This will be my last post. My summer of traveling and internships has come to an end. It has gone by so insanely fast I almost can’t believe I am leaving tomorrow. I remember the day I left the Portland International airport so clearly. This has been an amazing summer, one I will never forget. I have learned so many things and met so many wonderful people. I am so grateful that I was able to afford to have these experiences. Not only have I gained a lot of experience and knowledge to put on a resume, but I have also grown as a person. Due to this summer I am more confident in my self. I guess traveling alone to foreign countries will do that to a person.

I got two very different experiences from my two internships. In Puerto Rico I worked with sea turtles and walk the beaches everyday. But besides working with different species there were some other distinct differences. My internship in Puerto Rico was a very social one. I met a lot of people that I will be friends with for the rest of my life. We went out a lot and I got to see a lot of the island. It was like an internship and vacation in one.

In Panama I worked with monkeys and lived in the jungle. The living conditions were very rustic compared to Puerto Rico. I only went into town once a week and only had access to the internet once a week as well. Almost everything out here can hurt you in some way. There some things I am going to miss about Panama like the fresh fruit, the gorgeous sunrises, the baby monkeys, the big monkeys, grooming Ace, and how peaceful and beautiful it is here. Some things I am not going to miss are getting eaten alive by insects, the over an hour ride into the city, waking up at 5:30am, the many, many spiders, and washing my clothes in a bucket.

t’s been an amazing summer.

 

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Over the past week interns have been slowly leaving. On the 15th Alfie, Jenn, and Chris left. On the 16th Kiki and Eric left. Now its just Elise, Bree, and I left to run the sanctuary. Currently we are just focusing on the babies and going up to the triangle. The babies are as cute as ever. I can’t believe I get to hang out with them every day and take naps in hammocks with them. One of the monkeys up at the triangle Coco is getting a little aggressive so we haven’t been handling him lately. I have gotten bit by him twice once on the side of my face and once on the back of my leg. Rehabing howler monkeys is pretty intense. We hike up in the morning and are now leaving at 11am instead of 5pm. We are trying out a new way to feed them. We put food in a bag and hoist it into a tree. We are going to start collecting data to see if this encourages the monkeys to stay in the trees more. I finally got groomed by Ace. He didn’t do it for very long but I’m counting it. That is the ultimate acceptance in life, when a capuchin grooms you. The other day we saw dolphins in the estuary, it was so cool. Daily life is pretty much the same as my last post so there is not much to update in that department. I only have 1 more week left before I leave for Mexico. Here are some monkey pictures for your viewing pleasure. IMG_0409 IMG_0397 IMG_0425 IMG_0456 IMG_0458 IMG_0591 IMG_0596

On my first day in Batipa I was on baby duty all day. We have two babies Stevey, who is blind and Rugbee. They are about 6 to 8 months old. I woke up at 5:30am and prepared the babies food. We have to make them bottles and cut up lots of veggies and some fruit. Then we get the babies out of their crates by 6am. We feed them then take them to trees. All day all you do is put the babes in trees and encourage them to stay there. They eat at least 3 times a day breakfast, lunch, and dinner and sometimes snacks in between. They go to bed at about 5:30pm.

On my second day I went up to the triangle, rehab center. To get there is about a 45 minute hike down the road and up the side of a mountain. There is where cloud, ace, coco, and nina live. We get up there around 8 am and don’t leave until about 5:30pm. When we are up there we feed them breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the jungle on a platform in a tree. All day we walk up rehab trails and encourage them to go into trees. Cloud is the only monkey in a cage because he is very aggressive toward women so he can only be let out when guys are up there.

On my third day I did transects, which is literally just hacking through the jungle with a machete. We walk the line between tike and primary forest and track it with a gps. We will put the data in a gis system and then decide where to cut transects. Transects can be intense. There are ants, bees, so many spiders, and snakes.

I arrived in David at 6am after a 6 hour bus ride and was greeted by Jennifer and Chris who are managers. They picked up Bree, another new intern, and I in town at the bus station. Before we headed out to Alouatta Sanctuary we had to go over a lot of information. Some of this information included reading about all of the different types of snakes here, how to identify them and which ones are poisonous, and how to properly take care of a monkey bite. They also told me that before I put on shoes I had to dumped them out and look inside to make sure there were no scorpions inside. You have to look where you step and never put your hand anywhere you haven’t thoroughly searched because you may be putting it on something poisonous. Some of the dangers out here include spiders, scorpions, snakes, fairy wasps, caterpillars, ants, crocodiles, and electrocution. I have already seen two scorpions since I have been here and yesterday I wore snake guards for the first time. Whenever you walk in tall grass or the jungle you are required to wear snake guards to protect your ankles and calfs. Here at Alouatta Sanctuary there are two Tamara monkeys, Mr. T and Razor blade, two Capuchin monkeys, Ace and Cloud, and four howler monkeys, Coco and Nina are adults and live at the rehab center and Stevey and Rugbee are babies and live with us.

We live in Batipa and its on the water. The roofs are thatched and made from palm trees. Every thing is open and we have bug nets around the kitchen area and where we sleep. I wash dishes with a hose, the stove is two open burners, the kitchen area is open and food is just placed on shelves. If you open a bag of chips they will be stale in 30 minutes. I have to hand wash my clothes in a bucket and hang dry them. The shower is open and only has cold water. The other adult monkeys live at the rehabilitation center which is a 45 minute walk from here.

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Tomorrow I leave for Panama and I am still in shock that my time here in Puerto Rico is up. These 7 weeks have gone by so incredible fast. This internship has been such a wonderful experience that I will always remember. I am going to miss all of the people I have become good friends with and of course the baby sea turtles. I know I will be coming back to this beautiful island not to far into the future.

 

The food here is amazing. A traditional Puerto Rican mean consists of rice and beans, tostones (fried plantains) with mayo ketchup of course, macaroni salad, some sort of meat, and maybe bread fruit. You would think after a month and a half I would get tired of rice but I can honestly say I am not. I can’t forget about the mofongo, a staple here in Puerto Rico, which is smashed plantains with some sort of meat and vegetables absolutely delicious. I am also going to miss the food stands on the side of the road. We would always stop and get a panadia which is like an empanada and they only usually cost a dollar what a steal.

 

Maunabo has some of the nicest people I have ever met. Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly. When you greet someone here you hug and kiss their cheek instead of a handshake. Also when your driving people will always wave to you whether they know you or not. I got to know some of the other local volunteers that are apart of the ATMAR organization and they are all wonderful people. Since being here I have gotten to know and live with 5 other interns, Kelsey, Chelsea, Lyan, Clay, and Jorge, plus a few regulars who stop by and stay for a couple nights. After 7 weeks of working and living together I have gotten to know them very well and will miss them so much.

 

Goodbye Puerto Rico I’m going to miss you

 

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On Thursday night the other interns and I were sitting around the table playing games. It was about 9pm when we hear a knock on the door. Lyan got up to go see who it was. When she came back her messages sent us into a mad scramble. It was a guy who had been playing basketball on the court next to the ATMAR center when he noticed a baby turtle on the court. They went to investigate and it turned out a leatherback nest was hatching. We grabbed our bags, headlamps, gloves, and run out the door towards the beach. When we arrived there was a small group of people standing around a pile of baby turtles. Lyan our team leader started giving directions to people and we went to work. Due to the light from the basketball court the turtles were disoriented and instead of going towards the ocean they went in the opposite direction to the courts which is about 100 feet away. There was a group of people with their cellphones out scanning the ground looking for turtles. I stayed by the nest and directed the emerging turtles in the right direction towards the ocean. We found 35 turtles scattered around the basketball court, grass field, and vegetation heading up to the center. Once we had collected the lost turtles and the rest of the babies had hatched from the nest we began to dig it up. We took out the rest of the babies stuck in the sand along with the eggs to collect data. It was very lucky we were there otherwise many more turtles would have died. As I mentioned in a previous post light pollution is threatening the survival of turtles. Instead of going to the ocean which was about 5 feet away the baby leatherbacks went 100 feet in the wrong direction towards the basketball court lights. This exposes them to predation from dogs, birds, and crabs. They can also easily get caught in the vegetation and if left there the sun in the morning would kill them. This is a major problem that needs to be dealt with if we want to increase the survival of turtles.

Today, I woke up at about 7 am to go on a morning beach patrol. I patrolled Larga with Clayton one of the other interns here at ATMAR. We found two new hawksbill nests and one hatched nest which we had to mark for later due to time constraint we needed to be back at the center and ready by 8:30 for a presentation. Jorge, Clay, and I went to the local gym with Luis to give a presentation. There were about 150 to 200 students present. The point of the presentation was to conserve  Maunabo’s natural beauty instead of industrializing it with big name stores like Walmart and Target. Currently you will find no stores like that here only little markets and bakeries. Maunabo has gorgeous beaches, mountains, and a unique, unspoiled culture. It is also one of the poorest towns in Puerto Rico, but if you really want to know what Puerto Rico is like then you have to get out of San Juan and go to town like Maunabo. Clay and I both spoke briefly about our experience here and how amazing our internship has been. After we went back to the center and made sea turtles signs for the beaches informing people to be cautious of the nests. I look a nap to recharge because in the late afternoon early evening we had to go back to Larga and work the nest from the morning. It was an uneventful nest with no alive baby sea turtles. After Larga we went to California to patrol. We each ended up working a nest. My nest had 86 hatched turtles and I found 3 alive babies which is always a treat. So that was my Thursday.

 

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So far for my internship I have mainly been working with Leatherback sea turtles, so I thought I would share some fun facts about these amazing animals. Leatherbacks or Dermochelys coriacea (scientific name), are the biggest of the sea turtles and as their name suggests they do not have a hard shell just flexible leathery skin which allows them to dive to very deep depths. They can dive deeper than 4,000 feet. The only other animals that can dive deeper are Sperm whales, Beaked whales, and Elephant seals. An average adult is 5 to 6 feet long and weighs 600 to 800 pounds. Their main food source is jelly fish and other invertebrates and they can consume twice their body weight per day. Leatherbacks have thermoregulatory adaptations called gigantothermy which allows them to tolerate cold waters and gives them a wide distribution. An adult female was recently tracked for more than 12,000 miles from Indonesia to Oregon which is one of the longest recorded migrations for vertebrate animals.  They also have a pink spot on their head which is unique to each individual like a persons finger print.

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Today I patrolled Larga with Chelsea and Debra. We usually start walking the beach around 7 before it gets too hot. We have a sheet that tells us what nests are going to be hatching soon so we can keep checking them until they hatch. We walk the whole beach and along the way we look for turtle tracks and new nests. We found two new nests at Larga. When we find a new nest we take GPS coordinates, write notes in our field journals, and mark the spot with a stick and flagging. On the flagging we write what species of turtle nested, its usually tinglar (leatherback) or carey (hawksbill), then what beach, the way point number, the date, and our initials. We put two flags to indicate that we took the GPS coordinates. For example, a flag would have this, NT PL 233 2 Julio 2014 BH. At playa de California they found a hatched nest. When we find a nest that has hatched we dig it up, take out any alive baby turtles, and all of the eggs. We wash off the baby turtles in the ocean and if they are ready we put them in the sand and allow them to make there way to the ocean. We have to watch them to ensure no birds, crabs, or dogs eat them before they reach the water. We do not put them in the water because they have to crawl on the sand to imprint the information so the females know what beach to return to when they are adults to reproduce. If the turtles stomachs are still open we take them back to the center for a night or two and release them when they are ready. Once all of the eggs are dug up we sort them. We make three piles, one for the sacks, one for the hatched eggs, and one for the big eggs which may contain embryos. We open up the big eggs and keep track of how many have embryos and how many don’t. We count all of the piles and write the information in our notes which is later put in a database.

We are typically done by noon then we go back to the center for lunch, showers, and naps. This is a typical day for me. Once a week one of us stays at the center to clean and let any visitors into the center. We have a room that has turtle shells and information about the different species that come to Puerto Rico.

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The work I am doing here in Puerto Rico with the ATMAR (Amigos de las Tortugas Marinas) organization is very important. Many sea turtles are critically endangered including the Hawksbill sea turtles. Only about 1 in 1,000 baby sea turtles will survive to reach adulthood and reproduce. Due to this staggering statistic they need all the help they can get. Sea turtles face many challenges such as natural predators like crabs, birds, and sharks, getting caught in fishing nets,  ocean pollution, trash, light pollution, and poaching. Now they are facing another challenge, rising temperatures. The sex of sea turtles depends on the temperature of the sand they are born in. Warmer sand produces females and cooler sand produces males. Recently there has been concern due to the rising temperatures because more and more females are being produced. This skews the male to female sex ration and could potentially lead to a big problem in the future. With fewer males less eggs will get fertilized which leads to less sea turtles overall. The other challenges I listed above are being confronted such as TED’s which stand for Turtle Exclusion Devices and allows sea turtles to escape nets, turtle friendly lights are used around beaches, and beach patrols are discouraging poachers. This new problem however can not be so easily solved as it involves the entire planet. What can people do to help mitigate this extremely daunting problem? Change your light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs last 10 times longer and use two-thirds less energy than regular light bulbs. Only use heating and air conditioning when you are home and turn them off before you leave. Try to drive less. And last but certainly not least conserve electricity. Turn off lights and unplug electronics and kitchen appliances when you are not using them. You don’t have to travel to Puerto Rico for an internship to help sea turtles. You can help right at home by making a few simple changes. IMG_0088 IMG_0077