Hello, my name is Mr. Hill. Please join me as I travel to Costa Rica to study sea turtles!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

First Day in Playa Grande

Flew in this morning from San Jose -- 45 minutes in a twin-propeller puddle jumper. Kind of cool: the sky was clear, we were close enough to the ground, and I had a window seat, so there was much to see down below! As we approached the landing strip -- a gravel pathway, about 8-10 feet wide -- we flew out across the Pacific Ocean and then back in towards land. The person in charge of the turtle research program met the Earthwatch representatives and drove us here to the station. After a late breakfast at Keke's (an open-air restaurant connected to a hotel), we unpacked and then had our first briefing.

Each night, some of us will have beach duty (to find any turtles that have come ashore to lay eggs and then to take data on both the turtle and the egg-laying) and some of us will have hatchery duty (to protect them from water or predators, some of the nests are moved to the hatchery, and those of us on hatchery duty get to watch the eggs -- you guessed it! -- hatch). Both beach and hatchery duties last six hours and are scheduled around high tide, so, for tonight, they take place from 9:10 p.m. until 3:10 a.m.; morning beach patrol runs 5-7 a.m. I'll know more about all three once I've been assigned to each -- I think tonight I get to go on part of the beach duty, and then I have beach patrol tomorrow morning.

A few pieces of information I've picked up, some of which I'm betting some of you already know:

  • leatherback turtles have been around since the dinosaurs
  • a female leatherback will lay eggs every 3-4 years
  • she will lay approximately 65 eggs each time she comes on shore

  • she will come on shore anywhere from 7-10 times each laying season, and she will do so every 9-10 days

  • the laying season here runs from October to March

  • she will then return to the Galapagos and environs until it's time for her to lay agai

Time to go have our headlights covered with red cellophane (no white lights near the turtles -- and, therefore, no pictures of them) and then head down to the hatrchery.

Jack Hogan: I found Taco Star! Thanks for the tip!


  1. Here's a few questions from 4S Justice:

    1) What happens if someone falls asleep during beach duty?

    2) How many leatherback sea turtles are left?

    3)How big is the largest leatherback sea turtle ever observed or tagged?

    4) What is its biggest predator?

    5) How many leatherbacks have you seen so far?

    Have a great time and thanks for saving the sea turtles.

  2. HI from 3S Country,Mr. Hill ~ We hope you are having a great time. We have a few questions for you:

    1) Why don't the turtles lay their eggs closer to the ocean?

    2) Do predators like to eat the leatherback turtles - are they are desirable food?

    3) How fast do Leatherback turtles swim?

  3. Glad to hear you made it safe and sound, Mr. Hill! My Environmental Science class is very excited to hear about your research and work down there. We have started our unit on endangered species. I've asked each student in my class to post at least one question and comment to you by the end of the week.

    Tomorrow I will be deliver my Earthwatch expedition talk to my class, so we are excited to learn more about yours. The guys are also doing research on their own endangered species.

    Enjoy yourself. Can't wait to hear more about the beach patrol and hatchery watch!

    ~ms. bell

  4. Dear Mr. Hill (from 2B West),

    We have some questions for you:

    1) How many hatchlings survive?

    2) How long does it take for the hatchlings to get to the ocean?

    3) What is it like to do your jobs?

    4) How long do sea turtles live?

    5) What are some of the main threats to baby sea turtles getting to the ocean where you are studying?

  5. Hey Mr. Hill,

    If these turtles migrate from the Galapagos solely for the purpose of laying their eggs, does that mean that leatherbacks are NEVER born in the Galapagos islands, but rather exclusively in Costa Rica?

    -Ben Miller