Volunteer and Sea Turtle Tourism: A Case Study of a Social-Ecological Conservation Project in Matapalo Beach, Costa Rica
Barnard, Meredith Leigh
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University of Washington Abstract Volunteer and Sea Turtle Tourism: A Case Study of a Social-Ecological Conservation Project in Matapalo Beach, Costa Rica Meredith Leigh Barnard Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Professor Marc L. Miller School of Marine and Environmental Affairs All species of sea turtles are on the IUCN list as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. Sea turtle conservation efforts are facilitated by volunteer-based social ecological conservation projects. This thesis describes sea turtle conservation projects in Costa Rica and focuses on a case study in Matapalo Beach. The Matapalo Beach project is a success both in terms of conservation and social objectives. Regarding conservation, the hatching success has been consistently high. Regarding social objectives, we found that, in general, college-educated women from Europe are the major demographic group that participates in this project. Selected findings show that regarding motivations, a) few respondents had a history of wildlife conservation volunteering, b) roughly half indicated that volunteering was the main purpose of their trip, and c) most said that sea turtles were important to them. Regarding satisfactions, a) most learned about sea turtle biology, b) most viewed their work as important to conservation, and c) most enjoyed seeing sea turtles, watching hatchlings, handling turtle eggs, and learning about sea turtles. Regarding self-efficacy, the volunteers' environmental education and wildlife interactions were most important. We recommended that social-ecological conservation projects emphasize a positive, personal experience for the volunteers. This will better generate behavioral changes in volunteers to aid in successful conservation efforts.
- Marine affairs