Sea Turtle Biology in Costa Rica - Coastal Carolina University
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Sea Turtle Biology in Costa Rica

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The location along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica includes one of the most important nesting beach locations for the Atlantic Leatherback Sea Turtle “Dermochyles coricea.” This location at this time of year ensures exposure of students to nesting females as well as emerging hatchings. The program enables a very hands on approach with study of each life history stage.

Students will be working on research projects with the sea turtles and they will be interacting with the scientific staff at the Reserve.

This Faculty-Led Program offers a suite of courses – lecture, laboratory, and internship – taught in Costa Rica, and it is designed to highlight the main topics of sea turtle biology: evolution, phylogeny, current conservation status, reproduction, nesting and hatchling development, orientation and navigation, habitat utilization, and migration, health problems and diseases, environmental and anthropogenic disturbances, and more! The Pacuare Reserve is a stunning location along the Caribbean coast and one of the most important nesting beaches for the Atlantic Leatherback Sea Turtle, "Dermochyles coricea." At this time of year, the location of this program ensures that all students will be exposed to nesting females as well as emerging hatchlings. Outside of the classroom, instructors will take a hands-on approach to research and conservation activities for each stage of life history. Students will be able to explore the surrounding tropical rainforest, home of howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, iguanas, leafcutter ants, dart frogs, etc. After departing the Reserve, the group travels to Earth University, spends a night lodging underneath an active volcano, and concludes the program with a rafting trip down the world renowned Pacuare River, thereby completing the cycle as the water spills back into the sea at the border of the Reserve.

Physical Requirements: Perform a nightly four-hour watch during which students will walk a stretch of beach looking for turtles. Students should be comfortable walking at least four hours on a sandy beach at night under tropical conditions.

Course Information

Students participating on this program are required to be enrolled in all 4 credits.

MSCI 376 Biology of Sea Turtles. (2 credits). (Prereq: MSCI 302, BIOL 122 or permission of the 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.
Instructor: George Boneillo and Eric Rosch

MSCI 376L Biology of Sea Turtles Laboratory. (1 credit). (Prereq: coreq: MSCI 376). The laboratory demonstrates the topics and principles presented in lecture, involves field research, and conservation and regulatory interest site visitation. Eight to ten hours per week.
Instructor: George Boneillo and Eric Rosch

MSCI 399Q Sea Turtle Conservation Internship. (1 credit). (Prereq: Coreq: MSCI 376 & MSCI 376L). Directed study of specific topics related to marine science.
Instructor: George Boneillo and Eric Rosch

Program Leaders 

George Boneillo image‌George Boneillo, Instructor of Marine Sciences, 843-349-5068

‌George Boneillo has a Ph.D. in marine science and has been an instructor for the Sea Turtle Biology in Costa Rica program since 2014. He has experience teaching a variety of courses at Coastal Carolina University including marine biology, marine plankton and marine chemistry. He has had extensive field experience conducting research around the world.


Eric Rosch imageEric Rosch, Instructor of Marine Sciences, 843-349-2261

Eric Rosch has a Ph.D. in zoology and has worked with sea turtle conservation in South Florida during his M.S. program. He has been conducting research on beach ecosystems for several years and has done extensive research in tropical ecosystems in South Florida, the Bahamas, and Central America.

Cost to Participate = Program Fee ($5393) + Tuition ($1664) + Technology Fee ($20) + Out-of-pocket Expenses ($400)

The tuition for this program is for Maymester term.

Included in Program Fee:

  • Roundtrip airfare from U.S. to Costa Rica; accommodations while in country; most meals; local transportation; planned activities and excursions; and emergency medical insurance.

Not Included in Program Fee:

  • Tuition
  • Estimated out-of-pocket expenses as covered by program fee: $48 for meals, $145 for passport cost and $200 for COVID-19 testing (entry/reentry).
Discounted Tuition for Education Abroad Students: $416/credit
CCU credits  Program Fee Tuition ($416/credit) Technology Fee
Expenses (estimate)
Cost to
4 credits $5393 $1664 $20 $400 $7477


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Due
Deposit Oct. 27, 2021 $300 (refundable until commitment deadline Dec. 4, 2021)
Remaining Program Fee Payment  Feb. 11, 2022 $5093
Tuition and Technology Fee Payment May 7, 2022 $1684

After acceptance to the program, the payment of the program fee as well as payment of tuition can be made online through WebAdvisor or in-person/by phone through Student Accounts. Tuition charges are distinct and different from program fee charges. Please note that payments made with a debit or credit card will be charged a non-refundable service fee of 2.7 percent. For more information about methods of payment, visit Student Accounts.

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