The Grand County High School group traveling to Costa Rica flew out of the Grand Junction, Colo., airport Saturday, June 9. Back row, from left: Tanika Lewis, Hadley Schank, Ed DeFrancia, Sharon Brussell, Jessica Valdes and Nat Smith. Front row, from left: Jordana Nickle, Meera Edwards, Maren Larsen and Jackson Knowles. (Photo courtesy Annie and Dave Larsen)

Saturday, June 9, eight Grand County High School students and two chaperones set out on the adventure of a lifetime.

The students — Hadley Schank, Jordana Nickle, Tanika Lewis, Nat Smith, Jackson Knowles, Jessica Valdes, Meera Edwards and Maren Larsen — are in Costa Rica to conduct research on leatherback sea turtles. They are accompanied by chaperones Ed Defrancia and Sharon Brussell.

The trip is organized by Ecology Project International, a non-profit conservation group based in Montana that focuses on partnering high school students with experts in many Central American countries.

While in Costa Rica, the group will spend five days at the Pacuare Nature Reserve, where they will help keep the beaches free from debris and maintain a presence on the beach that discourages poaching of the turtles’ eggs.

They will also record data on adult turtles and hatchlings.

The students will then travel to La Suerte biological station, where they will meet with a group of Costa Rican students to exchange research, stories and cultural experiences.

After getting a taste of what it’s like to grow up in Costa Rica, they will travel to Turrialba, a small Costa Rican town. There, they will meet locals and learn about crops grown nearby, like coffee and sugarcane.

On their final day, the group will raft down the Pacuare River to experience even more of the biological diversity that Costa Rica has to offer.

The group will be in Costa Rica for a total of 12 days, returning on June 21.