My Summer Experience: Justin Grubb
Worked at Pacific Marine Park in Costa Rica
My Summer Experience
Junior Marine Biology Major
Worked at El Parque Marino Del Pacifico in Puntarenas, Costa Rica
I waded through murky green water, shuffling my feet through the bottom as I extended my right arm into the depths below. I felt very rough sandpapery skin and then ran my hand down the side to what felt like pelvic fins. It was 10:30 a.m. on June 29th and my second day working at El Parque Marino Del Pacifico in Costa Rica. I positioned my hand underneath the tail and felt two claspers. This was the male shark we had been searching for. I firmly grasped the animal behind the dorsal fin and under the tail and lifted the five foot behemoth out of the water as it thrashed back in forth in an effort to escape. I wrestled it over to Guillermo, a marine biology professor at the University of Costa Rica, standing waist deep in shark infested waters. He helped me place the fish into a large net. I grabbed the creature by the pectoral fins as the professor grabbed the tail and together, we flipped the shark onto its back. This puts it into tonic immobility and from there we were able to gather our data.
My name is Justin Grubb and I am a Marine Biology major at Bowling Green State University. I am coming up on my third year in school and I spent my summer in Puntarenas, Costa Rica working at El Parque Marino Del Pacifico. Puntarenas is a port city that is very rough around the edges and has long been considered lost to tourism. It was once connected to San Jose, the nation's capital, by a railroad system, but in the early 1990s that railroad was shut down leaving the region completely cut off. The city had seen several years of slow decay, but the government intervened in 2002 and built a marine park on the site of the old railroad station in an effort to increase revenue. The location of this park couldn't have been any better-it literally sits on the volcanic black sand beach of the Gulf of Nicoya and has a tremendous view of the Costa Rican mountain range.
This park is one of a kind and serves as the country's only marine animal rehabilitation center. Costa Rica is considered the most biological intense region on earth and so the park receives countless numbers of species that have run into trouble due to human interactions. The Pacific Park also serves as one of the country's best sources for marine and environmental education. Countless schools and tour groups go through the park on a daily basis to learn about their marine environment and why it is important to protect it. The education plan of the park also extends outward into the fishing community of the grungy port-town of Puntarenas to teach the importance of limiting by-catch and to fish sustainably.
I chose to work at El Parque Marino Del Pacifico in Costa Rica because I wanted to have a learning experience that allowed me to dive right in and work with the countless numbers of animals native to Costa Rica. While working in the park, I completed many exciting jobs that included feeding crocodiles, SCUBA diving in the large aquarium to perform tank maintenance, aqua-scaping the fish only aquariums, feeding and assisting with rehabilitating pelicans, cleaning aquariums, working with Olive Ridley Sea turtles and collecting data on large nurse sharks. Another job I held at the park was to work closely with the director on researching and securing funding for the park, developing an educational plan, and researching and developing ways to promote and advertise the park. One of the larger projects the park asked me to complete was to build their first ever reef tank. I was in charge of finding supplies and putting them together in order to form a functioning aquarium, and then training the park employees on how to care for the aquarium and to monitor water quality.
My favorite experience at the park was the time I went sport fishing in the Pacific Ocean to catch specimens to go on display in the parks largest aquarium. I worked four days a week in the aquarium, giving me the ability to travel the countryside on weekends. My travels brought me to some exciting places and I found myself deep in the misty rainforest of the most active volcano in Central America, staring face to face with large tarantulas and pit vipers at night in the cloud forests of Monteverde, swimming in the clear blue water off Isla Tortuga amongst schools of fish, riding horses to isolated parts of the countryside, and fighting through crowds in the busy city of San Jose.
I had a fantastic experience working in the park, and the work I completed not only benefited my educational experience but helped the park in a tremendous way. I made a lot of friends and great contacts within the park and around Costa Rica. I confer with the employees regularly via email about the care of the reef tank and other projects. I am very much looking forward to the next time I visit the amazing country of Costa Rica and El Parque Marino Del Pacifico. For more information on the park please visit http://www.parquemarino.org