VOLUME 22 #2

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Lauren Cruz, AG13

Lauren Cruz
Lauren Cruz

ALUMNI | It’s not every day that you get to see a creature that has been around for 110 million years emerge from the ocean and lay its eggs on the beach. Unless, of course, you’re Lauren Cruz, who spent her first year after graduation in Costa Rica with the Leatherback Trust studying leatherback sea turtle nesting ecology.

Cruz, whose major was wildlife conservation, tracked the demographics of the turtles that nest at Playa Grande and Parque Nacional de las Baulas—which translates to “Park of Leatherback Sea Turtles”—and spent her nights with a team patrolling the beach looking for nesting turtles. 

The team outfitted turtles with tracking tags, counted eggs and monitored nests until the hatchlings were ready to leave. While the leatherbacks that nest on the Caribbean coast have seen a population rebound in recent years, ones that nest on the Pacific coast are still critically endangered, Cruz says.

“What’s great is that out here they have a good ecotourism program where the locals—a lot of them who used to be poachers—found that it’s more sustainable to take tourists out to see the turtles rather than take their eggs,” she says.

After the nesting season ended, Cruz accepted a position for the summer with the Earthwatch Institute, supervising high school students on research expeditions in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. The job is exciting, she says, “because it is similar to the UD study abroad program [to Costa Rica] that sparked my interest in this type of research.”

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