The Science Exchange Sea Turtle Internships
90% Rating
(26 Reviews)

The Science Exchange Sea Turtle Internships

The Science Exchange is a non-profit organization that offers customized, affordable internships for undergraduate and graduate students from around the world who are interested in interning in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Science Exchange operates in Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama. Internships packages are extremely affordable and great way for college students to gain valuable experience working at sea turtle research centers and conducting field-work.

  • Earn college credit while experiencing complete cultural immersion out in the field. No large groups and classrooms!
  • We offer partial scholarships to all interns.
  • The Science Exchange creates customized packages that fit your career and academic goals, schedule, and language abilities.
  • Learn a foreign language the only way - by living with the locals.
  • Two-thirds of our interns publish or present their research. 30% of our graduated interns go on to secondary education programs. Many have landed jobs with sea turtle or other conservation groups!
Costa Rica
Animal Science
Computer Science
International Business
Life Sciences
Host Family
Airport Transfers
Travel Insurance
18 years of age
Ability and willingness to live with basic amenities in a hot tropical climate and work hard!
Online Application
Writing Sample
unofficial Transcripts
Phone / Skype Interview
3 reference checks
Weekly Hours
Weeks Min.
Age Min.
Starting Price
Price Details
Two months lodging, meals, insurance, academic credits, research equipment, acaemic materials, donation to the turtle organization.

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

based on 26 reviews
  • Growth 9
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 8.4
  • Housing 8.8
  • Safety 8.8
Showing 1 - 15 of 26
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A+ for Akumal

I spent a summer in Akumal, Mexico with The Science Exchange studying the effects of climate change on sea turtle nests. Katherine was a great mentor and available whenever I had questions or problems. The host organization in Akumal, Centro Ecologico Akumal, had a great staff and lots of fun volunteers from all over the world. The dorms had air conditioning and a shared kitchen. Just a two minute walk to the beach. At night we would patrol the beaches for nesting turtles and making sure the nests were protected. We took tourists out for a small donation fee and showed them the nesting process of the turtles, which was awesome for practicing my Spanish. It was one of the best summers of my life. Upon return to the US, Katherine was a great advisor and help during the final stages of the project, paper, and presentation. I highly recommend this program for anyone that wants to explore another part of the world and get out of their comfort zone while working towards a common goal of sea turtle conservation. It's a lot of work and up to the student to collect the research data. This internship is really great for a highly motivated individual, since TSE isn't present during the research. It's up to the student! As a 20 year old, I felt like I was able to grow into a more motivated, prepared, and organized student.

Thanks again for everything The Science Exchange has given me!

How can this program be improved?

Nothing I can think of!

Yes, I recommend
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TSE Changed My Life!!

I was a college student looking to do something meaningful with my summer, and randomly stumbled upon The Science Exchange's website. The professional atmosphere of the website and other reviews I read lead me to believe this was a very legitimate program. I applied a little later than most interns but TSE welcomed me with open arms and accepted me to the Bahamas Internship.

A few Skype calls with my soon-to-be-supervisors and some Facebook messages with the fellow interns started my journey, and from the first second I felt like I was at home. We were given scholarship opportunities, an extensive amount of documents and materials to review about life in the Bahamas, where we would be staying, emergency plans, and just about every risk you could ever encounter while traveling internationally. The preparation for this trip was immaculate.

If you're new to field work, a huge component of it is rolling with the punches. Not everything goes exactly as planned because you might have a huge fish that ate all your bait, or the winds have been fighting you and the crew for a few weeks so you can't access a good site, or you get a little homesick.. any problem encountered is one that makes you grow as a scientist and the support system that TSE provided me allowed me to conquer any and all obstacles.

I went into this program expecting a cool resume booster and some awesome pictures. Little did I know, a year later, I am in the process of publishing my own paper on a project I spearheaded during my time in the Bahamas. Whether it was meeting locals and conversing about their way of life, connecting with National Geographic Fellows staying at our research station, working with kids on the island, or hunting down the best conch salad ever, the experience was beyond incredible. I have presented my research, gained lifelong friends, made important connections in the Marine Science field, and overall expanded my horizons and possibilities for myself in this career. I am forever grateful for this program, and I wish I could go back every summer!

How can this program be improved?

Adding more places to explore!

Response from The Science Exchange

You really excelled when given the opportunity and we are so proud of you!

Yes, I recommend
Liberty Boyd Sea Turtle The Science Exchange

A sHELL of a good time!

The Science Exchange Program has been paramount to my collegiate experience as an undergraduate marine biology major. By fully immersing myself into field work and a new culture, I was able to test my limits and gain a better understanding of not only the marine science field, but of myself as a person.

When first applying to the program, I was impressed by the timely and thoughtful responses from TSE staff, Katherine Comer-Santos and Elizabeth Whitman. These amazing women were able to place me in the best internship for me, which happened to be in Abaco, Bahamas. This was close to home as I am currently living in South Florida and it fit my research interests of in-water sea turtle biology.

At first the cost of the internship was daunting and made me not want to go through with it, but thankfully I was able to get a scholarship through TSE, as well as through my university. With those combined, 80% of the cost was covered and I only had to pay for my plane ticket! Having known what I know now about the internship, I would have gladly paid for it full out of pocket.

During the internship, I learned an astronomical amount of practical skills, including data collection techniques, data software, and statistical analyses. The most rewarding part of the internship was the ability to conduct my own research project. This allowed me to gain the experience of completing a project from start to finish.

The days were long during the internship and I definitely gained a lot of muscle. This internship is definitely hard core and requires a lot of physical work and sweat, but the outcomes made it all worth while. Being able to handle sea turtles and observe them in their natural environment was a dream come true!

We were able to have fun on the side too, like going out to restaurants, exploring the islands, and getting to know some of the locals. At times it almost felt like I was on vacation!

By the end of the internship, I can definitely say I grew both as a scientist and a person. I made life long friendships along with some unforgettable memories. To this day I have been utilizing the connections I have made through networking with other interns and people on the island.

Even after the internship was over, I still was able to participate in various things that would have never happened without this experience. I was able to present a poster on my project at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Las Vegas. I also traveled to the North American Echinoderm Conference in Massachusetts to give an oral presentation on my project.

This opportunity is truly like no other. I can guarantee that if you whole heartedly take advantage of this internship, you will gain more than you could possibly imagine. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made as well as the knowledge I gained during my time in the Bahamas. I implore you to apply to this program while you can and don't waste your time looking for something better because you won't be able to find it!

How can this program be improved?

The only way this program could be improved is offering a larger variety of internship locations and opportunities.

Response from The Science Exchange

I am so glad our program helped your career and inspired you to continue research by applying to the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Yes, I recommend
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Can I go a third time?!

The Science Exchange internship program, was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I was with the first group to go to Abaco, Bahamas instead of latin america for this internship. This internship taught me so much about what it truly means to be a scientist and a marine biologist. From experimental design, turtle tagging, seagrass surveys, drone abundance surveys, baited underwater shark cameras to cultural immersion. I went to Abaco, Bahamas for 3 months helping the WONDERFUL Elizabeth Whitman with her PhD research on juvenile green sea turtles and their interaction with sharks and seagrass.

I loved it so much that I volunteered to go back with her the following summer for 5 weeks. Everyone at TSE was always very helpful and knowledgable if I ever had any questions about anything and Katherine Comer Santos, The director, is truly amazing. She set me up with this internship and I will forever be grateful for that.

I have met friends that will last a lifetime, I have learned skills that continue to help me advance my career and I have made a second home in the Bahamas. What I love about TSE is that it is real science, meaning you are gaining field work experience that looks great on a resume. Yes, that means sometimes things don't go as planned but then you get to problem solve how to fix it which is what actually happens in real life science.

For anyone who is considering an internship with TSE I know it is a heavy price tag, but honestly I would pay ten times that in a heart beat to be able to partake in an internship again. If you are on the fence about it, DO IT!! I promise it will be worth it in the end.

After my first year in Abaco, I went on to present my personal project at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Las Vegas!! I gave an oral presentation on my work that I myself had come up with while interning in the Bahamas. That in itself made every penny worth it.

I will never forget the very first sea turtle I caught "Bahamian Style" there is no way to describe it, so come find out for yourself, chances are I'll see you there!!

How can this program be improved?

The only thing I would suggest is that people who have not done field work before, don't know exactly what to expect. Detailed explanations of what you will be doing/talking to previous interns would be a great way to relay information.

Response from The Science Exchange

Your oral presentation at the conference was so professional and moving. I cried! Beth really depended on you and your positive attitude and field skills. I hope you do go back and help her next year!

Yes, I recommend
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Grateful for the Experience

I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program! Not only did I learn a tremendous amount about sea turtles and the global conservation issues that impact them, but also I had the cultural experiences of living and working in a tropical fishing village, practicing Spanish daily and understanding the cultural traditions that have shaped thinking about conservation issues. Upon returning home, many of my friends and family have commented that they notice a difference in me. I am calmer, clearer, happier, and generally more grounded in my purpose and personal mission. Furthermore, as a direct result of my participation with The Science Exchange Internship Program, I am better equipped to conduct and publish my own research as part of my continued education.

What I observed is the students who arrive with an open mind, participate fully, and see it through to the end can have “life-changing” impact and transformative results from their experiences. This certainly was true for me!!

How can this program be improved?

Feedback has been provided that setting clearer expectations of students before they arrive in country may be beneficial for some people. This could be done through a series of videos or some other short documentation.

Yes, I recommend
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The worst experience of my life.

Quick overview
-I went on the Science Exchange Sea Turtle Internship in Puerto Vallarta Mexico in the summer of 2017.
-lack of communication
-dont care for sea turtles
-the supervisor that was responsible for me and the camp, was clearly under the influence. (one of many times)

My internship was stationed in Puerto Vallarta Mexico (well it was advertised to be in Puerto Vallarta mexico but it was actually in some hole in the wall camp 3 hours south of Puerto Vallarta). To begin this review I would like every potential reader/intern to know that this internship is 100% NOT worth your time. It is a huge scam and a waste of money. It began with the director explaining to me via Skype during my acceptance interview, the tasks that I would be performing and the research I would be doing will in Mexico. None of anything happend. She told me I would be fed and well taken care of, I was told that we would be staying in a hotel the first week and then we would camp for 6 weeks and then stay in a hotel again for the last week. The hotel we stayed at ended up getting a nick name that the interns and I came up with on our short stay there..."The beatle hotel" -I KID YOU NOT THERE WERE THOUSANDS OF BEETLES IN OUR ROOM. They were on the floor, on the curtains and in the bed, they were in every square inch of the hotel room. These beetles could fly and would bump into you in the middle of the night. I would have been comfortable with a few bugs in my room because we are staying in a tropical area but THOUSANDS of beetles was just not something that I was ok with. On top of that we get fed a single granola bar for breakfast (breakfast is from the hours of 7 am to 3 pm, so we would be hungry all day because the hotel we stayed at didn't have any stores near by and the director would leave and not come back for hours at a time.) We then did nothing for the rest of the day up until the 5th day that we were there- we went to the beach for an hour or so and then went back to the hotel room. Finally on the beginning of the 2nd week my research partner and I were left at a campsite with a Supervisor. I was so excited to finally get started on the research we were suppose to be doing since day one. BUT, unfortunately for us, the supervisor's girlfriend got there the following day so while he was occupied with her we were sitting around in our tents doing absolutely NOTHING for one week. We tried to go patrolling with the staff but they said that it wasn't our turn yet or they would be too drunk to be able to drive the ATV that was used to patrol at night to search for nesting sea turtles. My research partner and I did end up going patrolling once because we trekked from the nearest town where there was a party going on- we walked all the way back to the camp(took like one hour) and when we got there and the sun had gone down, one of the staff members came back on the ATV and asked if we wanted to patrol because everyone else was drunk and at the town (we patrolled for 15 minutes and then came back because the ATV broke down).
We contacted our director and asked her for a detailed schedule of what we were going to do throughout the summer because we didn't want to waste more time there(we had already wasted 2 weeks doing nothing) but she said no, laughed in our faces and told the other interns that we "were on crack" for wanting to leave.
We left not the following but the day after that occurred in the back of our supervisors truck while it was raining, it took three hours to get back to puerto vallarta.
Not only was this a huge scam, they are not properly caring for the baby sea turtles that they are incubating because they are putting them in sand that is too hot and they are getting burned alive, but they also clearly don't care for the well being of sea turtles because they skip night and day patrols constantly. This was a huge waste of money.
If you are looking to do an internship DON'T GO HERE IT IS A SCAM.

How can this program be improved?

Better program staff

Response from The Science Exchange

We would like readers to know that this young student walked off the job with no notice after five days. Most of her complaints posted here were not communicated to us before, and do not pan out after investigation. We conclude that the stories reflect disappointment and anger in not getting a refund of program fees after she petitioned for them post-departure. Our no-refund policy was clearly spelled out in waivers and is similar to almost every other intern abroad and study abroad program. This is the first time in ten years that an intern has left their site or requested a refund from our non-profit organization.

We also want everyone to know that The Science Exchange places intern safety and sea turtle safety above all else. For example, when Gabriela told us she had stomach pains, we took her straight to the hospital. Even though they are harmless, when she complained about the beetles in the hotel we immediately moved her to another room. Had any intern told us they wanted a bigger breakfast we would have gladly added to the fruit, juice, coffee, cereal, granola bars, and sandwich materials provided daily. Similarly, when another 2017 intern communicated that she was uncomfortable camping on the beach we moved her to a host family. However, Gabriela did not allow us to help her, she insisted on getting to the airport and we complied as quickly as we could.

Our staff investigated these accusations regarding sea turtle safety and professionalism at the camp. We were provided official documentation that the camp did patrol each of the five nights Gabriela was there, and every night of the nesting season since then. We separately interviewed five people who were present at the camp during that period and they all report that only the off-duty supervisors and volunteers drank alcohol during the cultural events. It is true that sand temperatures are hot in this part of the world, and getting hotter with climate change. High temperatures along with other issues (e.g., genetics, moisture, fungus) and can hinder reptile embryo growth. We witnessed camp staff monitoring sand temperatures and placing palms over the nests to cool them when they approach lethal levels, because there is no alternative to egg incubation in beach sand. This camp is highly regarded internationally and we found no basis for her accusations.

Journals and follow-up surveys from 60 former Science Exchange interns show after putting in some time and effort, almost everyone learned to love being immersed in the field with the locals helping to save endangered species. Many said that it changed their lives. Indeed, 86% of our past interns are now considered leaders in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and 76% have continued with international experiences.

For realistic and honest reviews of our program please continue reading from interns who participated for the full two months of our program. If you have any questions or concerns the Director is happy to converse with prospective interns and families via email at [email protected] or phone at 619-519-9876 (please leave a message after the beep).

No, I don't recommend
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My trip to baja California with the science exchange was life changing.

I learned more spanish than in my previous 12 years of studying the language and I learned even more about myself.
Initially I was shocked when we showed up at our location. We left a beautiful Cabo San Lucas with thousands of tourists, bars and restaurants for an isolated beach with no one in site.

After a few days of getting used to living off the grid I began to enjoy the simplicity of life.

The typical day started around midnight with a night beach patrol for nesting turtles. Then a second patrol around 6:00 am until just after sunrise. A quick siesta allowed us to catch up on sleep before the midday heat started up. Around noon we would fish and swim in the ocean until we started cooking dinner around 5 or 6.

After a long day of collecting and recording data and relocating eggs into the protected nesting area it was almost impossible not to fall asleep as soon as you lay your head down while looking at a seemingly endless number of stars.
Would have been a little scary(all the time to yourself) to go without a friend but would have still been a great time.

How can this program be improved?

I wish I had brought a fishing pole.

Yes, I recommend
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Sayulita, Mexico 2015

This program provided a unique experience that was aligned with my academic interests by not only exposing me to wet lab techniques but also by immersing me into the Mexican culture for a descent amount of time. I did not only grow as a scientist and as a student, but it also helped me grow more as a person and as an activist for sea turtle conservation. This was an unforgettable experience that gave me so many amazing memories for the future. I personally appreciate the time locals and supervisors shared with us to make this experience a very unique one.

How can this program be improved?

This program could really benefit from a more clinically oriented research experience by teaching, guiding and supervising students' work more often.

Yes, I recommend
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best travel advice i've ever taken

i knew someone else who did this program from my school a few years ago and he had only good things to say. i applied and got accepted and went on the trip and was very happy with my experience. costa rica was beautiful and i learned a lot about pollution while doing my project down there. i even met another volunteer who was able to help us with our understanding of the project, and give insight into other pollution projects he'd been a part of. great way to establish connections within a tight-knit turtle-lovers scientific community.

Yes, I recommend
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exchanging more than science!

This program was a beautiful way to experience a new culture, cultivate new friendships, be challenged culturally, academically and intellectually. The turtle work was only part of the experience; we had daily monitoring, hatchery work, etc. (the same thing that goes on for most turtle projects) but with this project, living in such a small community allowed me to better my Spanish, to troubleshoot science in the field, to find new and interesting ways to fill the time of each day, to cook for myself, and to just generally have a broader appreciation for the beauty of life and nature. An amazing experience overall!

Yes, I recommend
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Sea Turtle Exchane

This program is not only a wonderful way to get more involved in ecological research, but also an awesome cultural opportunity. Participants work long hours conducting challenging research. However, they also have ample free time to play soccer with the locals, practice some Spanish, and enjoy the scrumptious food options. Furthermore participants get to experience the frustrations and rewards of working with an endangered species.

How can this program be improved?

This program would benefit from a little more scientific initiative. Monitoring sea turtles nests clearly takes a lot of time and effort. However, the program would benefit from focusing a little more on research.

Response from The Science Exchange

I am so glad you had an awesome cultural experience and played soccer with the locals! Those are the memories you will never lose!

Yes, I recommend
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See Sea Turtles Run

A regular day consisted of patrolling the beaches at night for turtle nests. After collecting any eggs that were found we would take them back to our hatchery and record the data from the amount of eggs and their progress. The shifts can be tiresome, but the end result is worth the manual labor.

How can this program be improved?

Better understanding and communication between the staff members and the students

Response from The Science Exchange

I agree there are a lot of long hours and difficult communication between the remote camps and the U.S. These challenges are part of the journey of growing and I am glad you recommend the program!

Yes, I recommend
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TSE is a great introduction to fieldwork in conservation biology

The Science Exchange has created a very unique learning environment geared specifically towards blossoming scientists. If this is to be your first encounter with extensively leading your own field research, The Science Exchange is a great place to start. I was able to make decisions regarding protocol, procedures, and data collection that were pertinent to the success of the study, and learned a lot about hands on management of a project and how to successfully problem-shoot within a study. Overall, the physical work of data collection took about 5-9 hours a week depending on influx of data, and data entry/analysis took roughly 2-3 hours a week. This amount of work kept me busy and my mind at work, while still allowing for ample time to enjoy life in another country. This program allows you to emerse yourself as much as you're comfortable with in both another culture and in scientific growth. This internship is perfect for students just starting their scientific careers at a university level who are looking to gain valuable experience in the field of conservation biology.

How can this program be improved?

This program does a wonderful job of giving students the avenues for growth and development within their scientific careers, and allows for students to emerse themselves in another culture, however so areas were lacking. The program did not seem to be catered to the study site specifically at all, nor did it seem to be particularly invested in the results of the study. It felt very much like a classroom approach where "as long as you understand the concepts, the results are secondary". The director only seemed superficially knowledgeable about the study location, with regards to both the science and the culture. The I rector also seemed much more invested in our experience livin abroad than our growth as scientists. While this allowed for growth within myself, a less motivated or less experienced individual may have found frustration in the program's lack of adequacy for a successful field research project.

Response from The Science Exchange

I thank you for your kind words! I do hope that you contact me when you return so that we can do more analysis with your data in the U.S., and compare it to other sites and years.

Yes, I recommend
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I had a great time during my internship for The Science Exchange. I learned a lot during my time in Costa Rica. It was a really fun experience. During my time, I was able to visit three different sea turtle camps. As an international business major I was able to fulfill my travel abroad and internship requirement at one time. My favorite part was immersing myself into the culture. I was able to practice the Spanish language and made a lot of friends. I would recommend this program to anyone.

How can this program be improved?

I wouldn't change a thing. My entire time was great. Housing and food were great. The people were awesome and everyone was really involved and caring.

Response from The Science Exchange

Thank you!

Yes, I recommend
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Couldn't have asked for a better first experience abroad

Working with The Science Exchange and encountering my first abroad experience was life changing. I grew a fond appreciation for sea turtle conservation, Costa Rica and environmental education. Being able to immerse myself in a different culture while learning about Costa Rica culture was an amazing opportunity to grow intellectually.

How can this program be improved?

The analysis of the data was a bit foreign. Perhaps spending a bit more time with Katherine (or whoever is the director) before embarking on this journey and discussing in depth what the purpose of the data collection is and what realistic conclusions can be drawn from it.

Response from The Science Exchange

We loved working with you!

Yes, I recommend

About The Science Exchange

Sea Turtle Internships for College Credit! The Science Exchange is the only non-profit organization that creates affordable, customized, field-based research internship packages for college and graduate students from around the world. Our Mission is...