Proteins containing the STAR RNA-binding domain fulfill vital roles in RNA biogenesis, yet a detailed understanding of STAR domain RNA binding specificity is lacking. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the STAR protein GLD-1 directly binds the 28 nucleotide recognition element TGE within the 3' untranslated region of tra-2 mRNA. The GLD-1:TGE interaction promotes translational silencing of tra-2 mRNA, marking a pivotal event in the spermatogenesis to oogenesis switch in C.elegans hermaphrodites. By measuring the binding affinities of both GLD-1 and TGE mutants, we have explored the molecular determinants of STAR domain specificity. Site-directed GLD-1 mutants were guided by sequence homology with human splicing factor 1 (SF1), for which an RNA:protein complex structure is available in the work done by Liu et al. The RNA binding affinity of 11 mutant GLD-1 proteins was measured, and their binding specificity was assessed with a series of TGE RNAs containing natural or modified nucleotides. This combinatorial analysis of both RNA and protein mutants revealed a diverse array of specificities of individual nucleotide-binding pockets along the interface. At nucleotide position 18, adenosine appears to be specified by the overall shape of a pocket lined with aliphatic side-chains. At position 19, the high preference for cytidine is dependent on both the length of an amino acid side-chain and the identity of terminal functional groups. The nucleotide 21 binding pocket exhibits low discrimination for cytidine, and accommodates most nucleobases. The highly hydrophobic binding interface and apparent small number of hydrogen bonding read-out interactions at these positions is consistent with our finding that few amino acids seem to function individually in establishing binding specificity. Rather, specificity is conferred by the shape of the nucleotide-binding pocket. Our data provide the first detailed, quantitative analysis of the STAR domain, and highlight features of STAR:RNA recognition that are distinct among single-stranded RNA-binding proteins.