Sea Turtle

Top Turtle Conservation Internships

Our planet’s seven species of sea turtle have captured the fascination of conservationists and concerned citizens the world over. In this post, we profile turtle conservation internships and volunteer opportunities around the world where you can help out.

Maybe it’s the story of their against-all-odds journey from egg to open ocean and back, completing one of nature’s most impressive life cycles. Or maybe it’s their graceful movements and ancient, otherworldly presence that captivate us.

But if we’re not careful, we’ll lose the opportunity to marvel at these ancient creatures. Because despite the fact that they’ve been around for millions of years, today sea turtles are up against a whole host of human-induced threats.

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As if this journey wasn’t hard enough, six of the seven sea turtle species are listed as Threatened on the IUCN Red List due to human activities.

Of the seven species of sea turtle – green, hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley and flatback – six are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and two are classified as Critically Endangered.

Despite being protected in most countries, turtles are still hunted around the world. Their eggs, meat and shells are illegally traded and consumed, while their oil is used in cosmetics and leather. There is a particularly high demand for tortoiseshell – the common name for the hawksbill’s carapace.

At the ocean’s surface, turtles are vulnerable to boat strike. Below, they can become entangled in ghost gear (lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear) that appears like shelter – leading to injury, exhaustion, starvation, dehydration and death.

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Marine debris, including ‘ghost gear’ is one of many threats to sea turtles. Credit: Holly Richards / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr.

Many turtles are captured, injured and killed through by-catch, or accidental capture in gill-nets, trawl-nets and longline hooks.

With an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste entering our oceans every year, and somewhere between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons of microplastic in the ocean, plastic and other marine debris are also a major cause of death.

Ingesting marine debris can cause death by damaging their digestive systems or exposure to chemicals, and turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish prey.

Closer to shore, coastal development – such as sea walls and sandbags – can result in beach erosion, reducing space for nesting turtles or flooding nests.

Artificial lighting on nesting beaches can confuse and disorient female turtles and hatchlings. This can prevent nesting or alter turtles’ navigation and cause them to travel inland instead of out to sea. Meanwhile climate change can alter sand temperatures, affecting the sex of hatchlings.

This WWF infographic sums up the conservation status of sea turtle species and the threats they face.

Credit: WWF. Available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/infographic-sea-turtles.

How you can help? Turtle conservation internships

With turtles facing such a myriad of threats, there is no shortage of reasons to get involved through turtle conservation internships. And with turtles found in all the planet’s oceans except at the poles, the opportunities to help in a hands-on way are diverse, exciting and available year-round.

Global-map-of-sea-turtle-conservation-internships

A global summary of all the sea turtle conservation internships and volunteer opportunities we’ve listed on Conservation Careers as of June 2019.

Sea turtle conservation internships and volunteer programmes are also a popular way to launch – or test-drive – a career in conservation.

If you’re passionate about turtles and marine conservation, the organisations featured in this post could be a great starting point.

Pick the right programme for you and you’ll stand to gain experience and valuable contacts, not to mention an unforgettable – possibly life-changing – experience.

GVI

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GVI offers turtle conservation internships and volunteer programmes around the world, including Greece, Costa Rica, Thailand and the Seychelles.

At a glance:

Species: Loggerhead
Location: Bay of Lakonikos, Greece
Focus: Recording nesting activity, protecting turtle nests against predation by mammals and inundation by sea water, environmental education
Programme type: Volunteer
Programme fee? Yes

Based in the beautiful Bay of Lakonikos, you’ll live and work alongside GVI’s team of international volunteers to conserve and protect of one of the most important loggerhead turtle nesting areas in Greece.

As part of the hands-on team, you’ll carry out daily morning surveys to record nesting activity and protect turtle nests against predation by mammals and inundation by sea water. You’ll also provide important conservation information to overseas visitors and the local community.

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GVI offers turtle conservation internships and volunteer programmes around the world, including Greece, Costa Rica, Thailand and the Seychelles. Credit: GVI.

Protecting nests against predation by mammals and inundation by sea water ensures that as many hatchlings as possible are added to the population each year, while public awareness activities help people adopt friendlier attitudes towards the natural environment and possibly reduce their environmental footprint in the area.

When you’re not busy making a lasting one-off contribution to the preservation of endangered turtles, or watching turtles lay their eggs and the hatchlings head for the sea, you’ll have the chance to experience Greek culture first hand.

Find out how to get involved here.

Interested in working in a different part of the world? GVI offers a range of sea turtle conservation internships and volunteer opportunities, including:

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Sea Turtle Conservancy offers turtle conservation programmes in Panama, Costa Rica and Florida. Credit: Lexie Beach.

At a glance:

Species: Loggerhead, leatherback and green turtles
Location: Panama, Costa Rica, Florida
Focus: Research, education, advocacy
Programme type: Volunteer, seasonal field assistantships
Dates: March – November
Benefits: Room and board provided from some seasonal field assistantships

Sea Turtle Conservancy is the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group. For nearly 60 years they have worked to protect and conserve sea turtles and their habitats from extinction through research, education and advocacy.

For Lexie Beach, Sea Turtle Conservancy’s Communication Coordinator, interning and volunteering was key to securing her dream job.

“I volunteered my time and collaborated on several special projects… One of those projects just happened to be Sea Turtle Conservancy’s “Tour de Turtles” event. Little did I know that was my future employer! Moral of the story is that it’s so important to step outside your comfort zone and make connections so you can get your foot in the door of something you’re really passionate about!”

Sea Turtle Conservancy offers turtle conservation programmes in Panama, Costa Rica and Florida. Credit: Lexie Beach. Credit: Lexie Beach.

“You can never do too many internships!” adds Lexie. “Also be prepared for those internships to be unpaid!”

“When I was in college I interned at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the Louisville Zoo, the Indianapolis Zoo, and worked part-time for the local Humane Society. It was through these internship experiences that I realized what career path I wanted to pursue and how I could use my abilities to help animals and educate people.”

Sea Turtle Conservancy offers experiences in Panama, Costa Rica and Florida, as well as seasonal field assistantships. Or, like Lexie, you can check out their Tour de Turtles event.

Sea Turtle Inc.

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Khrystyne Jamerson is a great example of turtle conservation internships leading to paid work. She interned at Sea Turtle Inc. prior to being hired as a full-time educator. Credit: Khrystyne Jamerson.

At a glance:

Species: Kemp’s ridley turtles
Location: South Padre Island, Texas
Focus: Education, rehabilitation and conservation
Programme type: Volunteer, Internships
Dates: March – August
Duration: Minimum 4 shifts per month for minimum 3 months (volunteers)
Benefits: Housing and daily stipend for internships

Sea Turtle Inc. was founded in 1977 to aid in the protection and recovery of the Endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and has since expanded to include education, rehabilitation and conservation. Their mission is to “rescue and rehabilitate injured sea turtles for release back into the wild, educate the public and assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species”.

Sea Turtle Inc. offers both volunteering and internship opportunities.

Their internship is a multi-disciplinary programme that aims to provide interns with experience in public eduction, nest conservation and sea turtle rehabilitation.

Interns must be college graduates in biological sciences, wildlife and fisheries science, environmental science or related fields, or currently in college, and must hold a valid driver’s license and be able to work in the U.S.

Khrystyne Jamerson is a great example of turtle conservation internships leading to paid work. She interned at Sea Turtle Inc. prior to being hired as a full-time educator. Credit: Khrystyne Jamerson.

Staff member Khrystyne Jamerson interned at Sea Turtle Inc. before being hired as a full-time educator.

“I got my Bachelor’s in Wildlife Biology from Texas State University. Upon graduating, I went on to gain experience with a variety of volunteer opportunities and internships. My first internship after college was here at Sea Turtle, Inc. two years ago.”

Khrystyne interned at Sea Turtle Inc. prior to being hired as a full-time educator. Credit: Khrystyne Jamerson.

“For last two years I have traveled around and continued to gain more sea turtle experience. After many seasonal opportunities and tons of moving around, I got lucky this spring when a position opened up here and they thought I would be a good fit as a staff member.”

Visit Sea Turtle Inc.’s website to learn more about their turtle conservation internships and volunteer opportunities.

You can read more about Khrystyne’s journey from intern to educator in A turtley awesome job: career insight from Sea Turtle Inc.’s Khrystyne Jamerson.

Project Biodiversity

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Project Biodiversity offers sea turtle conservation internships and volunteering opportunities in Cape Verde. Credit: Project Biodiversity.

At a glance:

Species: Loggerhead
Location: Sal, Cape Verde
Focus: Track ID, collection of biometric data, microchipping and ID-ing females, nest relocations and excavations, leading volunteers
Programme type: Volunteer, Internships
Dates: July – December
Duration: Minimum 1 week (volunteering)
Programme fee? Yes (volunteering); no (internships)
Benefits: Accommodation and meals in camp (internships)

Based on the island of Sal, Project Biodiversity is a Cabo Verdean organisation committed to conserving and restoring the island’s unique ecosystems. The project implements community-based initiatives that promote conservation and better understanding of the island’s natural resources while increasing economic opportunities for the growing local community.

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A loggerhead hatchling heads to sea. Credit: Project Biodiversity.

As an intern with Project Biodiversity’s multicultural team you’ll gain valuable field experience including ID-ing tracks, collecting biometric data, microchipping and identifying previously tagged females, and relocating and excavating nests.
At night you’ll patrol to deter hunters and collect data on track identification, tagging and measuring the turtles. During the day you’ll patrol to relocate nests to the hatchery or other locations on the beach. After the end of the nesting season, you’ll be responsible for monitoring and excavating hatched nests and releasing hatchlings.
After your training period, you’ll have the opportunity to lead patrols and train and supervise volunteers, gaining solid work experience that will help to continue your career in conservation.
Project Biodiversity recruits both Marine Turtle Nesting Season Volunteers and Hatchling Season Volunteers.
Marine Turtle Nesting Season Volunteers participate in all aspects of the project, including night patrols to protect and collect data on nesting sea turtles, hatchling releases, hatchery maintenance, and community outreach.

The presence of volunteers in in the field camp is also an important morale booster for the project as a whole, as they bring a sense of enthusiasm, passion and unique perspectives.

Hatchling Season Volunteers stay overnight in the hatchery, monitoring hundreds of nests and releasing thousands of baby turtles to the ocean. They also patrol the main beaches of Sal Island at sunrise to check the nests that are ready to hatch and to help lost or entangled baby turtles reach the sea.

For those looking to kick start their career in conservation, this could be your chance to gain valuable experience in the third largest nesting site for Loggerheads in the world.

Learn more about Project Biodiversity’s turtle conservation internships and volunteer opportunities, plus listen to Albert from Project Biodiversity explain why sea turtles need your help.

 

Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation

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Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation offers year-round turtle conservation internships. Credit: Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation.

At a glance:

Species: Loggerhead, Green, Leatherback
Location: eastern Aegean Sea, Greece
Focus: Diverse activities including observation at sea, nest monitoring, administering first aid to injured turtles and performing necropsies of dead turtles.
Programme type: Internships
Dates: Year-round
Duration: Recommended 3 month minimum, up to 12 months
Programme fee? Yes

Archipelagos’ Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles internships take place on and around the beautiful islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. The programmes are open to graduates, students and volunteers who gain hands-on experience in field research and conservation while contributing directly to the future of turtles in this unique ecosystem.

While nests are present in the eastern Aegean, there are no extensive nesting beaches. However, with rich feeding areas abundant, turtle encounters occur year round.

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Sea turtle encounters are possible year-round in the Aegean. Credit: Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation.

As an intern you’ll be involved in various activities including observation at sea, nest monitoring and Archipelago’s Stranding Response Project. This project rescues stranded marine mammals and turtles, administering first aid to injured turtles.

It also involves necropsies of turtles found dead in the region in order to determine the cause of death and to collect samples for analyses (e.g. macro and microplastic content, toxicological, DNA and stomach content).

This work helps increase understanding of the factors that threaten turtle populations and inform actions to protect them.

All internships aim to develop interns’ capacity for leadership and independent research and study, allowing you to build diverse skills that benefit your career.

Learn more about interning with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation in this video, ‘One day in Archipelagos’.

Atoll Volunteers

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Atoll Volunteers believes in keeping a healthy balance between work and fun. Credit: Atoll Volunteers.

At a glance:

Species: Hawksbill, Green, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback
Location: Naifaru Island, Maldives
Focus: Turtle husbandry, running the Marine Centre, coral gardening, data collection and community outreach.
Programme type: Volunteering, Internships
Dates: Thursday or Saturday start dates every week
Duration: 2-12 weeks (at least 3 weeks recommended) for volunteers
Programme fee? Yes (volunteering); no (internships)
Benefits: Food and accommodation (internships)

Based at the Atoll Marine Centre, Atoll Volunteers rescues turtles from the illegal pet trade, as well as turtles injured by ghost nets, rehabilitates them and releases them back into the wild.

Perfect for budding conservationists, Atoll Volunteers’ Marine Conservation Volunteer Programme offers volunteers the chance to be an integral part of their team, working with their two resident marine biologists on the day to day running of the Marine Centre and turtle husbandry activities, from cleaning and feeding, to assisting with administrating medical treatment.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to gain experience in coral gardening, conduct reef monitoring surveys on atoll islands and support community outreach activities such as beach cleans and marine awareness sessions – thus having a real impact on marine conservation efforts.

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Atoll Volunteers offers both turtle conservation internships and volunteering. Credit: Atoll Volunteers.

You’ll hone practical conservation skills to enhance your future career prospects, experience the ‘real’ Maldives as part of a tight-knit, friendly community and have a healthy balance of work and play with weekly excursions including snorkelling, visiting uninhabited islands, camping and BBQs.

You’ll receive training in fish/coral species ID and gain first-hand practical experience in international marine conservation with a locally-run NGO.

Why are volunteers needed?

“Our marine programme and projects are extensive, and relies on volunteer support to help us achieve all our conservation aims. Simply put, without volunteers we would not be able to ensure the upkeep and continued operation of Atoll Marine Centre”.

Atoll Volunteers also offers several long-term positions for international applicants including: a Volunteer Coordinator, two Marine Biologists and an Aquarium Biologist. Together they manage the day-to-day running of Atoll Volunteers and Atoll Marine Centre.

“With such a great amount of responsibility, these internships are a valuable opportunity to gain practical experience in conservation to enhance a future career, or as a well deserved sabbatical!”

Learn more about Atoll Volunteers’ Marine Conservation Volunteer Programme and internship opportunities.

Lang Tengah Turtle Watch

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Volunteers help save turtles from poachers. Credit: Lang Tengah Turtle Watch.

At a glance:

Species: Green, Hawksbill
Location: Lang Tengah Island, off the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia
Focus: Monitoring turtle landings and saving their eggs from poachers
Programme type: Volunteering
Dates: Fixed dates from approximately March to October
Duration: 2 weeks, 4 weeks or longer stays
Programme fee? Yes

“20 years ago, [the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia] was a prolific breeding-ground for four species of turtle, now only two remain.” 

Egg poaching is common along the coastline and has been largely responsible for the elimination of Leatherback and Olive-Ridley turtles from the region. Lang Tengah Turtle Watch focuses on ensuring that new generations of sea turtles make it out to sea.

This requires a constant presence on the island and regular patrols of nesting beaches by night, relocating any nests that are laid on other beaches back to the safety of Turtle Beach.

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You could help ensure more hatchlings like this one have a chance at survival. Credit: Lang Tengah Turtle Watch.

“Our patrols are hardly run-of-the-mill, unless you consider fireflies, phosphorescence, copious amounts of shooting stars, distant lightning and ancient creatures hauling themselves out of the sea as ordinary things to encounter”.

Volunteers on Lang Tengah – ‘The Eagle in the Middle’ – act as dedicated guardians to stop the poaching activity on the island. They assist nightly patrols along the beaches in search of nesting mothers, split into shifts between 9pm and 6am. The reward? The (possible) rare privilege of watching a turtle laying eggs or hatchlings journeying to the water’s edge.
Curious to know what life is like as a volunteer on Lang Tengah?


You can also learn more about Lang Tengah Turtle Watch’s commitment to environmental education in this video.

Turtle Foundation

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Turtle Foundation beach camp in the north of Boavista. Credit: Turtle Foundation.

At a glance:

Species: Loggerhead
Location: Boavista Island, Cape Verde
Focus: Patrolling and protecting nesting beaches; community education and involvement
Programme type: Volunteering
Dates: June – October nesting season
Duration: Minimum 2 weeks (Short Term Volunteers); minimum 8 weeks (Long Term Volunteers)
Programme fee? Yes

“Rampant poaching of nesting females threatens the world’s third largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles with extinction”

Sea turtles in Cape Verde are threatened by poaching at sea and on land, as well as coastal tourism development.

After over 1,100 female turtles were slaughtered in 2007 as they came ashore to nest on Boavista Island, the Turtle Foundation established a monitoring presence to reduce turtle mortality.

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A Loggerhead female after laying eggs. Credit: Turtle Foundation.

Each year they reduce the number of sea turtles killed on Boavista through patrols and protection with support from the Cape Verde military and volunteers from around the world.

When not patrolling, the Turtle Foundation focusses on community education and engagement, giving turtle biology/conservation presentations, sponsoring art and educational programmes for school children, organising beach clean-ups, training tour agencies in turtle walks and more.

Want to join their efforts? You can learn about volunteering on Boavista here.

Or if you’re interested in working with Green, Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles in Indonesia, the Turtle Foundation also offers turtle conservation volunteering opportunities in East Borneo and West Sumatra.

Madagascar Research & Conservation Institute

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Credit: Madagascar Research & Conservation Institute.

At a glance:

Species: Hawksbill, Green
Location: Nosy Komba Island, Madagascar
Focus: Identifying and developing Safe Turtle Breeding Zones in North Western Madagascar
Programme type: Volunteering
Dates: Year-round, starting the first Monday of every month; nesting season October to March
Duration: From 2 weeks to 12 weeks
Programme fee? Yes

Madagascar Research & Conservation Institute (MRCI)’s Sea Turtle Monitoring Program was established to identify and develop Safe Turtle Breeding Zones in North Western Madagascar.

They successfully implemented a “Safe Turtle Nesting Zone” on Nosy Komba Island with the support of the local community, which is monitored 24/7 to ensure the safety of turtles and their eggs.

As an MRCI volunteer, you’ll help identify nesting areas by visiting remote beaches on islands surrounding the island of Nosy Be. Trained in species ID and data collection protocols, your main focus will be to collect and record species, nesting and size-related data needed to estimate population dynamics and nesting distributions in North Western Madagascar.

Your home base will be at Turtle Cove, the Madagascar Volunteer research centre located on Nosy Komba island. Turtle Cove overlooks Nosy Be and the world-famous Lokobe Forest Reserve, with easy access to MRCI’s home coral reef, which we had recently declared a Marine Protected Area.

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At Turtle Cove, you’ll have a great work-life balance. Credit: Madagascar Research & Conservation Institute.

MRCI’s primary goals are to:

  • Map and identify beaches used as nesting sites.
  • Identify species diversity and numbers.
  • Engage and establish a relationship with the local communities enabling us to include them in our conservation efforts.
  • Monitor and remove plastic waste and other harmful products from the beaches.

Learn more about MRCI’s Sea Turtle Monitoring Program in this video.

“With the collaborative effort of our volunteers, who play a vitally important role in assisting to achieve our goals, MRCI will continue to strive to protect endangered sea turtle species in their natural habitat as well as to promote public awareness by further collaborating with local communities and national authorities”.

Learn more about volunteering with MRCI’s Sea Turtle Monitoring Program here.

Hawaii Marine Animal Response

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An adult green sea turtle. Credit: HMAR.

At a glance:

Species: Green, Hawksbill
Location: islands of Oahu and Molokai, Hawaii
Focus: Growing active and engaged community support, managing and increasing protected species populations, and saving animals that need help.
Programme type: Volunteering, Internships

Hawaii Marine Animal Response (HMAR) is the largest Hawaii-based non-profit marine species conservation response organisation, with a mission to “undertake substantial actions that result in the preservation, recovery and stewardship of Hawaii’s protected marine species and the ocean ecosystem we share”.

Their team of volunteers, interns and staff cover the islands of Oahu and Molokai, responding to calls involving protected marine species, including sea turtles, to provide shoreline response, stranding assistance, outreach, health management and rescue.

By being present in the field, and holding regular outreach and education activities in schools and at community events, they engage with tens of thousands of people each year to build understanding, stewardship and support for Hawaii’s protected marine species and coastal ecosystem.

HMAR offers volunteer opportunities for people who can commit to a minimum activity level, as well as internships for undergraduates and graduates of marine biology, ecology, ocean sciences or related fields.

Ningaloo Turtle Program

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The Ningaloo Turtle Program team releases a green turtle. Credit: Ningaloo Turtle Program.

At a glance:

Species: Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill
Location: Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Focus: Monitoring nesting beaches for turtle activity
Programme type: Volunteering
Dates: December to January

Developed by the Cape Conservation Group (CCG); the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA); Murdoch University and WWF Australia, the Ningaloo Turtle Program contributes to the conservation of marine turtles and their habitats.

By researching breeding habits and issues such as fox predation, beach access management, turtle tourism and interpretation/education requirements, the NTP helps management, planning and development agencies along the Ningaloo coast make conservation-based decisions.

Every year, volunteer “Turtle Trackers” help record turtle nesting data along the beaches of the North West Cape in Western Australia.

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Learn to ID Loggerhead turtle tracks as a ‘Turtle Tracker’. Credit: NTP.

Volunteers start a typical day at 5:30am, spending 4-5 hours collecting data on turtle nesting beaches. The rest of the day is theirs to explore the Ningaloo Coast, enjoy Exmouth township’s laid-back lifestyle, travel inland to some of the spectacular gorges in Cape Range National Park, or join regular volunteer social activities.

Volunteers might also get involved in data entry, remote camping on the Ningaloo Reef and monitoring isolated beaches, and assisting with turtle rescues.

Learn more about life as a Turtle Tracker of Ningaloo in this video.

You can learn more about volunteering as a Turtle Tracker on the NTP website.

Caño Palma Biological Station

At a glance:

Species: Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill
Location: Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Focus: Nighttime beach patrols and data collection
Programme type: Volunteering, Internships
Dates: March to October/November
Duration: Minimum 2 weeks (volunteers); minimum 6 weeks (interns)
Programme fee? Yes (volunteers)
Benefits: Up to room, board and monthly stipend for higher-responsibility internships.

Founded and supported by the Canadian Organization For Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation (COTERC), Caño Palma Station’s mission is to provide leadership in education, research, conservation, and the educated use of natural resources in the tropics.

Every year, volunteers and interns provide the manpower needed to patrol the beach at night, collect data and safeguard nesting turtles. Data collected is shared with local government agencies and other partners all around the world.

Volunteers help complete surveys and increase capacity for patrols, while interns ensure that all aspects of the project are completed to the highest standard and play a greater role in achieving education goals.

Depending on intern applicants’ education, previous experience and length of commitment, internship options include:

  • Basic Turtle Internships
  • Advanced Turtle Internships
  • Head Community/Education Internships
  • Basic Community Internship
  • Assistant Management Internship
  • Head Turtle Internship.

For longer internship stays, the station covers interns’ room and board, and in some cases even provides a monthly stipend.

Interns are eligible for a reference at the end of their stay, and those who excel get first notice or offer on the advanced internships and employment opportunities.

For more information on the specific turtle conservation internship options available, check out their Internships page.

Volunteers have the chance to gain conservation skills while working with trained staff on turtle monitoring surveys, protection community-based conservation programmes.

Both interns and volunteers live and work in the Caño Palma Biological Station in the north-east Caribbean lowland rainforest of Costa Rica. Located in one of the most biodiverse regions of Latin America, the station sits within a network of protected areas, surrounded by a vast and ancient floodplain covered by a mosaic of swamp forests, palm forests, lagoons, mixed hardwoods, canals and coastal ecosystems.

The Leatherback Trust

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TLT’s Education Programs target local communities, schools, tourists and the public to raise awareness about sea turtles and engage them as conservation partners. Credit: TLT.

At a glance:

Species: Leatherback
Location: Playa Grande (Las Baulas National Park) and Playa Cabuyal, Costa Rica
Focus: Beach patrols, data collection, nest monitoring, community outreach
Programme type: Volunteering
Dates: September/October to March (nesting season)

The Leatherback Trust (TLT)’s collaborates with Earthwatch to enable volunteers to participate in conservation activities.

At Playa Grande in Las Baulas National Park, volunteers join TLT’s research team at the Goldring-Gund Station and patrol the beach during leatherback nesting season from October to March, collecting data on nesting turtles and monitoring nests.

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Use this nesting season diagram to plan your trip. Credit: TLT.

Volunteers also have the opportunity to engage in community outreach activities and explore the park’s estuaries, home to crocodiles and monkeys.

Visit TLT’s website to learn more about volunteering at Playa Grande and Playa Cabuyal.

Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program

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Credit: Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation.

At a glance:

Species: Loggerhead
Location: Ningaloo, Western Australia (or remote volunteering)
Focus: Research, conservation and education, including monitoring nesting beaches.
Programme type: Volunteering

The Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program collects baseline data on sea turtle nesting activities along the Gnaraloo coastline of Western Australia. Its goal is to identify trends and required management to protect endangered marine species and critical coastal nesting habitat.

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A Loggerhead sea turtle in Gnaraloo Bay, Western Australia. Credit: Gnaraloo Wilderness Foundation.

The Program focuses on two high density turtle rookeries: the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery and the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery.

Together the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program and the Gnaraloo Feral Animal Control Program target a key threatening process: feral predation of turtle eggs and hatchlings.

The Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program also trains scientific and other professionals and engages the community and schools in conservation activities.

Turtle Trax

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Turtle Trax offers both turtle conservation internships and volunteer opportunities on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. Credit: Turtle Trax.

At a glance:

Species: Olive Ridley (primary); Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill
Location: Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
Focus: Beach patrols, relocating nests, environmental education and awareness with the local community, generating job opportunities for locals and promoting sustainable tourism development.
Programme type: Volunteering, Internships
Dates: Approx. June – December/January
Duration: Minimum 1 week (volunteers); approx. 3 months (Research Assistant interns); 7-8 months (Coordinator interns)
Programme fee? Yes (volunteering and Research Assistant interns)
Benefits: Meals, accommodation and a monthly stipend (Coordinators)

Turtle Trax helps Costa Rican non-profit CREMA (The Rescue Center for Endangered Marine Species) manage international and national volunteers who help protect marine turtles along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

Turtle Trax runs four sea turtle conservation beach projects located on the Pacific side of Costa Rica’s southern Nicoyan Peninsula:

  • San Miguel, the project’s longest-running station
  • Costa de Oro
  • Bejuco, an isolated, remote and rustic fishing village
  • Corozalito

Volunteers can participate at Costa de Oro and San Miguel projects while internship positions are available at all four projects.

Turtle-Trax-Beach-Project-Locations

Turtle Trax Project locations. Turtle conservation internships are available at all four locations, while volunteers can participate at San Miguel and Costa de Oro. Credit: Turtle Trax.

“Over the last 16 years, volunteers have worked hard on our project beaches to protect thousands of sea turtle nests and release hundreds of thousands of hatchings into the Pacific Ocean”.

Funds generated through volunteer programs help run CREMA’s sea turtle conservation projects. They also help provide an income for local community members through opportunities such as guiding patrols and cooking meals. Volunteers’ work helps build a sense of awareness among local communities about the importance and benefits that come from protecting sea turtles – leaving a lasting impact long after volunteers move on.

Turtle Trax also offers internships each year for Coordinators and Research Assistants.

Research Assistants gain biology field experience and hands-on experience working with nesting sea turtles, participating in all aspects of sea turtle conservation, including: beach patrols, relocating nests into project hatcheries, environmental education and awareness with the local community, generating job opportunities for the locals and promoting sustainable tourism development.

A-turtle-on-the-beach-at-Corozalito-in-Costa-Rica

The Corozalito project location. Credit: Turtle Trax.

Project Coordinators are responsible for the overall success of the project by directing and managing volunteers and research assistants. They must have previous experience working with sea turtles and extensive knowledge of patrolling, scientific data collection and hatchery work, plus fluent Spanish and English, and excellent leadership skills.

Coordinators receive meals and accommodation as well as a monthly stipend to cover living costs.

Maio Biodiversity Foundation

Maio-Biodiversity-Foundation-painting-a-sea-turtle-mural-on-a-wall

Credit: FMB.

At a glance:

Species: Loggerhead
Location: Maio, Cape Verde
Focus: Patrolling beaches at night to protect nesting females from poachers, tagging and monitoring turtles, working with the fishermen of Maio to estimate the amount of turtle by-catch and mitigate its effects.
Programme type: Volunteering

Maio-Biodiversity-Foundation-staff-release-a-sea-turtle

Releasing a sea turtle. Credit: FMB.

The Maio Biodiversity Foundation (Fundação Maio Biodiversidade – FMB)’s goal is to protect the unique fauna and flora of Maio Island while creating opportunities and long-term benefits for its people though sustainable & eco-friendly economic development.

Their Turtle Protection Program involves night patrolling of beaches to protect nesting females from poachers, tagging and monitoring turtles, working with the fishermen of Maio to estimate the amount of turtle by-catch and mitigate its effects, and more.

Their sea turtle conservation program has won the International Sea Turtle Society’s Grassroots Conservation Award in 2015 for their community-based sea turtle conservation program.
You can learn more about volunteering with FMB via their Facebook page.

Tengah Island Conservation

Person-with-gloves-holding-two-sea-turtle-hatchlings_Tengah-Island-Conservation

Credit: Tengah Island Conservation.

At a glance:

Species: Green, Hawksbill
Location: Tengah Island, Malaysia
Focus: Relocating and protecting nests from human poaching and natural predators, including night/morning patrols, collection of biometric data, nest excavations and hatchery maintenance.
Programme type: Volunteering
Dates: February – November
Programme fee? Yes

Tengah Island Conservation’s Turtle Watch project aims to increase Green and Hawksbill turtle hatchlings’ chances of survival by relocating and protecting natural nests from human poaching and natural predators.

Their hatchery serves as home for all natural nests collected from P. Tengah and the nearby islands. Volunteers get involved in daily tasks including night and morning patrols, collection of biometric data, nests excavations and hatchery maintenance, alongside other research and conservation projects.

Watch a rare day time hatching of a Hawksbill nest at the Tengah Island Conservation turtle hatchery.

Conservation Assistants are expected to ‘dive in’ and get involved contribute to conservation ideas and developments, grow their understanding of conservation and educate visitors and locals about conservation.

Learn more about volunteering as a Conservation Assistant with Tengah Island Conservation’s Turtle Watch.

Marine Savers

Chippy-the-turtle-swimming-over-a-coral-reef-with-a-satellite-tracker

‘Chippy’ was rescued after becoming entangled in a fishing net. She was taken to Marine Savers’ turtle rescue centre at Landaa Giraavaru to recover from a flipper amputation and released with a satellite tracking tag. Credit: Marine Savers.

At a glance:

Species: Green, Hawksbill, Olive-Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead
Location: Maldives
Focus: Turtle feeding and care of sick animals, monitoring health and growth.
Programme type: Internships
Dates: Year-round
Duration: 70 to 90 days
Programme fee? Yes

If you’re a post-graduate marine biology (or similar) student working towards an MSc or PhD qualification, you could join one of Marine Savers’ Marine Biology Internships.

Interns assist Marine Savers’ experienced team of marine biologists with all conservation projects, which include:

  • Turtle Conservation – Assist with turtle feeding and care of sick animals; clean pools and monitor health/growth.
  • Coral Propagation – Collect coral fragments, transplant the frame, maintain and photograph existing frames, and interact with guests and local children to educate them about coral reefs.
  • Guest Excursions – Give marine life presentations and guided snorkel safaris, increasing awareness of marine biology and conservation in the Maldives.
  • Aquaculture (where appropriate) – including tank cleaning, fish feeding, larval rearing, monitoring.
  • Personal Project – Develop a personal project, ideally under supervision from your college/university.

Interns work 6 days per week between the hours of 09:00 and 18:00.

Trooper-the-turlte-swimming-with-a-pair-of-prosthetic-flippers

‘Trooper’ testing out a pair of prosthetic flippers. Credit: Marine Savers.

The Turtle Survival Alliance

Sea-turtle-conservation-internships-Turtle-Conservation-Alliance

At a glance:

Species: All, depending on current collection
Location: Cross, South Carolina
Focus: Animal husbandry, monitoring animal health, propagation, assisting with basic veterinary procedures, basic animal medical treatments, plus all aspects of day-to-day operations of the Turtle Survival Center.
Programme type: Internships
Dates: July – September
Duration: Minimum 2 months
Programme fee? Yes

The Turtle Survival Alliance Foundation (TSA)’s mission is “Transforming passion for turtles into effective conservation action through a global network of living collections and recovery programs.” The non-profit has committed to zero turtle extinctions in the 21st century.

In 2013, TSA opened the Turtle Survival Center in Cross, South Carolina, now a world-class turtle conservation centre.

Turtle Survival Center interns – who must hold or be pursuing a degree in biology, ecology, conservation, zoo keeping, veterinary medicine or similar – gain hands-on experience with the day-t0-day operations of a non-profit conservation centre focussed on chelonians (turtles, terrapins and tortoises).

Interns help with day-to-day operations of the TSC, which can include:

  • Providing high standards of animal husbandry to a diverse group of critically endangered chelonians
  • Monitoring animal health
  • Keeping accurate records
  • Maintaining cleanliness of animal areas
  • Propagating chelonians, including egg care and incubation
  • Assisting with veterinary care procedures
  • Performing basic animal medical treatments
  • Maintaining facilities, grounds and buildings
  • Horticulture/gardening, particularly in animal areas
  • Assisting with enclosure design and construction
  • Interacting with other interns, volunteers, students, visiting biologists, and guests
  • Participating in outreach events as well as guest tours of the facility
  • Ensuring security of the facility

TSA also offers volunteer opportunities in Florida and Texas, regardless of experience level. Study volunteers snorkel springs for 3-5 day sampling sessions, capturing, measuring and marking all turtle species and removing invasive species.

Don’t want to get wet? Additional volunteers kayak or canoe to support the snorkel team in the water, or help measure turtles and record data on land.

“You will catch a lot of turtles!”

LAMAVE

Apo-Island-turtle-research-for-conservation-by-LAMAVE

Credit: LAMAVE.

At a glance:

Species: Green
Location: Philippines
Focus: Assessing turtle populations
Programme type: Volunteer
Duration: Minimum 3 months
Programme fee? Yes

Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the research and conservation of marine megafauna and the marine environment in the Philippines.

“Green, hawksbill, olive Ridley and leatherback turtles can be found across the [Philippines] archipelago, whereas loggerheads remain a mystery though known to occur in the country”. 

Since 2011, LAMAVE has worked with turtles, and since 2013 they’ve provided support to the Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (AIPLAS) Management Board, to understand how the turtle population use the protected area.

Their work involves ID’ing the individual Green Turtles of Apo Island via facial photo ID – a new, minimally-invasive technique – for mark-recapture analyses.

turtle-photo-ID-example-lamave-research-philippines

An example of turtle photo ID. Credit: LAMAVE.

“Identifying each turtle allows the team to conduct focal follow studies to investigate any impact the tourism might be having on individuals.

“We can study whether the turtle’s behaviour changes once tourists are in close proximity, for example if we study its breathing rate with and without tourists present we can see if this increases or decreases, or, whether the turtle swims away when a tourist approaches”.

Watch “Can’t Touch This”, starring the Apo Island Snorkel Equipment Rental and Guiding Association (AISERGA).

LAMAVE also aims to raise awareness about the unique habitat and history of Apo Island and its amazing biodiversity, thus improving the tourism experience and ensuring its long-term sustainability.

green-turtle-chelonia-mydas-infographic-by-lamave-and-nailah-alam

Green turtle infographic by Nailah Alam. Credit: LAMAVE.

LAMAVE trains volunteers in research techniques aimed to prepare them to collect data towards long-term scientific goals and policy making.

To ensure there is always an opportunity to grow and learn, every LAMAVE project accepting volunteers hosts at least one local [Filipino] Scholar.

Volunteers become very knowledgeable in turtle biology, ecology and research techniques applicable to other species, including photo-ID and how it can be used to understand residency patterns.

You’ll learn how to study turtle behaviour though focal follows, as well as helping input data and manage datasets.

(Plus did we mention access to one of the best green turtle snorkelling experiences in the Philippines on Apo Island?)

apo-island-lamave-turtle-project-team

The Apo Island LAMAVE Turtle Project Team. Credit: LAMAVE.

Learn more about volunteering with LAMAVE on their volunteer page where you can download their info pack.

 

Funding turtle conservation internships and volunteer placements

I want to volunteer my time to help sea turtles and I have to pay?!

It’s true: the large majority of sea turtle conservation internships and volunteer programmes charge a weekly or monthly fee. This fee usually covers the cost of room and board on-site for international participants, plus other essentials like transport and training.

Some organisations also rely on volunteer contributions to continue their conservation work, which might even include using contributions from international participants to help provide a few free or subsidised opportunities to locals.

If you want to know how your money is used, check out the organisation’s website (some break down their fee structure on their volunteering/interning pages) or simply ask.

Are you ready for the adventure and challenge of turtle conservation internships or volunteering but can’t afford an unpaid role?

You’re not alone and you’re not without options. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Weekly or monthly costs often go down the longer you stay. If you have the time to spare, the experience can become more affordable (especially if you compare the cost of living abroad to the cost of living at home).
  • More responsibility often means more benefits. If you already have skills and experience to offer, you can focus in on higher-responsibility internship or field staff positions. Many of these roles come with free room and board, and some even receive a stipend to cover living expenses and/or reimbursement for international flights.
  • Consider progression. If you don’t have the skills or experience to apply for a skilled role just yet, consider researching the potential to start out as a volunteer or intern and move into a role with more responsibility. You can ask the organisation directly and/or talk to previous interns or staff.
  • Get creative and fund your way. If you’re motivated and determined, there are funding opportunities available for conservation internships. And there are a lot of creative ways to raise money yourself. Check out these six tips for funding volunteer work.

Do you know an amazing organisation offering turtle conservation internships? Or do you have any tips from your personal experience? Or do you have a funding tip to share? Let us know at [email protected]!

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