RESEARCH TECHNIQUES Our methodology is based on international guidelines
In 2000 ASVO started activities to promote sea turtle conservation. Three years later   the Coastal Marine Resource Program was created, currently has four Turtle´s Conservation Projects in the costarican pacific and caribbean coast in Costa Rica.

Due to the importance of the information generated at the sea turtle conservation projects the data needs to be collected that is  in a systematic and standardized way to compare the studies of the different sites  where ASVO works as well with other sea turtle conservation projects.

Here we describe, step by step our basic field work guidelines. To learn about our research protocol in detail visit our virtual library and check the manual of procedures for data collection at the Turtle Conservation Projects of ASVO.

Staff Training
Before the turtle nesting season starts all our efforts are directed to train the field work staff (biologists and assistants) to achieve an efficient data collection.

The training workshop, How to work with Turtles?, is extended during a week for theoretical  and practical work in one of the Turtle´s Conservation Projects.

Construction of the hatchery  and beach parceling Hatchery construction
SThis is a key step in the research process because it is used as a strategy to protect the nests. The hatchery  is an enclosed beach space, with clean and filtered sand where the nests are placed  to protect them from natural predators, poaching, natural disasters, beach instability, among other menaces.

Each hatchery has a different capacity according to the nesting  density of beach, the nest density is never less than one nest per square meter.

Beach Parceling Beach parceling consists of a division of the beach in sectors an the limits of the parcels are given by wooden poles that have been washed ashore by the tides.

The poles are numbered consecutively starting in the south end of the beach  and separated with a distance of 100 meters each. This procedure is performed to determine the nesting spatial distribution on the beach.

Is a walk that is done every day first thing in the morning . These allow us to check or recheck the turtle activities with day light.  These activity starts 2 or 3 weeks before the official opening of the nesting season continues with the collection of such information throughout the season. 

Thanks to this preliminary activity, it  is possible to foresee the general behavior of the nesting season.   The census gives us information about nest predation, nest poaching, etc.

Night Patrols
The patrols consist of a walk along the beach during the night (8 to 10 hours in total  with shifts of 3 to 5 hours it depends in the amount of volunteers available).

Patrols are composed of different groups of volunteers   and staff members that have the necessary  equipment to tag the turtles, record biometric messurements check the nesting females and work with the nests.

These groups are led by a guide accompanied by an assistant volunteer and volunteers with experience in general.

The patrol groups aim to locate turtles that are in the process of nesting  or the nesting site. When they detect the turtle tracks  the patrol leader is the responsible to verify if there is an entrance and exit. If the output is not present, he or she has the mission to find the stage of the process in which the female is and make the decisions to work with it.

Egg collection
This process can be done in two ways:
  • If the turtle has  not started the process of oviposition, a clean plastic bag is placed beneath the cloaca so the eggs are collected directly, avoiding contamination and addition of sand which by friction can damage the eggs.
  • When the  female has already begun this process, the patrol guide must wait until the turtle finishes  the process of oviposition. After the process has ended  the leader will search the nest in the sand with a thin wooden stick. Then the eggs are placed in a bag and transferred to the nursery. All the contact with the eggs is done with a great care because of the fragility of them. For all this stage work we use latex gloves and red light to avoid disturbing and stressing the turtles.
When the process of oviposition has  ended the patrol leader  checks if the  if the turtle has the  registration marks or not. If the fins are clear of tags the leader places 2 inconel metal tags, one in each front fin. Before that, the area  placing the tags, the fins, and the tag are sterilized.

This procedure is done to identify each turtle individually and this procedure helps with the individual turtle stadistics and with the knowledge of the nesting population asossiated to each specific beach.

Biometric Data
This activity performed to collect this data is done  after the tagging  process. It consists of measuring the width and curved carapace length. This process gives us a record of each individual growth over time.

Additional information collected during the patrols and complement the research are:
  • Beach area (beach parcel)
  • Tides
  • Basic information of the weather
  • Time and date of event
Reubicación de los huevos
Once the eggs are  collected they are carried to the hatchery  or to a security site at the beach,  in a time that cannot exceed two hours. In the relocation site  were the eggs will be placed, the original conditions are imitated. 

This activity is done with gloves and with the greatest care not to shake the eggs, because at this stage they are particularly vulnerable. Finally the top of the nest is covered with a very fine basket made of mosquito net to prevent entry of predators.

Hatchery Management
When the first nest gets to the hatchery a 24 for hour guard is needed  to protect the eggs from predators  to have a complete control of  incubation process that is extended from 40 to 60 days depending on the species. The staff in charge of the hatchery will ensure the strict hygiene  to prevent pests such as: ants, flies or other organisms that threaten the integrity of the nests.

Hatching and liberation processes
After the incubation time the staff will monitor the nests that are close to the hatching date in order to release the  hatclings at the time they emerge from the sand. In this way we prevent the hatchlings from being exhausted or use all their energy reservoirs before going to the sea. 

Between 48 and 72 hours after the first emergence of each nest, the staff  removes all  the biological material in order to count the number of successful eggs and finally know the total of turtles born and the stages of embryological development  in which  some of the eggs stopped their process.

Data Analysis
At the end of the nesting season all of the information collected is processed. The resulting data indicates the health of the population and trends, which function as basic information for conservation guidelines.

All our nesting  season final reports are available on the ASVO Library as well as the Manual of Procedure for Turtle Conservation Projects of ASVO.

How can I help?
There are various forms of active conservation
We offer environmental volunteer programs with a social commitment
Where do we work?
We have programs in protected areas, beaches, forests, etc.
Another way of helping is to sponsor our programs and projects
Costa Rica is the perfect environment for your studies
Follow us: