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MCC student researches sea turtles in Costa Rica

Ryoto MasukaRyoto Masuko is cramming as much of the world into his college education as he possibly can. A resident of Saitama, Japan, he traveled to Iowa to enroll at Marshalltown Community College to improve his English language skills and prepare to study Marine Biology and International Business. He’s in Costa Rica this summer, working as a research assistant studying sea turtles with a group from Texas A&M University.

“I didn’t expect that I could get this kind of summer study opportunity,” explained Masuko before he left. “It’s an awesome opportunity to work with endangered species. Dr. Danielle Kness helped me find this program and wrote a reference letter for me. She’s even loaning me some of the equipment that I’ll need to take with me!”

The research team is working from the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) in the province of Guanacaste on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It’s an important nesting beach for three of the world’s seven species of sea turtles (Leatherback, Pacific Green, and Olive Ridley). ONWR has been active in marine turtle conservation for the past 40 years. In addition to turtles, the ONWR’s 400 acres of land is home to howler monkeys, white-nosed coatis, kinkajous, basilisks, bats, and a variety of lizards.

In a blog posted by Brie Myre, PhD candidate at Texas A&M University, she says Masuko has fit in well with the team and is doing valuable work. Being a skilled swimmer since age 3 and a member of a water polo team since age 10, he was selected to do in-water boat work. The blog post ( shows a photo of Masuko and another researcher capturing turtles in the water.

“Ryota joined the lab of Dr. Danielle Kness in spring 2018, working in husbandry of goldfish, frogs, snakes, lizards, cockroaches, tortoises and Mississippi green turtles,” Myre explains. “Additionally, he began training on molecular techniques such as DNA extractions.” He applied to work with Myre in order to have hands-on experience with endangered species, and has been invaluable in capturing post-mating turtle couples. Masuko says he looks forward to seeing the mass-nesting events and assisting with blood sampling and ultrasound image collection.

Masuko will leave the research team before their project concludes so that he can be in Marshalltown for the start of MCC fall term classes on Aug. 27. The first member of his family to attend college, he says his mother and grandparents were nervous about sending him abroad, but his father encouraged him. After graduating from MCC, he plans to transfer to a university to complete his studies.

Ryoto with sea turtle

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