Ecological Sustainability: Costa Rica

When applying please note your preference for the Conservation and Community Development program.

Program overview

Our community partner for environmentally focused programs in Costa Rica is ASVO (Asociación de Voluntarios para el Servicio en las Áreas Protegidas). Costa Rica has over 160 parks and wildlife refuges, which are habitats for many endangered species. With such a large area of the country needing protection, and few resources to support this effort, ASVO was formed to recruit local and international volunteers to assist local leaders in activities in four major areas: control, protection, environmental education,  and research. ASVO focuses on conservation projects in Costa Rica’s National Park system, as well as in coastal-marine areas that do not hold any official category of protection from the Ministry of Environment, but that are natural nesting sites for endangered sea turtle species.  ASVO works as a bridge between civil society and the protected areas, engaging people in responsible actions in the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of Costa Rica.

You will be working at the ASVO project site in Montezuma, which is a small town located on the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast.  The Montezuma beach is an important sea turtle nesting beach, but activity on the beach, i.e. bonfires and vehicles, pose a risk to the turtles.  The town’s bustling seasonal tourism sector has resulted in an increase in risks to nesting sea turtles and the local economy being heavily reliant on that tourism, making them vulnerable to ‘high’ and ‘low’ season fluctuations.

The long-term priority at the ASVO Montezuma site is to reduce the impacts of tourism on sea turtles. ASVO is currently pursuing an eco-tourism project by developing a social enterprise based in the town of Montezuma.  The social enterprise will be locally-administered and offer an income-generating opportunity for residents in the community to be trained, certified and employed as guides on sea turtle night patrols, which will be marketed as eco-tourism.  The night patrols will also increase economic activity in the area during ‘low season’, which is concurrent to nesting season, and function to facilitate awareness among local businesses and tourists about endangered sea turtles.  This work will be in the later stages of development and your work may include aspects of implementation, further community adoption initiatives, monitoring and evaluation for the effectiveness amongst other duties. Earlier phases included collecting information to determine the management strategy for the social enterprise, liaising with local businesses, and identifying the skills and abilities necessary for the guide training program.  Your scope of work will be identified with ASVO head biologist, Roberto Solano, however you will need to demonstrate a high degree of initiative in problem-solving, communication, and collaborating with various stakeholders both in Montezuma and at the ASVO head office.  You can also expect to participate in some activities related to the hatchery – building/repairing the hatchery, night patrols, etc. Ideally, you will have some experience, a passion for environmental conservation, self-initiative and problem-solving skills, and a willingness to learn!

Leading up to your placement (Pre-departure)

Pre-departure learning sessions take place in the term before you leave for your placement; it prepares you for an intensive International Service Learning experience.  During pre-departure you will:

  1. Create a learning & development plan and review with your ISL Advisor
  2. Explore learning topics at regular meetings with your placement team


You will be staying in modest hostel-style accommodations with other ASVO volunteers. These accommodations are located on ASVO’s project sites, which are located within or near protected areas, beaches, and parks. Some project sites are located within reasonable distances to small towns.

After you’ve returned (Post-placement)

After you’ve returned, you’ll regroup, reflect, and work at unpacking the intensive experience you’ve had.  The schedule of post-placement activities includes:

  1. A debrief with advisors and peers (April  2015)
  2. Presenting at a Public Engagement event (May-June 2015)

Program cost

We expect the program fee to be approximately $3,900* Fees include:

  • Room and board
  • Pre-departure learning sessions
  • Transportation from the airport to your placement site**
  • Orientation in Costa Rica
  • Debrief and workshop part way through your placement
  • Re-entry debrief and public engagement facilitation
  • Community partner management fee
  • ISL program management fee

Airfare, visas and vaccinations are not included in the program fee. A return ticket to Costa Rica costs approximately $1,000 – $1,500. You will be required to bring your own laptop.

*Fees may be adjusted prior to offer
**You will also need to arrange your own transportation from the project site back to the airport at the end of the placement.


If accepted into the ISL program, your eligibility will be automatically assessed for the $1,500 International Service Learning Award.