). Epson TX130
Printing Paper
Folders
Staplers/Staples
Hole Punch
Post-its large/medium
Scissors
Pens / Pencils
Permanent markers (sharpies, fine and thick)
Whiteboard
Whiteboard markers
Whiteboard eraser
Laser Pointer
Correction Tape (Tipex)
Coloured paper

Environmental
Temperature sensors: data-loggers pendant temperature / light 64K, ONSET-HOBO.
Rain gauge (metric)
Wind velocity measuring device
Relative humidity apparatus
Air Thermometer

Anything Else You Think Would Help

Contact Us

Send us an email to: info@kuemar.org or voluntariado@kuemar.org

Fill out the form and send us the requested documentation.

Once you have sent us your application for the sea turtle project, you will receive an email with the following information:

a. A document with detailed project information.
b. A form to be filled in, signed and returned to us.
c. The costs and method of payment. A deposit of 50% (non-refundable) is required, one week before your arrival, this will allow us to organize the days or weeks of your participation as a volunteer at the project.

Inscriptions

Once the deposit has been made, we will send you an email confirming your participation in the sea turtle project. Before you arrive in Costa Rica, we will give you the documentation and prior orientation before leaving for the turtle nesting beaches.