Over April break, ConVal science teacher Carol Young completed an 8-day Teacher Fellowship in Costa Rica. Young joined 14 other science educators from across the United States and Canada to learn about ecological research methods and inquiry-based instructional models. The fellowship was a unique professional development opportunity provided by the nonprofit organization Ecology Project International (EPI).
Katherine Mena and Raquel Bone Guzman, EPI instructors and native Costa Ricans, led the fellows in a variety of team building, data analysis, and nature observation activities. The group spent five days at Pacuare on the Caribbean coast and another two days inland at Tirimbina Biological Reserve in Sarapiqui.
On rainforest hikes, there were opportunities to observe toucans, poison dart frogs, and a resident crocodile. “The most amazing thing, though, was the tortugas,” Young noted. Every night, the fellows were divided into three patrol groups. Led by one of Pacuare’s research assistants, each group hiked a 4 kilometer stretch of beach for four hours.
During their patrol they looked for female leatherback sea turtles, or tortugas, making their nests on the beach. When they spotted one, the fellows helped the research assistant measure the width and length of the tortuga’s carapace as well as its neck circumference. They also measured the depth of the nesting hole. As the tortuga released her eggs, a research assistant or fellow caught them in a bag.
The eggs were then carried to the hatchery, where they were buried at the same depth as the tortuga’s nest. “I felt so humbled and honored to be in the presence of these ancient creatures as they started their next generation,” Young said.
For more on the fellowship program and the research that was conducted, please see here.