This expedition gives an introduction to the practical and theory skills needed for tropical marine research, and would take place either at Opwall’s marine research site on Utila island or in the mainland bay of Tela. You would start by completing a PADI Open Water dive training qualification if you aren’t already qualified and want to learn, followed by our week-long Caribbean coral reef ecology course with practicals via SCUBA diving. If you are already a qualified diver, or will be snorkelling instead, you will start with our Caribbean coral reef ecology course before joining our research teams for your second week. Our Caribbean coral reef ecology course will focus on local species identification, tropical marine ecology theory, and common survey methods used in coral reef research. The course involves two lectures and two in water practicals by diving or snorkelling each day. Those joining our research teams for their second week will get a flavour of what marine field research is about by joining one of our core survey projects. The projects taking place vary from year to year, but generally focus on stereo-video surveys of fish biomass, benthic video surveys of reef health, and 3D modelling of coral reef architecture. You should complete up to 15 dives on this expedition and be familiar with most of the Caribbean coral and fish species.
In the Caribbean, there are a number of core issues that have been affecting the biodiversity of coral reefs, including the mass mortality of keystone sea urchins that have allowed algal colonisation of reef areas, an invasive predator (lionfish) originally from the Indo-Pacific that has spread across the Caribbean, and overfishing of reef fish by local communities. Opwall has two marine research sites in Honduras where these issues and many more are studied: one is on the island reefs of Utila and the second on the coastal barrier reef of Tela. At both sites, teams of Opwall scientists and students collect annual monitoring data to assess temporal patterns in reef community health, alongside novel research to address key conservation priorities and gaps in our current understanding of these fragile ecosystems. Honduras is also home to Opwall’s pioneering efforts to integrate technological solutions into the monitoring and study of coral reefs, including our 3D computer modelling method. Opwall’s team of marine scientists in Honduras helps to support not only international academic research and new method development, but also supports local non-governmental organisations with their efforts to improve marine conservation in Honduras.
Our marine sites are hot and usually dry, but with occasional storms.
Fitness level required
Low – Moderate. Some fitness is required for in water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.
Facilities are comfortable but basic. There is phone signal and limited wifi that is often unreliable.