The Science Exchange
The Science Exchange Programs
The Sea Exchange aims to train the next generation of students to become scientifically literate, international team players through our two-month STEM research internships...
The Science Exchange Reviews
The science exchange research at Campamento Tortuguero Mayto
Submitted by Kara Hiebert - University Of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine | April 05, 2017
I completed this program over 2 months during the summer of 2015. I was placed at a sea turtle conservation camp in Mayto, Jalisco, Mexico. I decided to apply for this program because I wanted some more research experience, which is exactly what I got (and so much more!). While I was in Mexico, my research partner and I were responsible for completing a research project that examined the topographical changes of the sea turtle nesting beach we were staying on. Prior to the actual trip we met with the program coordinator, Katherine, via skype to talk about the project itself and all of the logictics of the trip. Katherine was very helpful in making sure we had all of the supplies and information we needed prior to leaving, and then she met us in Mexico for a weekend of orientation. The research project taught me a lot about what goes in to creating a project and the process of writing a scientific paper about it. The paper that I wrote with the help of several wonderful colleagues is actually currently under review for publication. I would have never thought that I would be able to write and potentially publish a scientific paper at this point in my education if I had not done this program.
Aside from the research experience, I was amazed by the work that the sea turtle camp (Campamento Tortuguero Mayto) does and the culture that I was immersed in. While staying at the camp, my research partner, other volunteers from around Mexico, and I helped with monitoring nesting sea turtles at night, collecting their nests to protect them from poachers, and releasing the hatchlings to the sea (my favorite part!). During the day we also helped out with cooking and some general maintenance of the camp, but it wasn't all work, no play. We also had plenty of time to snorkel, hike, and visit some of the surrounding towns.
If I had the opportunity to go back in time and do this project again, I would be there in a heartbeat. I fell in love with the beach that I was staying on and I met so many wonderful people. I took a couple Spanish classes before this trip, but I learned far more in the two months that I spent on this trip than I did in a year of classes. If you haven't taken extensive Spanish classes, though, don't worry! Most of the people I met along the way spoke both English and Spanish (I was always so impressed) and they were so patient while I was learning.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not include some of the pictures I took on this trip. The scenery alone was enough to make me want to relive this experience again and again. I hope this review was helpful, and I truly mean it when I say that completing this program was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Program: Sea Turtle Research Field Course
Still one of the best experiences of my life...
Submitted by Lizette Guzman-Zaragoza - San Francisco State University | March 30, 2017
It has been 5 years since I participated as an intern with The Science Exchange and I still remember everything like it was yesterday. Because of this program I have developed a profound admiration for marine fauna, expanded my knowledge on climate change impacts and adjusted my behavior to reduce my carbon footprint! I was able to conduct my own research, work directly with sea turtles and immerse myself in the local community of Tortuguero, Costa Rica. I have made many life long friends and most importantly am now connected to colleagues from all around the world. I would highly recommend this program for any biologist (especially marine biologist) that wants hands on research experience and a chance to contribute to sea turtle conservation.
Research in Mayto
Submitted by Shelley Martinez - University of San Diego | August 29, 2016
My time in Mexico was probably some of the best 2 months I've experienced in my life. It was hot, and I was constantly sweating battling a variety of insects, but when you live on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and get to interact with sea turtles on a regular basis, it's really not all that bad. Most of the time we ate, slept, hung out and went swimming every day. And the people you live with become like your family, everyone has their roles bringing different personalities and life experiences to the table. As far as the research went, it took a little bit of time to get a hang of things and figure out the logistics of when data would be collected. It was always really hot, which you get used to, and you are supposed to be collecting the data when it is low tide, which did not necessarily always happen since we did not have access to tide charts online. So sometimes, we had large washes crashing down on us and washing away our research equipment. But as one would expect, anything can happen in the field and you don't really have that much control.
Another issue with our placement is that we had very limited access to Internet to access my email or contact friends and family back home. Whenever I needed help with my graphs or how to manipulate my data, I had a really hard time getting in contact with my supervisor back in the States. It wasn't until I left my research site and went back to Vallarta where I had access to cell signal and WiFi that I could successfully get in contact with help to complete my paper. Overall, I learned a lot about field research, about sea turtles and their conservation efforts, about nature and about myself. My time in Mayto being able to meet so many people studying science like me as well as other things gave me a lot of things to consider about what I want to do with my future now that I have a year left until I graduate. There is still a lot I need to learn, and I will forever be grateful for the time I was able to spend in Mayto and the incredible people I was able to meet. I hope to go back someday.
Sea turtle ecology internship in Abaco, Bahamas
Submitted by Liberty Boyd - Florida Atlantic University | August 11, 2016
The Science Exchange sea turtle ecology internship was honestly the most impactful and incredible experiences of my life. I lived in the Bahamas for two months at a research station and was able to meet other researchers from other universities and organizations. I gain invaluable research experience that greatly prepared me for graduate school and a future career in marine biology. I was also able to conduct my own research project on burrowing sea cucumbers. The countless connections and unforgettable experiences I gained through this internship will last with me forever.
Experiencing more than you expected!
Submitted by Ace - - | May 26, 2016
My experience turned out to be pretty interesting, but one of the most memorable I have ever had. I have traveled quite a bit more after this internship, and it has given me a lot more time to reflect on the experience I had compared to other experiences in Latin American countries and conservation. I was quite confused at first, but by the end, I felt that I was beginning to understand my place in the community and conservation of sea turtles, so I was quite sad to leave. Many experiences that I found difficult were really just due to experiencing a new culture. Language barriers and lack of understanding about the culture caused some displeasure at first, but upon further reflection was just a problem because it challenged my set American ideas so much.
The interactions I had with the turtles are unforgettable. My favorite turtle that I ever saw had bioluminescent algae on her shell that lit up upon touch. I will never forget how magical she was. The interactions that I had with the turtles and studying beach trash have helped me get quite a few jobs in the field afterwards. The worst thing? Nothing will ever compare to how cute baby sea turtles are!
Isolation was one of the biggest challenges that I had to overcome. My Spanish was not very good, and my personality did not quite match those of my 2 fellow workers. This was my biggest culture shock and left me feeling quite isolated. It also provided me with the perfect opportunity to challenge myself to go beyond my comfort levels. Many people were so friendly and willing to help despite my lack of Spanish. I wish I had only tried to branch out sooner!
The Science Exchange responded to this review May 27, 2016 at 4:50 PM
And now you have been living and working in the Galapagos Islands! Congratulations on your personal and cultural triumphs!