About the Ocean Spirits Project
Join this programme and become a Leatherback Sea Turtle Research Assistant in Grenada. Your time as a Research Assistant sea turtle volunteer will include:
- Providing hands-on field experience – research assistants are not just observers but active members of the team.
- Directly aiding in the reduction of illegal egg poaching activities. The presence of nightly research patrols has reduced this threat by more than 60%.
- Contributing to ocean conservation in Grenada through local educational events.
- Helping generate interest around volunteering with sea turtles and thereby aiding in increasing community participation.
- Night patrols of the main leatherback sea turtle nesting site.
- Flipper tagging of unmarked females.
- Data collection – carapace (shell) measurements, egg counts, nest relocation.
- Morning surveys of adjacent beaches.
- Nest excavations.
- Maintenance and preparation of research equipment.
- Summer camp organisation and participation.
- Environmental Science club organisation and participation.
- Assisting with organised sea turtle watches for local school and community groups (when appropriate attending sea turtle hotline call outs).
- Participation in our local ‘learn to swim’ programme for kids.
- Beach clean-ups.
- Camp maintenance, cooking and cleaning.
- Option to learn to dive and carry out coral and reef training with our friends at Caribbean Reef Buddy, Carriacou.
2019 marks the 20th year of the sea turtle leatherback monitoring programme!
The research part of this programme is crucial to conservation efforts. As a research assistant, you will be a part of the seasonal activities that take place during the programme. This is very much a hands-on sea turtle volunteer programme.
March to July is the nesting season. At night between 8pm and 6am, research assistants and project supervisors patrol the key nesting beach, assist in the application of tags and collect biometric data. You can expect to complete about three or four of these night surveys per week.
May is the beginning of the hatching season. This means night patrols will also include the possibility of viewing emerging nests. This night work coincides with the daytime excavation of extinct nests. This is to establish hatching success and/or reasons for levels of nest mortality. Nest excavation takes place from May until August. Training with this and all turtle-related duties is provided to ensure volunteers follow the correct protocols.
Throughout the year, morning surveys are carried out everyday at 5:30am. This is done on foot along selected nesting beaches. You will walk stretches of beach each morning looking for leatherback (and occasionally other species) tracks, nests and any hatchling activity (approximately 2 mile walks). Nesting activity and any disruptive practices, such as poaching or sand mining, are recorded. Morning surveys can take between 45 minutes to an hour to complete depending on the number of turtle activities.
Research tasks can sometimes be difficult because of adverse weather conditions and long working hours. However, the collection of general and individual-specific information is the programme’s highest priority and is crucial for sea turtle conservation. Without this insistence on a scientifically rigorous approach, our data would not be considered robust enough on which to base the serious resource management recommendations that we may make. For that reason, you must be able to adhere to strict scientific guidelines to participate in this sea turtle volunteer programme.
Another important aspect of volunteering with sea turtles is education. You will be involved in school turtle-watching field trips and community groups who arrange to join us on our nightly patrols. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to introduce a leatherback sea turtle to someone for the first time. Our volunteers also love helping with the local children swimming classes.
The Ocean Spirits Environmental Science Club (April – June) and Summer Camps (July/August) are focused on environmental issues and personal development with a heavy emphasis on hands-on activities (e.g. trial SCUBA, organic chocolate factory (solar powered), organic banana plantation, internet lessons etc). We aim to nurture participants’ genuine interest and encourage these future stewards of Grenada to act responsibly with regards to their environment. You will be required to contribute towards educational programme events and preparation, and assist in the day-to-day running of the sessions. You get the chance to learn about a new culture and engage with people of completely different backgrounds! You do not have to be a teacher nor have advanced environmental knowledge. All materials and resources will be provided for you.
Every year in August, like all other Caribbean Islands, Grenada celebrates Carnival. It is as eagerly anticipated as Christmas and is even known locally as ‘Spicemas’. Carnival brims with pageantry and expression linked to African, French, British and Caribbean heritage. It is colourful, humorous and full of surprises. Packed with Soca Artists, Calypsonians, steel pan orchestras, beauty contestants and ‘fancy mas’ bands, this festive occasion brings the whole community out – dancing along the colourful streets to compete for Carnival honours.
Each year we give volunteers Carnival Monday and Tuesday off to join in the celebrations and experience the local culture in style. Don’t worry, if Carnival isn’t for you, you can just take a break from volunteering and enjoy your free time exploring the island!
“Our volunteers’ presence on the nesting beaches has contributed to a 95% decrease in egg poaching over the last two decades making our nesting beach the third largest in the region for leatherback sea turtles. Our annual summer camps designed and led by our volunteers is the highlight of the year for the local students which wouldn’t be possible without their enthusiastic and creative ideas to teach conservation. Let me take this opportunity to thank past, current and future volunteers who make our project a success and continually help us to grow as an organisation.” – quote by Project Manager