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Sea Turtle Biology

  • Locations: Pacuare Reserva, Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Travel Dates: May 15 - 29, 2018 (to be confirmed)
  • Program Fees: $5,088 (not including tuition)
  • Online Application
  • Application Instructions & Eligibility Requirements
  • 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)

The suite of courses (lecture, laboratory, & internship) taught in Costa Rica at the Pacuare Reserva, is designed to highlight the main topics of sea turtle biology including; sea turtle evolution, phylogeny, current conservation status, reproduction, nesting and hatchling development, orientation an navigation, habitat utilization and migration, health problems and diseases, environmental and anthropogenic disturbances, and much more. The stunning location along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is one of the most important nesting beaches for the Atlantic Leatherback Sea Turtle "Dermochyles coricea". This location at this time of the year ensures exposure of students to nesting females as well as emerging hatchings. Outside of the classroom, the program enables a very hands on approach with research and conservation activities on each life history stage. Students will also explore the surrounding tropical rainforest, home of howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, iguanas, leafcutter ants, dart frogs, and a host of other species. After our stay at the Reserva, we travel to Earth University, spend a night lodging under an active volcano, and end with a rafting trip down the world renowned Pacuare River which completes the cycle as it spills back into the sea at the border of the Reserva.

Students are required to perform a 4 hour watch every other night. During this time, students will walk a stretch of beach looking for turtles. Students should be comfortable walking for up to 4 hours on a sandy beach at night.

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.

MSCI 376L (Biology of Sea Turtles Laboratory). (1 credit) (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.

MSCI 399 (Sea Turtle Conservation Internship). (1 credit). (Coreq: MSCI 376 & MSCI 376L) Directed study of specific topics related to marine science.

Faculty Leaders 

Dr. George Boneillo, Instructor of Marine Sciences • 843-349-5068

Dr. Boneillo has a Ph.D. in Marine Science and has served as a course instructor during the 2014 and 2016 Sea Turtle Course. He has had experience teaching a variety of courses in the Marine Science department, and he has had extensive field experience associated with a number of oceanographic cruises prior to coming to Coastal Carolina University.


Dr. Eric Rosch, Instructor of Marine Sciences • 843-349-2261

Dr. Rosch has a Ph.D. in Zoology an 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 an has done extensive research in tropical ecosystems in south Florida, the Bahamas, and Central America.

Cost of the Program

Cost of the Program = Program Fees + (Number of Credits x Tuition Rate)

In-State Students ($357/credit)

CCU credits  Program Fees Tuition  Cost of Program
4 credits $5,088  $1,428 $6,516 

Out-of-State Students ($432/credit)

CCU credits Program Fees Tuition Cost of Program
4 credits $5,088  $1,728 $6,816 

Included in Program Fees: Roundtrip airfare from U.S. to Costa Rica, ground transportation in-country; accommodations; excursions; meals each day in-country; and emergency medical insurance.

Not included in Cost of Program:

  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: $100 for travel meals not covered by the program fees and optional excursions. These are expenses not covered by the program fees that students should expect to cover, and will vary based on individual spending habits.  
  • As students will depart from MYR or a nearby airport, students will need to make sure they have accommodations leading up to the program departure date.  Students should confirm with faculty leaders the date of departure before securing housing.

Payment Schedule for Program Fees and Tuition

Program Fee & Tuition Schedule Due Date Amount Due
Deposit November 1, 2017 $300
1st Payment December 8, 2017 $1,596
2nd Payment January 12, 2018 $1,596
3rd Payment February 12, 2018 $1,596
Tuition April 20, 2018 In-State: $357/credit
Out-of-State: $432/credit

Deposits can be made in-person at Student Accounts (Baxley Hall) or over the phone. After acceptance to the program, payments can be made either online through Webadvisor or at Student Accounts.  Please note that payments made with a debit or credit card will be charged a service fee of 2.7 percent. For more information about methods of payment, visit

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