Marine Mammals and Predators in Costa Rica
Join researchers in the pristine wilds of Costa Rica to conduct critical research on marine mammals and predators. Your findings may help to develop a permanent marine protected area.
Golfo Dulce, a narrow inlet on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, provides a rich habitat for cetaceans (whales and dolphins). It remains fairly pristine, since the many tourists who visit Costa Rica each year haven’t quite discovered it yet—which makes now a crucial time to investigate what the ecosystem needs to remain healthy. By understanding the behavior and tracking the abundance of the marine mammals and predators in this region, we can ensure we have the information needed to best protect them when tourism starts in earnest in this beautiful, wild place.
For about a decade, this project has gathered information on three species of cetacean in the gulf: the pantropical spotted dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, and the humpback whale. In studying these cetacean species, researchers hope to understand how to preserve the entirety of this beautiful marine ecosystem.
This project is now entering a new stage and will be expanding to understand of how the entire Golfo Dulce ecosystem functions by gathering data of the presence of other top predators, including sharks.
Through this research, and with your volunteer involvement, this project will help to develop conservation plans to protect the marine biodiversity in the gulf in the future.
A Typical Itinerary
- DAY 1 Arrival, orientation, training
- DAY 2 Training on dolphin and whale behavior sampling and dolphin photo-identification
- DAYS 3-5 Dolphin surveys, whale surveys, photo-ID work
- DAYS 6-8 Trophic web work, fishing surveys (for sharks)
- DAY 9 Departure
HOW YOU WILL HELP
Monitor whales and dolphins, and photo-identify individuals
By boat, you will follow groups of dolphins and whales. When someone spots a cetacean, you'll document its GPS location, size, and behavior (e.g., feeding, traveling). Back on land, you’ll help sort pictures of each dolphin species so that scientists can identify individuals using the unique scars, notches and other markings on their dorsal fins. The researchers know the dolphins in the gulf especially well, so expect to hear stories about some of their most memorable encounters.
Record trophic web
Document and describe the species in multi-predator assemblages by observing aggregations of schooling fish and their predators, such as dolphins, seabirds, sharks, and rays.
Conduct fishing surveys
Set long lines out by boat at dusk, returning to El Chontol for dinner. After dinner and once “fully dark," you’ll head back out on the boat to check the lines, identifying and measuring all sharks and other captures before releasing back into the gulf.
Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.
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