Meet Our Field Biologists: Sean Williamson

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.

Sean Williamson

Hometown: Kiama, NSW, Australia

Degree: B.S. Advanced Honours, 1st Class, University of Wollongong, Australia; Currently a Ph.D. student at Monash University, Australia

Tell us a little bit about your research.

I'm researching how patterns of embryonic development differ between species of crocodile and turtle, and subsequently how this influences their ecology and conservation. Specifically with leatherback turtles I am looking if oxygen plays a role in the high level of embryonic mortality this species experiences whilst the eggs are in the nest.

Describe your typical day on the job.

After breakfast we do beach work, such as digging up hatched nests, or measuring the temperature of nests. We also usually have large Earthwatch volunteer groups with us who we take on a daily activity around 2-3pm, maybe snorkeling or an estuary tour looking for crocodiles. 

We have dinner at 6pm at the same restaurant we eat breakfast before we head out to the beach at 7pm to patrol the beach until 1am, if the high tide is in the first half of the night. If the high tide is in the second half of the night we try to have a nap straight after dinner and then patrol the beach from 11pm until 5am when the sun comes up. 

Patrolling involves walking up and down a section of the beach in a team of people, usually one biologist such as myself and one or two volunteers. You sweep up and down your section of beach looking for turtles coming up to nest. When we find one we check that she's nesting in a good spot (i.e., above the high tide line and out of a main walkway on the beach), if she's not in a good spot we'll relocate the eggs to our hatchery. 

I try fit in work I have to do on my Ph.D. I'm trying to get four experiments done while I'm here. When my nests hatched I would run fitness tests (swim and crawl trials) on the hatchlings and measure and weigh them. 

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

The daily schedule is pretty jammed packed with interesting work. However, I like to try and find time for surfing. Playa Grande is one of Costa Rica's best beach breaks!

If you could have a superpower what would it be?

Turning into a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

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

Flatback sea turtle, because I’m from Australia, mate!

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Well this is easily the most difficult question I've ever tried to answer and I've been trying to figure out it out my whole life!

For the moment I can't say for sure which is the best. However I have been doing extensive research! Top contenders so far are (in no particular order): Pistachio, Coffee, Rum and Raisin, Fig and Raisin, Gaytime (it’s an Australian delicacy!), Macadamia, Mango, Salted Caramel, Boysenberry, Coconut, Vanilla, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Chip, Mint, Mint and Chocolate Chip!

They’re all just so good!