Thursday
Aug212014

Welcome new Frontier staff!

Here is Alex (new CA), Dan (new ARO) and Gareth (Central America Trail leader) all proudly wearing their Frontier t-shirts before setting off into the jungle! Enjoy guys!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Thursday
Aug212014

Surveying otter behaviour

Measuring the location of scat within the river is a key part of otter surveys, as demonstrated here by volunteer Toby and Principle Investigator Bea. This information is being gathered to discover otters preferences and reasoning for their latrine choices. Thanks Sam for the photo!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Wednesday
Aug202014

Staff blog: Turtle Hatchery 

Emerging from the sand into the light, I’m getting trampled on by siblings and scrambling around looking for the ocean to begin the long journey into adulthood. There is a mesh in the way but I can see the sunlight from above. After what feels like an eternity a large shape comes amongst us and takes us one by one, we end up in another container but still able to see the light. After a swaying trip we are finally where we belong, back on the blackened sand facing the shiny ocean. It’s a long journey to the ocean, and shorts bursts of energy get us all closer. I can see the others around me and other onlookers beyond, I go on ignoring them. After each resting period I spurt forward ever closer until a wave comes upon me and I am on my way, to live…

On Piro beach, here on the Osa Peninsula we help at a hatchery. There are uncertain and dangerous parts of the beach which have an ever changing landscape which the laying turtles can’t take into account when they come ashore. It is peak Olive Ridley season and the eggs take 46-60 days to hatch from laying. The turtles come shore to lay at night and occasionally in the day, half the beach is often changing due to a river that moves with the rainfall and tides. This can completely take a nest into sea or get salt water on the eggs, which kills them due to the salt taking moisture out of them.

The hatchery program means that we relocate the nests a few hours after they have been laid by the turtle to the hatchery. We measure how deep and wide the egg chamber is, so we can create a new nest to the same specifications, also take some sand from the nest to line the new one. Carefully remove the eggs one by one, keeping them the same orientation that they were placed in and place them in a bucket for easy carrying to the hatchery. We can move up to 145 eggs and several nests can be laid each night in the sectors that are at risk. Once in the hatchery we dig the new nest and place the eggs in, cover the area with a plastic mesh with netting over. The mesh is to keep the turtles in their nest once they have hatched from their eggs, it would not be good to have them crawling all over the hatchery once they emerged and the netting is to keep flies out. A few have thermometers planted inside so we can keep check of the temperatures and we randomly place the nests in the shade on one side of the hatchery and the sun on the other. Turtles sex is determined by temperature and with global warming it is important there is not a population crash due to there being no males, which need the cooler temperatures. 

We monitor the nests three times a day and once they hatch, measure and weigh the first 20 hatchling out of the nest.  Take them back to the same part of the beach they are found and let them walk down to the sea. We never place them at the shoreline as they need the information from the sand to imprint in them so they can possibly come back to the same beach when it is their time to lay.

We have helped them on their way, watching them with hope making it to the water when they may have otherwise perished. We have had some very high tides this year possibly due to climate change, which would have undoubtedly killed these otherwise lucky turtles and it feels good to help these endangered, ancient animals, which through no fault of their own is now facing a troubled future. 

By Jessamy Bridgwater, Conservation Apprentice

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Wednesday
Aug202014

Volunteer Blog: Jessen

There are two BTEC programmes to choose from when you join a Frontier project - the Certificate which is four weeks and the Advanced Diploma which is ten weeks. I am working on the Advanced Diploma which means I get to spend ten weeks on the beautiful Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. You will receive a BTEC information pack prior to your departure which tells you everything you need to know except the subject of your investigation - that's entirely up to you!

Initially, I expected to research mammals or turtles for mine but once I got here, that plan fell apart! I am now six weeks in and researching the feeding behaviour of Leafcutter Ants. You never know what will interest you the most until you arrive on the project. Leafcutter ants have the largest and most complex societies on earth after humans and just seeing this in real life triggered an immediate interest.

The BTEC itself doesn't take up much of your time so you can still go on plenty of surveys and enjoy the breathtaking country you are in. My advice for anyone interested in undertaking one of the Frontier BTEC programmes is to bring plenty of pens as they are not the easiest things to find. Once I arrive back home having done all of my data collection, I will have six weeks to compile all of my data and research into a written report. After this, my work will be assessed and graded and that concludes the BTEC! I would definitely recommend the BTEC as it keeps you occupied and makes the trip even more meaningful by conducting your own research.

By Jessen, Research Assistant Volunteer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Relocating turtle nests

Relocating nests is a big part of conservation on our turtle project. On a night or morning patrol we look for turtle tracks which lead us to the nest. If the nest is vulnerable to the strong tides or to predators then our experienced staff carefully relocate the delicate eggs to our hatchery. Volunteers dig a new nest for the eggs where they can develop in th safety of our hatchery until theyhatch and can be released back onto the beach!

Here's Ellie placing the eggs into their new hatchery nest! Thanks Ellie for the photo!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Happy Costa Rican Mothers Day!

Mothers day is an official holiday in Costa Rica, and even the capuchins like to celebrate mums! Thanks Josh for the photo!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Hoping to work in wildlife photography?

Or do you just love taking pictures?! The Osa Peninsular is full of unique wildlife and landscapes, making every day burst with photo opportunities. New volunteer and photographer Kat is taking full advantage of these opportunities to help her pursue a career in wildlife photography!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Piro Beach Sunset. Just beautiful!

What a prize winning photo of Emily with another amazing Piro Beach sunset. We frequently go to the beach to watch the sunset, play volleyball and this week, Whale watching! Thanks Anne for the photo!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug192014

Otter sighting

Our otter work is the first of its kind in this region, but actually seeing an otter is incredibly rare. Lucky volunteer Emily not only spotted an otter but caught a great shot of one during a river survey! What a treat!

Thanks Emily for the photo!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Wednesday
Aug132014

Staff blog: Enjoying all of Costa Rica

My first impression of Costa Rica was ‘green, hot and humid’. I arrived in Puerto Jimenez after a long journey and was picked up in the airport (‘at the airstrip’) by a Frontier employee, who then showed me the town and explained about the project. PJ is well-stocked and has just about everything you may need for your trip and your work: from brightly coloured hammocks to biodegradable soap and shampoo and even machetes (!) which many buy as souvenirs. There’s also a medical clinic, ‘print and copy centre’ and ATMs. In short, everything you may need.

After a couple of pleasant days in town I headed off for the jungle camp with other Frontier people, staff as well as volunteers. The trip is conducted by the local shuttle service (‘the collectivo’) and it is not for the faint-hearted.

The camp itself is basic but has everything: two ‘normal’ toilets, two outdoor showers (very pleasant), a comfortable main deck and three sleeping decks, as well as a lot of clothing lines which you will soon find are needed. You can hear the rumbling waves on one side, the river on the other side and birds and howler monkeys all over the place. At night fireflies glow in the grass around the camp and people get together on the main deck for dinner, chatting and games. There is a very relaxed atmosphere which is very comfortable to be in, particularly when you are new and still reeling from culture shock.

When the sun comes up, it is immediately evident that you are in the jungle. It is green and lush all over, and teeming with life. In my first five days I saw three species of monkey, several species of birds and butterflies, one snake (beware!) and one Neotropical otter which we accidentally flushed out as we were on break from doing a river survey.  A particular spider has also developed a fondness for my right sandal and sits faithfully by it every night I go to bed. You learn to shrug at these things. I was also lucky enough to see two releases of baby turtles into the sea, which was nothing short of fantastic.

The survey trails are beautiful but can be complicated by obstacles and slippery slopes, so be prepared. Wellies are a most, preferably with good grip. Water is another thing on which you should never restrict yourself when doing work in the jungle, so bring plenty of containers and use them.

All in all, Costa Rica is a paradise of biodiversity that shouldn’t be missed. 

By Alexandra Hyldgaard

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Wednesday
Aug132014

Volunteer blog: Toby Connock

One of the main reasons I came to Costa Rica was the chance to see and work with turtles. Just being able to see them was enough of an incentive to sign up. I arrived in Costa Rica late on the night of the 27th and arrived at the camp on the 28th of August. Following getting the collectivo (the local bus) to the camp we got introduced to everyone and got given a tour of camp. Cold water showers, sleeping in hammocks, vegetarian meals… a bit of a change from Kent!

Throughout the first week of over 3 here (I had come with Vicky my friend from university) we got to grips with all the different surveys on offer, and the massive changes to my sleeping habits. Starting at 5 or 6am and going to bed around 8pm is a slight shock to my body! The surveys are split into 4: primates, otters, birds, and of course, turtles. Its incredible how much the environment differs to anywhere else I’ve ever been before; the humidity is what hits you first. I don’t think in this 3 weeks I will ever feel clean and dry, and the sheer amount of green! Being next to one of the most pristine rivers… water you can even drink… mad!

Our first turtle experience came on Saturday at the local beach at Piro. Up at 3.15am to leave by 4am to get to the beach. Whilst clear overhead there was a massive thunderstorm out to see sending jabs of lightning down so bright it would light up the entire beach. Quite a setting to be looking for nests. Turtles have a terrible survival rate, between poaching (many people eat the turtle eggs), predation of eggs, and tiny hatchlings and their slow growth to sexual maturity makesfor a very small percentage that actually stay alive long enough to nest. For this reason our tasks are to:

  1. Find nests and dig out the eggs to take them to the hatchery. We dig out new nests to keep them safe and control their temperature. (Their sex is temperature dependent) 
  2. Counting the number of shells at predated nests
  3. Tagging nesting turtles

This first walk we found 4 nests and so went through the long process of finding the egg chamber (digging with a stick until you feel a give in the sand), carefully removing the eggs, sometimes up to 100, relocating them to the hathchery and digging a new hole and measuring the egg number, temperature, and chamber size. We also had to move a new nest up the beach as a turtle had laid near the high tide mark which is very dangerous to the eggs (the salt water damages them).

The following Monday Vicky and I signed up for a night beach patrol at the Peje Perro beach further down the coast. This promised to be a long night… leaving at 8.30pm and coming back at anytime between 1 and 5am! Its an hours walk to the beach itself and then 9km of beach to survey. There was a group of 6 volunteers with Kirsty, our leader, trekking along the beach with a beautiful clear sky above. That’s the other thing out here… you get the rain but the night sky can be incredible! Being so close to the equator the stars seem close enough to touch. On this walk alone I saw 7 shooting stars! As we walked we found a few predated nests but it wasn’t until around sector 15 or 45 that we saw fresh tracks. However, at this point the problem struck, Kirsty noticed headlamps in the distance – likely to be poachers. So we had to turn back in order to avoid a confrontation with them. Although we hadn’t seen any turtles this is to be expected – nature doesn’t follow our plans!

Our first hatchling experience came on Wednesday when Osa found a nest being predated. They saved 15 of them and brought them back to the centre to be released later under the protection of us volunteers. We headed to Piro beach at around 3pm with 6 of the 15 hatchlings in a bucket. They are literally the size of a ping pong ball with flippers sticking out. Cutest thing I’ve ever seen! After taking them to their nesting place we got to pick them up and place them nearby, allowing them to work out which direction to go using the light of the sea and the vibrations of the waves to orientate themselves. Chaperoning them down to the water to then watch them get swept into the sea with huge waves ahead makes you wonder how they survive but they’re tough and I sent Crush (the first to reach the sea) in with good vibes!

Finally yesterday lady luck was around. I had signed up to check the hatchery temperatures at 10pm so got down to the beach with 3 other volunteers at 9.30pm. Almost immediately we saw a turtle starting to lay her eggs! They have two types of turtles in Costa Rica; the Olive Ridley and the Green Turtle which can be huge! This was an olive ridley, the more common and she was just finishing digging her egg chamber. It’s a really humbling experience to watch. She dug out the hole, scooping the sand out with her back flipper then, when ready, dropping the eggs into the hole in ones and twos. We got to touch her shell and head as when laying they go into a sort of trance so aren’t bothered by us. The most amazing experience! Even if I didn’t see any more in my last week here, its already made my trip. A unique and magical experience I am so glad I signed up for!

By Toby Connock, Research Asssitant Volunteer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug122014

Sad goodbyes

Today we said goodbye to 10-week volunteers Sophie and Jane, Scarlett, Ben, Ellie and Anne. Every volunteer is asked to write a message on the toilet door when they leave, and everyone gets the awkward wave until the collectivo goes out of site...

Thanks Sophie and Ben for the photos, and to all of you for all your hard work, and for being great company around camp!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug122014

What's the best way to spend your last day on the project?

Horse riding along the beach and through the forest? Or trekking to a waterfall?! This is how our recent leavers spent it, followed by a camp party! Thanks Sophie and Scarlett for the photos!


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Tuesday
Aug122014

Look out!

You might go out to the forest on a bird survey, but you never know what you will get the chance to see along the way!

Thanks Floss for the photo!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Thursday
Aug072014

Amazing start of the turtle season

After Osa Conservation rescued a nest of turtle hatchlings from predation early this morning Frontier joined with them to experience the incredible release this afternoon!

Of the 10 hatchlings 6 made it straight to the ocean! The other 4 struggled to make it over the sand and will be going back later tonight to try again.

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.


Wednesday
Aug062014

Volunteer blog: Scarlett Robinson

The past week I have had the chance to stay a week at the satellite camp, Cerro Osa. Cerro Osa is a beautiful spot especially for sunsets as the hour or so uphill walk to get here means the view is amazing. At this camp we have the opportunity to work lots with the tree nursery which is being used to grow trees for reforestation. One day was spent by sorting through the nursery and getting rid of the failed seedlings and dead shoots.

The next morning consisted of filling up bags of soil ready to be put into the nursery to fill the empty spaces of the ones we removed. Then a few of us were lucky to go into the jungle with Osa conservation to look for seeds to put in the nursery, this consisted of adventurous off-trail walking up and down steep hills, dodging fallen trees, avoiding termite infested seeds and spotting lots of the amazing wildlife whilst doing so. We managed to find lots of seeds and trekked back with them in big sacs, learning Spanish throughout.

We then planted these seeds in the tree nursery in the soil bags we prepare before. As well as feeling like I made a huge difference with the tree nursery we also got to go on the trails around the area, sleep in beds, eat great food and use a refrigerator (which is something you begin to greatly miss after some time on main camp). Overall it's been an amazing week and a great experience, I would recommend making the most out of the satellite camps to everyone that comes here!

By Scarlett Robinson, Research Assistant Volunteer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug052014

All aboard the collectivo!

Today we welcome six new volunteers to our project! After getting off the small plane in Puerto Jimenez, cooling off with a smoothie and picking up some camp snacks, the next step of the journey is 90 minutes on the local transport, the collectivo, down to camp.

Its a bumpy ride but a great first experience of the forest! Thanks Ashley for the photo!

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug052014

exciting swamp walk

Greg, Giselle and Owen went on a great Swamp walk the other day! We saw Caiman, a Kingfisher, lots of Spider Monkeys and huge array of reptiles. Here are a few shots of the outing.

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug052014

collecting data

A central part of many volunteers' time in the forest involves studying for their BTECs. Here's Sophie at work collecting data for her BTEC on primates.

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

Tuesday
Aug052014

Animals of the month, july

With July now past, here is the list of animals seen that month. What will August bring?

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

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