Tell us a little about Sea Turtle Conservancy and your role at the company.
Daniel: STC is the oldest sea turtle research and conservation group in the world. Our Eco-Volunteer Adventures help support the work that STC began in the 1950s. While I have several roles at STC, I’m work with directly people interested in participating in STC’s Eco-Volunteer Adventures in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?
Daniel: When I started working at STC, we had a small staff. I was not originally hired to coordinate our Eco-Volunteer Adventures. But my background in conservation and ecology made it a natural fit for working with people who want to have the hands-on experience of being a sea turtle biologist for a week or two.
What makes Sea Turtle Conservancy unique?
Daniel: There are several things that make STC’s Eco-Volunteer Adventures unique from other volunteer travel programs. Many volunteer programs are coordinated through a third party, and they connect a person with a project. With our program, eco-volunteers are directly connecting with research staff the group, through a donation of time and money, that is actually doing the research and conservation. That gives our program a level of experience and training that people won’t find with other programs. STC eco-volunteers get training in field biology and work as part of our research team, rather than just being along for the ride. The work we do with sea turtles is not easy, but it can be very rewarding.
How do you prepare your volunteers for their projects, either before they leave or as they arrive in-country?
Daniel: We provide eco-volunteers with materials that describe the living conditions, the environment, the location, how to pack, what to bring, and the research methods they will be following. We provide the information in both print and video format. Once they are at our research station, they receive several training sessions to prepare them for the work.
How do you ensure your programs are responsible, sustainable and mutually beneficial for you, the community, and the volunteers?
Daniel: STC works hard to train its staff on how to work with the Eco-volunteers and the local community. We can ensure this because there is no middle group, the eco-volunteers are working directly with us, so we are responsible to ourselves to make sure that the program benefits sea turtles, the Eco-volunteers and the community. We have been in Tortuguero for more than 50 years and the lessons we have learned in that time make our program tried and tested.
Photo courtesy of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Hector Rene Santos, Horizonte