Volunteer blog: Jamie Thomas 

The otter surveys are looking to determine the population and territory of the River Otters in the area.  Our best guess so far is that there are only 2 or 3 otters in the region of study. There are few actual sightings of otters and so most of the data collection is done by looking for otter scat and documenting its location. When scat is located, the river width and depth are recorded along with the GPS location.

Butterfly Surveys

There are many species of butterflies in the region. The team is documenting as many species as possible to understand how many exist in the area. Butterfly trapping and netting are the methods used to capture the butterfly. It is then identified and released. I have taken butterfly netting training, but have not worked on the traps as of yet.

Bird Surveys

As one might think, birds are abundant here. The people working on bird surveys use the point observation method to document the birds. The team hikes to a specific GPS coordinate, then records, listens and watches for birds for ten minutes. During this time the birds are documented and identified if possible. Then the team moves on to another GPS site. Once we return from the hike, the recording is reviewed to ensure that all birds are identified and recorded.  

Other Research

At times teams also work on amphibians and wild cats.

The other portion of my week was spent spent gathering research for my BTEC project, which will analyze the human-cat conflict in this region. My mentor on the project has a lot of experience working on big cat human-field conflicts and has many contacts that we may be able to tap into to understand the situation better.   The final step will be working toward developing viable solutions to improve the cat-human relationship.

Piro Beach Sunset - Dinner and volley ball on the beach followed by a fabulous sunset

My final job this week was to help cook on Sunday.  We are assigned cooking duty in teams of three.   The lunch team made eggs, refried beans, and handmade tortilla chips.  People got one egg each!  As an experiment, for desert  I made cookies with corn flower, nutmeg, cinnamon and BUTTER! (I love butter).  They were lightly fried and then drizzled with honey.   If I do say so myself, they were pretty good!  

Then for dinner, we pulled together a tomato stew.  We used stewed tomatoes, pinto beans, onions, more onions, garlic, paprika, basil, and rice.  It cooked and stewed for four or five hours.   I was amazed how much water was absorbed by the beans and rice.  I thought we would have more of a soup, but ended up with more of stew.  We also made a chick pea salad with onions and bell peppers then finished with an oil and vinegar dressing with salt, pepper, and basil.   It was a big hit!  I think people enjoyed having something fresh tasting that was not hot.   Next time I will make a larger quantity.  We served 24 people and there was enough food for a serving for everyone, but I really thought it would go further.   

My little buddy. This little lizard comes and visits my tent almost every night and turtle tracks on the beach.

By Jamie Thomas, Volunteer Blog

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


Volunteer Blog: Jenny Summers

So it's the end of week five and it really is hard to believe that I've been here for over a month. On camp you can here the cicadas at least 10hours a day. (You do manage to drown it out from time to time) and if you aren't sure what noise a howler monkey makes you are defiantly going to think you've arrived in the film making of Jurassic Park. Camp life has difficulties; trying to get used to a hammock for example. It does take a night or two, you've just got to get the right levels that suit you for that magical sleep with the ocean crashing in the background.

An early morning turtle patrol

Well enough about sleep as getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning or rolling in about 6am doesn't sound all too appealing but when it's for the chance of seeing turtle hatchlings or a nesting mother it is defiantly worth it! With the thought that 300 years ago there were over 100million Green turtles in the Caribbean Sea alone, where they controlled most of the life on coral reefs, it's hard to believe that now the 7sea turtles of the world are now a major conservation effort. To be able to assist in keeping turtles, a species who have been on the planet since before the dinosaurs, from extinction - I'm in true paradise. Green Turtles (scientifically known as Chelonia Mydas) are an incredible species capable of hauling themselves sometimes over 30meters up the beach and weighing up to 204Kg to create a nest, lay her eggs, close the nest and make her way back down the beach, a process that can easily take over two hours. I have fallen in love with Sea Turtles and have such pleasure being able to help conserve them.

By Jenny Summer, volunteer

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Communications Officer Blog: 20 February 2014

This week we have two volunteers become Conservation Apprentices, so with that and our new ARO, there was a lot of staff training going on. The new staff  have been out in the field learning the various surveys techniques – Birds, Primates, Butterflies - and how to tag a turtle! We also had two new volunteers this week – Verity and Christian – who seem to have already settled into the group well!

The new arrivals setting up their hammocks

On Tuesday morning those out on a Peje Turtle survey were very lucky – seeing over 40 Green Turtle hatchlings coming out of the nest and heading to the sea!

On Wednesday morning we split into two groups – one group headed down to the beaches for a very early morning beach-clean up and came back with an impressive 7 bags of rubbish and recyclables. It’s sad that we have to do it at all but always rewarding to see a clean beach afterwards.

The other group went up to the Osa Conservation nursery to help tidy up the plants there. They are growing trees ready to plant them into areas of forest which have previously been cleared.

Wednesday afternoon everyone went down to Piro Beach to watch the sunset, play volleyball and eat jacket potatoes cooked over a fire! It was all in aid of ARO John’s birthday – I can’t think of many better places to spend a birthday!

This week we have been trialling a new primate behaviour survey technique. We are hoping to start this project up soon to allow us to study the primate’s habits. The Osa Peninsula is one of the few places int he world where you find all four species of monkey together – White-faced Capuchin, the Mantled Howler Monkey, the Central American Squirrel Monkey and the Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys. We want to find out how this affects their movements around the forest.

This weekend there are several volunteers leaving us, so we are heading into the nearby town to say goodbye!

By Jenny Collins, Communications Officer

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


Volunteer Blog: Jamie Thomas

My first week on camp in Costa Rica wasn't all I expected but that doesn't mean it was in any way bad... it was just different! I departed Seattle, Washington, USA after being able to attend the first half of a Super Bowl party for my home team - the Seattle Seahawks.  At the time I had to leave for the airport, the score was 8 to 0 in the Seahawks favor.  

I flew from Seattle to Los Angeles to San Jose, Costa Rica and finally on to Puerto Jimenez - the nearest town to where I will be volunteering. The volunteer coordinator met me and a few other arriving volunteers at the little airport. Another small plane was arriving in a few hours.  The collectivo - public 4x4 transport - is scheduled to leave Puerto Jimenez at 1:30 p.m. for the 1.5 hour trip out to Piro Beach - the site of the camp and research. This gave us a few hours to set our bags down, walk around town, get snacks, lunch and any last minute items before we head out to the camp.

After a very bumpy and long collectivo ride with 20 people and luggage tightly squished in the back of a truck covered with an awning (no seat belts), we arrived, tired at the camp. Most of the new arrivals had been flying for many hours. In comparison, my flight was pretty short and easy. I left Seattle at 6:25 p.m. on Sunday and arrived to Puerto Jimenez at 9:30 a.m. on Monday... with the two hour time change it's only 17 hours travel time for me. Most others were headed here from Europe. They typically had over 35 hours travel time and four or more transfers.  

We arrived at camp around 3:00 p.m. and started to settle in. We picked sleeping areas, found the toilet, shower, and kitchen and received a tour of the overall facilities... so a 2 minute and 45 second tour. We also got a chance to walk over to the Osa Biological Conservation site where we are able to charge our electronics and get internet service.   

It's hot and sweaty! And I love it. Even for me it is hot... but I'm not going to complain one minute because I way prefer this to my feet being so cold they hurt. The temperature is constantly over 87F / 30C and humidity is pretty high as well...typically over 75%.

As a new comer to the camp, there is a lot to get to know and I'm still learning it. There are about 25 people in camp right now. Most are from the UK, one is from Australia and four of us are from the USA.   Our American accents are very obvious and the British accent is sometimes difficult to understand. The group is having fun with it.

During this week, I spent time attending several presentations, observing surveys, working on the demolition of last year's turtle nursery, taking forest walks, beach cleaning, camp maintenance, painting and reading.   

I have not yet been assigned to cook - but I expect that during this upcoming week I will have my chance to burn lunch and dinner for everyone. We eat a vegetarian diet on camp. There are also a few vegans.  Even though the food in camp is basic, everyone has done a really great job to put a twist on the offerings and make it good. I think my favorite meal so far was a dinner that included fried bean patties! They were fabulous.   

Sunday, I was able to spend the day relaxing, practicing yoga, working on my BTEC project and enjoying the company of the camp group!  One week down, eleven to go!  I hope they don't go by too fast.

By Jamie Thomas, volunteer

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


Volunteer Blog: Noah Theodore Ardron 

I decided to come on this project because I wanted to get away from home and I thought there’s no better place than Costa Rica.

I have enjoyed living in a remote jungle and living as a group which eventually becomes a family.  I originally didn’t like the cold showers but I have come to really appreciate them after a hard day of surveys. Meals on camp are nearly always great: I really enjoyed the Calzones, Empanadas and stuffed peppers and roasted veg.

I really enjoy the Neotropical River Otter surveys which we do on the North and south of the Rio Piro. I love being on the river and in the water. The otter is a very illusive animal so it is all the more rewarding when you see one.

I've visited the nearby bird sanctuary many times. I love Patrick and Rubyann the people who own Ave Azul De Osa. They are such interesting people and they have both done everything there is to do in life, they’re AMAZING. The birds he breeds are fantastic not to mention the beautiful trails there are to offer around the area. I will definitely go back again before I leave.

On my time off, I went Kayaking in the nearby town – Puerto Jimenez, which I would highly recommend; You can paddle out to a reef about 45 minutes out into the gulf and go snorkelling if you want to. 

My favourite animal sighting by far- THE OTTER!! After about 60 hours on both rivers I eventually saw an otter for a good minute. It swam around and popped its head up a few times. The Osa Peninsula is the most bio diverse place I have ever had the pleasure of staying, I consider myself so lucky for having the chance to see the things I have seen. Once I leave in a few weeks I know that what I will most will be the people.

By Noah Theodaore Ardon, volunteer

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Conservation debate: Jaguars vs. Turtles

This week our conservation debate asked whether Jaguars or the Green Turtle should receive more conservation efforts. Being in Costa Rica, this is an issue very close to many of our hearts. Jaguars are currently classed as Near Threatened according to the IUCN Red List. Whereas the Green Turtle is considered worse off; being described as Endangered - two steps up from Near Threatened.

There were some great points raised; firstly it was argued that a lot less is currently known about Marine life meaning that any opportunity to try and learn more should be taken. Though the team fighting for jaguars countered this by saying it only meant that you therefore can’t predict the success of any conservation efforts.

The biggest problems currently threatening jaguars is human conflict and habitat destruction. As jaguar’s natural prey decreases and the natural habitat is replaced by farms, then they start to choose an easy meal – by targeting cattle. Naturally this causes problems with the local farmers, who only see Jaguar’s as a threat to their livelihoods.

This problem can begin to be tackled by working with local people to try and find other ways to solve the issue without the jaguars being killed. This is something Frontier has recently been working on, carrying out interviews with local farmers and business owners to determine how big the problem really is. Corridors are one way to solve the problem, so that the jaguars are safe whilst they move between protected areas. There is currently an initiative called Panthera which is working across governments from Argentina all the way up to Mexico, to create these safe passageways for the big cat.

Turtle conservation is needed to both help protect nesting females and their eggs and to reduce pollution and the effects of climate change. Turtles have lived on earth for the last 100 millions years but their survival rate is low. Many nests are predated both by natural predators and by people and dogs. This can be reduced by protecting nests with meshes, by moving threatened nests to a hatchery and by patrolling beaches to dissuade potential poachers.

The problem continues after birth however, as large amounts of rubbish in the oceans cause harm to the turtles and badly designed fishing nets trap them. By recycling plastics and by using special nets, both of these problems can be reduced. Turtles also make life hard for themselves, by reaching sexual maturity much later than many animals, giving them less time to reproduce.

During our debate, it was argued that because Jaguars eat turtles, that by conserving the turtles, it can only stand to also help the jaguars. It was further suggested that turtles play a hugely important part in the eco system of coral reefs – the most bio-diverse areas of the world. However those on the Jaguar’s side, believed that because climate change plays a part in the turtle’s decreasing numbers that it made it a much harder problem to solve. Rising temperatures cause a sex bias, because warmer eggs will change the gender.

The conservation of both species, however would involve mass communication across countries, and just because an issue is a large and complicated one, doesn’t mean we should not attempt to tackle it.

The jaguar is an apex predator – meaning that they are at the top of the food chain. This means they eat a wide range of animals and their extinction could cause problems to the whole of the food chain and change the vegetation of the area. This could also be true of turtles however, as they eat algae and seagrass. But as they are not the only creature to do so, the effect may be less.

Those on the turtle team raised a very good point about eco-tourism. Many people come to Costa Rica in particular to see and work with turtles. This brings a lot of money to the areas and helps to provide further funds for the conservation to continue. By using turtles as a flagship species, it can encourage people to recycle and to eat properly caught fish to help with their protection at the same time as helping to deal with larger issues.

Both teams this week got very behind their given animal and although we’d all ideally like to see both survive for a long time, the final vote went in favour of the Green Turtle. But do you agree?

Tell us what you think on Twitter by tweeting @FrontierGap @FrontierCBP!

By Jenny Collins, Communications Officer

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


Communications Officer Blog: 22 Jan 2014

Everyone has settled in now, and a few people have even picked up their first jungle injuries – though  thankfully nothing serious, just a sore toe and heat rash here and there! This week some volunteers were lucky enough to help a couple of Olive Ridley hatchlings down to the sea. Every Saturday we go down to the hatchery to check on the nests and sometimes we are there when the eggs have hatched and the turtles are waiting to make their first important journey down to the sea. They are such small creatures that it always seems like a miracle that any make it at all as they get bashed around by the waves breaking on the sand and it often takes a few attempts for them to make right into the water.

I went on my first bird survey with ARO Anna and was amazed by her knowledge of bird calls! We heard a Great tinamon, a Chestnut-backed antbird, a Red-lored parrots, a Blue- black grosbeak, a Riverside wren, a Lesser greenlet, a Black striped wood creeper, a Rufons pihon and a Black throated trogan. The birds proved rather trickier to see but we did manage to spot a Wedge-billed woodcreeper and a Blue-capped manakin.

ARO Anna and volunteers Emily and Jordan came across an unusual sight on their way back from the beach on Saturday. A group of Capuchins were trying to kill an iguana who dropped his tail and escaped into the river!

The biggest talking point of the last week was our Conservation forum – it ignited everyone’s brains and got us all talking. The topic was ‘The reintroduction of wolves into Scotland’. After being extinct for many years after extensive loss of habitat and poaching, the idea to bring the wolf back has been suggested as a way of controlling the deer population.

Everyone on camp was put into two teams – the For and the Against – and set to find arguments to support their given side, regardless of their true opinions. ARO Jess and volunteer Becca outshone themselves as speakers both giving convincing arguments. The main against points raised focused on the possibility of diseases, and the threat to domestic animals and livestock. It was also mentioned that the move would be unpopular with the people of Scotland. The for countered this by bringing up the example of a successful reintroduction in Washington State in America. They also believed that it is only right to bring back a native species and allow them to return the landscape to its natural state. Here on camp, the majority voted against after the debate was over. But would you agree?

The end of the week brought with it our first goodbyes from the January volunteers; Alex left us on Sunday and will be missed by everyone on camp!

By Jenny Collins, Communications Officer

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


Communications Officer Blog: 13 Jan 14

The first week on camp is always a period of adjustment, even if like me, you’ve already spent 3 months here last year. The dynamic changes depending on the group; each new arrival brings their own unique personality which changes the character of the camp. Some people struggle to get used to their hammocks, but I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long while on my first night back in mine. Most people find after they give it a chance they too find the hammocks comfy but the few who don’t migrate over to tents and swear by them instead.

The January new arrivals came with enthusiasm and, as soon as health and safety was passed, headed out into the forest on surveys. The first otter survey brought with it their first otter sighting – a rare event! Doubtful they’ll be so lucky a second time but everyone will be out with them with their fingers crossed regardless.

The first couple of meals for the newbies have set the bar high for expectations of the food. Unfortunately supplies may interfere with these hopes! But so far we’ve been treated to veggie meatballs with cheese, wraps, veggie burgers and guacamole. Will be interesting how far everyone’s imaginations can go in the coming weeks.

There has also been successes in the butterfly surveys with a brand new sighting (Chloroiptychia arnaca) and a welcome catch of the popular and photogenic morpho butterfly.

Aside from surveys everyone has been busy bonding through yoga sessions, Sudoku, family guy and origami. The first week draws to a close with a party at the local bar – Bijaguel, where over a few drinks the volunteers get to know each other further and get to mingle with the volunteers working for OSA.  

By Jenny Collins, Communications Officer

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


Volunteer blog: Shoshana Stanton

While turtles seem to have a hard life and excavating a predated nest is grim, it is worth it for feeling of guiding the few surviving hatchlings into the sea.

Aside from turtles, conservation activities involve hiking through the incredible forest counting primates, birds or butterflies, depending which survey you’re signed up for. Neotropcial otter surveys are extra special because these creatures have rarely been studied before. Everything you record is a genuine contribution of knowledge to humanity. It’s extra special when you actually see the otters. Normally we count their scat, we get very excited about scat here.

Speaking of excitement, we also find plenty of ways to have fun on camp. Movie afternoons and night walks are regular occurrences, and I strongly recommend a visit to Ave Azul (what is that? Not telling…). And let’s face it, when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with the same group of people, the banter gets pretty good pretty quickly…

One of my new friends on camp argues that the reason turtles are so defenceless is because they have such slim chances of reproducing, thus evolve mega-slowly. Perhaps. But not so with us volunteers. I can tell you that if you come here, you will find yourself learning, adapting and evolving every day. And I don’t think you’ll ever look back.

By Shoshana Stanton, volunteer (pictured)

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

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