Meet Our Field Biologists: Lauren Cruz

Have you ever wondered what daily life is like for a sea turtle biologist? We invite you to meet our sea turtle biologists!

We are so grateful for the many sandy miles our biologists walked at all hours of the night during the 2015-2016 nesting season. Together, we're creating a future for sea turtles. 

Learn about more opportunities to get involved.

Lauren Cruz

Hometown: Bayville, NJ

Degrees: B.S. in Wildlife Conservation with a minor in Entomology, University of Delaware; Currently a Master's Student in Biology at IPFW

What attracted you to this field position?

I worked with diamondback terrapins during my undergrad and had such a blast with their field nesting season I decided to try working with the nesting season of a slightly bigger turtle and the leatherback just quite fit that quota.

Tell us a little bit about your research.

I am currently studying the effects of artificial light on the offshore orientation of olive ridley sea turtles. Human development off coasts is a big issue when it comes to all wildlife, but I decided to study the offshore effects it may have since many parks (Las Baulas National Park included) are close to cities of high light pollution. To attempt to measure these effects, I set up a lab with a pool and infrared camera. In the pool, the olive ridley hatchlings are secured with a tether to the center and the camera is placed above the pool to help me observe the directional heading. I’m using three colors of light: green, red, and yellow since each color is perceived differently by sea turtles.

Describe your typical day on the job.

Wake up just before 11 to head out to Kike’s place for a delicious fresh fruit plate, gallo pinto and eggs. Work on research a few hours before starting beach work at 3pm where I can be doing anything from triangulations to excavations to leading the volunteers on a tour and anything in-between. 6pm, we head back to Kike’s for another great meal, this time I’ll order casado con muslo. This is a dish with rice, beans, French fries and a large fried chicken thigh. Then from anywhere from 7­pm-12am or 11pm-­5am the biologists hit the beach for a 6-hour shift of patrolling for nesting leatherbacks. This is where the magic happens.

What’s the best part of your job?

I think the best part about the job is working the night patrol and being able to see these ancient turtles nest on the beach. It’s truly like seeing a dinosaur crawl out of the ocean. I’m always in awe by their size. Still, on no turtle nights, night patrol is like nothing I’ve seen before. On new moon nights, the ocean glows green with bioluminescent algae in the waves and you can see countless shooting stars.

What do you do in your free time in Costa Rica?

I usually end up working on my data analysis. But I also treat myself to a sunset swim in the ocean, morning run on the beach or tacos at Taco Star!

How is Costa Rica different than your home country?

I definitely speak more Spanish here than in the States and the people here are so patient with my broken Spanish. The atmosphere is a lot more laid back and “tranquilo” than back in the states as the people here truly live the “Pura Vida” lifestyle.

If you could have a superpower what would it be?

I would like to walk through walls. I lock myself out of the house enough to wish I never need keys.

If you were a sea turtle, what kind would you be and why?

I’d probably be an olive ridley because I tend to work fast but sometimes that leads me to not be as efficient as I should be.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Chocolate chip cookie dough!

Describe Costa Rica in three words.

Adventurous. Beautiful. Welcoming.