(Our home for the week)
Rise and shine! We had our first day of work today with LAST (Latin American Sea Turtles) and our alarms went off at 5:50 a.m.
Our host mom made us a great desayuno and then took us by bike to La Playa Blanca. Biking to work gave us a chance to really take in La Palma. Shops were already opening their doors and people were off to work. It’s a very small town and, as we discovered this evening on our way home, there is no wifi anywhere. So, you are most likely reading this at least three days from now.
At the volunteer site, we had a quick introduction to the project, then donned our swimsuits and got on the boat.
(La Playa Blanca in the morning. This will all be covered in water soon)
Pascal and Audrey Chabanne led the group, since they’ve been here for two months already. Pascal is the resident vet. Both are originally from France, but have been traveling the world since August 2012. In one month they plan to visit Africa.
(Margit is a graphic designer from Germany. She'll be traveling to Mexico after her time with LAST ends)
Besides myself and Selena, there is a woman from Germany named Margit as well as a whole family from Canada. They won the trip from a “granola bar” company, which also sent a couple representatives along. That group is guided by Brad, who is from – drum roll please – Beaverton, Oregon.
Selena and I got our workout in helping set the net in the water. Researchers at LAST use gillnets to catch the turtles so they can take them out, measure them, check their trackers (or insert trackers if they don’t have any), and collect tissue samples.
The current was unusually strong today according to Pascal. So even though we were swimming really hard, we could barely move along the net. Finally, it was in place and we all headed to the beach.
Where we waited.
It was a great place to wait, though. Brad led a group of us into the jungle to look at a pair of scarlet macaws. We saw all sorts of vegetation too, from coconuts and almond trees to the ever-present plantains.
Selena and I also visited a newly planted portion of mangrove. Audrey said they are trying to grow the mangrove (trees that live in subtropical tidal areas) because it is a critical part of the ecosystem. Audrey said six species of mangrove grow in Costa Rica. They are the only trees that can convert saltwater into freshwater.
(Adult mangrove in the back, saplings in the front)
They also provide food for sea turtles and allow sea grass (another turtle meal) to grow.
Basically, these trees are important. But for whatever reason they’ve decreased in number. Another part of LAST’s research involves figuring out why that is. For now, though, they’re working on bringing them back. Tomorrow, Selena and I will be helping.
All in all it was a great first official day in Osa - though we did not catch any turtles. The only other drawback?
Despite applying sun block three times, the majority of my body still resembles a fire truck. Fingers crossed that it turns into a tan soon!