Team TVP sat down with our partner NGO in Costa Rica, Osa Conservation to ask them a few questions.
Tell us a little bit about Osa Conservation and what Osa Conservation hopes to accomplish in Costa Rica.
Osa Conservation is a non-profit organization based in Costa Rica with the mission to preserve and protect the globally significant biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula. Conservation of this special corner of the planet which contains 2.5% of the worlds species is a collaborative effort between the private and public sector, and Osa Conservation is one of the largest landowners in the area with over 8000 acres of wildlife refuge within the Gulfo Dulce National Forest Reserve which connects Corcovado National Park, Piedras Blancas National Park, and the Terraba-Sierpe National Wetlands.
How do you determine your projects?
Our projects are based on a number of factors based in how to best protect and restore the land and observe the process. Our land stewardship programs focus on restoring degraded farmland, riparian zones, and mangrove systems and our science programs focus on observation of this process from the producer, consumer, and predatory level. We rely heavily on dedicated researchers and field assistants from around the world to be the legs of our conservation efforts. The team is constantly hypothesizing and asking new questions about the systems at play in this unique forest and this curiosity is a huge determinate of the projects we pursue. But conservation does not stop at natural systems. As a conservation organization in this region it is our responsibility to also look at the root of land degradation and species extinction, and largely that is due to unsustainable farming practice, gold mining, and hunting, all of which are still practiced today throughout the peninsula. We are confronting human threats through several avenues -- Investment in education and economic opportunity by working with and recruiting from local school and employing local people at our station, and studies of sustainable food systems on our Osa Verde Ago-Ecological Farm.
How do you work with local communities?
In addition to employing locally, nearly all of our science programs have a community outreach and education component. Our wildcat monitoring program is a network of citizen scientists working alongside the government, national universities, eco-lodges, and local communities to place cameras all over the peninsula. Our Rios Saludables (healthy rivers) program works within schools throughout the peninsula to teach about the importance of water quality and protecting rivers, and our sea turtle program pulls in local students to go on patrols and work on the sea turtle hatchery every year. Additionally we work alongside local guides who learn about our mission and programs and bring clients for day tours to our properties. Through local guides we have a great mouthpiece into the community to share the work we are doing with their communities and co-workers as well as clients.
What do you enjoy about partnering with THE VACATION PROJECT?
A partnership with THE VACATION PROJECT means that we have another reliable source of volunteers!! Consistent volunteers are a big part of what makes us tick. Additionally, many of our groups come from high school and universities and it is refreshing to get volunteers who are young adults and established professionals. It is great for our staff and researchers to have the chance to get to know people from other fields who have a genuine interest in nature and conservation.
What is your favorite part of the TVP Costa Rica trip?
It is always great to see how people react to this place. The intensity of the biodiversity and the beauty of this environment always evokes strong feelings in people and to see how that looks on different groups is fun. As I mentioned, TVP groups tend to be already established professionals, many of which have already seen much of the world, so the opportunity to talk about the importance of the work we are doing in this place but with people with different professional backgrounds and perspectives is fun!
How do volunteers help your organization?
Volunteers are a big part of what keeps our organization moving. We have many projects which simply needs hands to complete. Whether it is moving baby turtle nests in dangerous areas, patrolling our beaches at night with our field staff in search of nesting mothers, filling bags with soil and planting saplings for our reforestation, weeding and planting in our organic farm, performing bird observations and recording data about what species of birds are moving into our areas of reforestation, or simply enjoying the land and animals and keeping our energy high, volunteers are a huge part of our identity and are the reason we are able to be a part of conserving the Osa Peninsula!