Research Assistants

Volunteer Field Research Assistants Needed!

We are seeking volunteer field research assistants (RAs) for our sea turtle conservation and research project on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.


Team 1: June 1st until August 15th, 2020

Team 2: August 10th until October 20th, 2020

Project Description:

Our study site is the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge (REGAMA) in the very South of Costa Rica. Our project is studying and protecting the three resident sea turtle species that are using REGAMA as feeding and nesting site, hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtles (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). The nesting habitat within REGAMA encompasses 9.8 km of beach adjacent to the community of Gandoca, and several smaller playitas between Gandoca and Manzanillo. REGAMA also harbours coral reefs and seagrass beds, which are popular feeding sites for hawksbills and greens of different life stages.

Our project is conducting nightly patrols (rain or shine) to encounter nesting females (primarily hawksbills) and protect them and their eggs from poaching. We mark all individuals to estimate population sizes of sea turtles within REGAMA, and we collect different types of data on the morphology and growth-rate of individuals, the reproductive output of females, the hatching success of nests, and the numbers of hatchlings produced. We also conduct in-water surveys to catch and mark turtles feeding in REGAMA.

We are seeking RAs that help with any of the accruing tasks throughout the field season. The work schedule will be very dynamic and will be structured as demanded by the workload, but usually includes nightly patrols six nights out of the weeks. This means long hours, little sleep, no weekends, no holidays, no predictable days off, and no fixed finishing times. 

Each successful applicant will receive training on-site pertaining to the incurring tasks.

Some work will be during the day (e.g. preparing and cleaning equipment, transferring data, or boat surveys with in-water work hand-capturing sea turtles to collect data), but major parts will be at night, searching for nesting females. Ultimately, our RAs are expected to be dependable assistants, assisting with all daily tasks and the ongoing research and being able to solve problems independently and proactively. Given that our main work encompasses walking for long distances (up to 30 km) in soft sand at night without light, climbing small mountains, restraining animals for several hours, and catching turtles by hand in the water, adequate physical fitness, being comfortable on a beach at night, but also being comfortable on a boat and in the water, are required.


Successful applicants are part of a small research team, and will spend much time with the other team members, due to long working hours, and shared quarters. Some field staff might only speak Spanish, and the research team will be a mix of different nationalities and cultures. A dedication to a positive and respectful working environment is crucial. We are seeking highly enthusiastic individuals that understand the importance of our work, and that are willing to complete the work meticulously and with dedication. We need our assistants to pull their own weight and be willing to pitch in and carry more if another team member is unable to. Successful applicants will be flexible individuals that are able to focus on and adapt to a variety of tasks.

RAs will live in a small house in Gandoca in shared quarters and meals will be prepared by a local cook. We will sometimes make trips to the close-by community of Manzanillo to conduct our in-water surveys. The infrastructure in Gandoa is typical of rural areas in a developing country. Living-conditions are rustic, with dirt roads and cold showers. Cellular phone reception is pretty much non-existent and there is no internet access to date in town. The climate is very warm and humid, with frequent rain during the days and at night. Precautions should be taken to avoid diseases by consulting an MD specialized in travel to tropical countries and following his instructions before arriving in the project: e.g. ensure that you have the proper vaccinations, mosquito repellent, field first aid kit, which are the responsibility of the successful applicant.



  • 18+ years old

  • Willingness to sign an indemnification/waiver (!)

  • Student or a recent graduate in biology, wildlife management, ecology, marine biology, or similar or have relevant field experience etc.

  • Travel Health Insurance

  • Excellent physical fitness and ability to walk long distances in soft sand and steep terrain.

  • Being comfortable living in remote, shared, and rustic conditions (no AC, no internet, only cold showers, shared rooms, next medical care station several hours away)

  • Professional demeanour

  • Positive and upbeat personality, even in the face of serious sleep deprivation

  • Ability to carry 50 pounds, and restrain a 90-pound animal for several hours

  • Fluency in English or Spanish required, a basic level of Spanish or French desirable, but not a requirement

  • Ability to swim

  • Previous experience conducting fieldwork desirable

  • Experience in skin diving desirable (free-divers highly desired)

  • Not prone to sea-sickness (or able to avoid sea-sickness)

  • Flexible, patient, and able to follow instructions

  • Experience working abroad, under harsh weather conditions, especially in a tropical country desirable

  • Driver’s license B desirable

  • Experience using an ultrasound or drawing blood from a sea turtle, a nice bonus


Cost of the Program/ Contribution: This is an unpaid volunteer position. However, you will not have to pay for your room, but our funds do not allow us to pay for food. We have a cook that will prepare all meals and RAs will pay US$ 15 per day to cover food and other expenses, such as water and electricity. Additionally, successful applicants will have to pay for their flights to and from Costa Rica, as well as some travel within Costa Rica. Applicants are also expected to cover all personal food and lodging during times spend away from the project site.


Benefits: Successful applicants will be part of a community-based research team, and work close up with charismatic megafauna. Applicants will have the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in biological field research (or are able to expand their existing experience working in the field), and learn new techniques relevant to the conservation, research, and management of endangered sea turtle populations. Furthermore, applicants will broaden their horizon by working in a foreign country, and improve their soft-skills, i.e. language skills.


Application Deadline: May 10th, 2020

Applicants should send a letter of interest, two-page resume, and contact information for two relevant references to Christine Figgener ( Subject line: RA Costa Rica

Asociación Costa Rican Alliance for Sea Turtle Conservation & Science (COASTS)

is a registered NGO in the Costa Rican Registro Nacional (La Gaceta Nº 209)

Cédula Jurídica #3-002-689632


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© 2020 by COASTS