BHS students spend summer studying endangered species

By Aaron Reynolds
The Surveyor

Berthoud High School students Chris Creager, Hannah Miller, Holly Kozlowski, and Connor Siruta, along with science teacher Brianne Wold, spent part of the summer studying leatherback turtles in Costa Rica as part of the Sea Turtle Ecology Program as part of Ecology Project International.  Photo courtesy of Brianne Wold

Berthoud High School students Chris Creager, Hannah Miller, Holly Kozlowski, and Connor Siruta, along with science teacher Brianne Wold, spent part of the summer studying leatherback turtles in Costa Rica as part of the Sea Turtle Ecology Program as part of Ecology Project International.
Photo courtesy of Brianne Wold

For teenagers, summer is an excellent time to take a break from school to hang out with friends and do whatever else of interest and, for four students from Berthoud High School (BHS), that hobby expands just a little further than taking a splash at the local pool.

BHS science teacher Brianne Wold spent nine days with the students at two locations in Costa Rica as part of the Sea Turtle Ecology Program provided via Ecology Project International (EPI).

The group met up with six girls from a school in St. Louis, then split time between EPI’s Caribbean turtle reserve and a rainforest biological station. At the reserve, the students conducted a turtle census as they walked the beach each night in search of nesting leatherback sea turtles.

Leatherback turtles are named after their shell which is leather-like rather than hard, like other turtles. They are the largest ocean-going turtle in the world, weighing as much as 1,400 pounds and measuring over six feet long. According to amnh.org, only 100,000 females of the highly migratory turtle remain, as they are threatened by commercial fishing and egg poaching.

Wold recollected on the amazing trip to Costa Rica.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of these kids,” Wold said. “They got to do something that you cannot do here in the United States.”

Wold said at the rainforest biological station they were able to track wildlife while going on some very memorable hikes. Additionally, they did some scientific research on rainforest and wildlife preservation – which vastly interested the students as, Wold explained, “they all have a big interest in ecology.”

Then, the group ventured to the turtle reserve directly on the coastline where they met with full-time staff members who have dedicated their lives to protecting the endangered species. Impressively, the staff members work shifts roaming the beach from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in search of a leatherback turtle laying her eggs.

“All of the students got to see a leatherback turtle laying her eggs, and they got to be up close and personal,” Wold said.

Each of the students got to touch the turtle and held a bag to catch the eggs.

“It was definitely the coolest thing I have ever done,” Wold said.

She hopes the leatherback sea turtles study becomes a yearly adventure for BHS students, as EPI also studies other endangered species in places such as Galapagos, Belize, Baja Mexico, and even in Yellowstone. The program is especially beneficial to those seeking a career in the ecology field, as students may earn college credit through it.

“If kids can start saving now we won’t have to do so much fundraising,” Wold concluded.

For more information on EPI’s programs, visit their website, www.ecologyproject.org/.