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Costa Rica: Biology of Sea Turtles

This course, to be taught at the Pacuare reserve in Costa Rica, will provide extensive education and hands-on activities regarding the biology of sea turtles. This course is implemented as a “research travel” opportunity for marine science majors/minors and biology students, and is an amazing opportunity to assist with a sea turtle monitoring project and be an active collaborator in international sea turtle conservation efforts. 

Costa Rica's Pacuare Nature Reserve, with four miles of beach and a 2,000 acre lowland tropical forest, is a protected sea turtle reserve. The beach at Pacuare is of critical importance in terms of worldwide sea turtle nesting activity. Costa Rica's tropical lowland forests are home to howler monkeys, three-toed sloths, toucans, reptiles, and other wonders of the natural world. You'll have a chance to see all these creatures and more!

On-course, students complete at least 35 hours of research while patrolling the remote beach at the Pacuare Reserve in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust. This 15-day program also includes over 60 hours of coursework in topics such as evolution, morphology and anatomy, population genetics, geography range reproduction, orientation, habitat utilization, locomotion, foraging ecology, diving and thermal physiology, diseases and human impacts.  As part of the laboratory portion of this course, students perform research projects at the Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica.  Highly regarded student projects are encouraged to be adapted for peer-reviewed publication. 

Students interested in this course will need to fill out a CCU Online Application as well as apply directly to Ecology Project International.

The CCU Online Application is due November 30, 2013.  Students must complete this online application and pay the $500 deposit to CCU student accounts by this date.  After they are accepted, students will need to complete the EPI application.  Students will receive instructions from Dr. Koepfler on how to do so. 

Please note that a portion of the Program Fees for the Costa Rica Sea Turtle Program will be made to CCU and the remaining balance will go to Ecology Project International - the organization in Costa Rica. See Payment Schedule below for payments to be made to Coastal. Questions regarding payment schedule for EPI can be directed to Dr. Koepfler at eric@coastal.edu

Location: Costa Rica
Program Dates: May 13 - May 26
Instructor(s): Eric Koepfler, Ph.D. 
Program Fee (not including Tuition): $4,107 
Tuition Fee: $350/credit hour 
Payment Schedule: 

The above program and tuition fees will be payable as follows: 

At Time of Application: $500 (to CCU Student Accounts)
December 13, 2013: $50 (to CCU Student Accounts)
April 13, 2014: $1400 (Tuition for 4 credits - payment should be made to CCU Student Accounts). 

The balance of Program Fees totaling $3557 will be payable to Ecology Project International (EPI) field program in Costa Rica, where the study abroad program will take place. Dr. Koepfler will direct students on how and when to apply and pay the remaining balance to EPI.  

Courses Offered:

MSCI 376 (Biology of Sea Turtles) - 2 credits 
MSCI 376L (Biology of Sea Turtles/Lab) - 1 credit 
MSCI 399 Sea Turtle Conservation Internship - 1 credit


MSCI 376: Successful completion of MSCI 111/111L and MSCI 112/112L, or completion of BIOL 122 for Biology majors. MSCI 302/302L also strongly recommended.

MSCI 376L: Coreq - MSCI 376

MSCI 399: A contract must be approved by the instructor and department chair by time of registration

Do any of the course(s) satisfy core curriculum requirements? No
Is a Passport required? Yes, students must have a valid passport to participate on this program.
Are vaccinations needed to participate? Coastal Carolina University adheres to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations.  Please visit the website http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ for your destination.

Course Descriptions

MSCI 376 (Biology of Sea Turtles): (Prereq: MSCI 302, BIOL 122 or permission of instructor). A comprehensive investigation of the evolution, biology, and ecology of sea turtles (order Chelonia) will be covered in this course. Topics to be focused on include: phylogeny, molecular evolution, anatomy, reproduction, ontogenetic changes, sensory capabilities, navigation, feeding behaviors, diving physiology, thermal biology, ecological roles, and matters of conservation. 

MSCI 376L (Biology of Sea Turtle Lab): (Coreq: MSCI 376). The labratory demonstrates the topics and principles presented in lecture, involves field research, and conservation and regulatory interest site visitation. 

MSCI 399 (Sea Turtle Conservation Internship):  (Prereq: A contract must be approved by the instructor and department chair by time of registration). Directed study of specific topics related to marine science. 

About the Program Leaders

Dr. Eric Koepfler




Apply Now

Maymester/Short-Term Online Application

Be prepared to supply the following information at the time you apply: 

- Statement of purpose (a Word document or PDF)
- An academic reference
- Copy of your transcript
- A health form and participation fitness certification

For More Information, Please Contact:

The Office of International Programs & Services
Ms. Lori Patterson, M.P.S.
Coordinator/Advisor, Study Abroad 
843-349-2684 / lori@coastal.edu
Singleton Building 119