One Forest Park Lane

For the Epsilon Chapter of Sigma Phi - Cornell University

Marine Biology Turtle Conservation Trip to Costa Rica

During Spring Break 2012, Larry Slaughter C’10, Miles Biggs C’10, Mandela Steele-Dadzie C’10, Peter Gudonis C’10, and Chase Tarantino C’10 took off from JFK airport to head to San Jose, Costa Rica.  Being Cornell Tradition Fellows, Mandela and I received funding through the Tradition Office to travel on service trips making it an easy choice for Spring Break 2012.  Mandela had completed a service trip the year before in Guatemala and after having an amazing experience recruited Miles, Chase, Peter, and I for Spring Break 2012. After researching various options we decided on the Marine Biology Turtle Conservation Trip.

We spent one night taking in the nightlife of San Jose and then spent the next day at a festival in Alajuela where the locals marched horses through town.  After enjoying the luxuries of civilization, our group was finally sent to our service trip destination at the remote beach Pacuare near Batan.  To get to this remote beach, we took a 3-hour bus ride through the rainforest, 1-hour taxi on a bumpy stone road through a banana farm, and a 40-minute boat ride down a canal containing crocodiles and small turtles lined by tropical palms filled with exotic birds and monkeys. 

Once at our placement, La Tortuga Feliz, we were shown our accommodations: no hot water, a single lamp, and plenty of mosquitoes.  Although we lacked many aspects we have grown accustomed to at home, we were introduced to a simple, relaxed, and stress free way of life by the locals and tour guides.  Throughout the day we would play soccer, volleyball, nap, read, and build hatcheries for the turtle eggs we were rescuing.  At night our real work began. Assigned night patrols from 8 pm-12 am or 12 am-4 am, we would walk along the beach searching for the Leatherback Turtle to come ashore.  Because of the presence of poachers, it was imperative we reached the turtles first; thankfully, there is a non-conflict agreement between the poachers and the conservationists, stating that who ever reached the turtle first gains the rights to the eggs.  Once a turtle begins laying eggs, they enter a trance where they close off the world and focus all of their energy on laying their eggs and building their nest.  During this time we took measurements of the turtles’ sizes (I saw turtles which were 170 cm long and 130 cm wide), tagged them, and took the eggs to be later buried in a safe location away from poachers. 

During this trip I was humbled by the locals appreciation and pride of what little they owned.  I learned the importance of turtle conservation, and even acquired Marine Biology research techniques.  The already close ties to my fellow Sigs were tightened and I find a much greater appreciation in common luxuries we enjoy in our everyday life.  This trip was very rewarding and I would highly recommend taking a chance and completing a service trip of some sort in the future.


Larry Slaughter C’10


Cornell University 2013
Mechanical Engineering

Last updated by Dan Mansoor Apr 4, 2012.



Daniel Mansoor

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