The leatherback sea turtle population in the Pacific—once the stronghold of the species—has declined by over 90% since 1980.
Many of the remaining Pacific leatherbacks nest in the sands of Playa Grande, Playa Ventanas, and Playa Langosta on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Female leatherbacks dig holes with their flippers and lay about 80 round eggs, a process they’ll repeat up to 12 times during the breeding season. In about two months, the fragile hatchlings will emerge.
The world is a dangerous place for these tiny turtles and their parents. They’re threatened by climate change, boat traffic, fishing gear, and humans harvesting their eggs. To truly understand why this ancient species has declined so rapidly and what we can do to stop this decline, researchers need to know everything about them: their behavior, physiology, genetics, population biology, and migration patterns.
To build this knowledge base, you’ll walk the beach at night when turtles are active, getting up close to these massive animals to attach transmitters that will track their local and long-distance movements. You’ll also help relocate eggs from nests in dangerous spots, for example where the waves might wash them away, to a hatchery. This work is critical: with leatherbacks declining at an alarming rate, each turtle is precious.