This project would take place at Opwall’s marine research site on Utila island or in Tela Bay. For everyone wanting or needing to learn, this expedition would start with the PADI Open Water dive qualification, followed by our week-long Caribbean coral reef ecology course. For those already dive qualified or preferring to snorkel, they would start with the Caribbean coral reef ecology course. This course focuses on local species identification, tropical marine ecology theory, and common survey methods. The course involves two lectures and two in water practicals by diving or snorkelling each day. Afterwards, the focus switches to putting these new skills into practice with the opportunity to join multiple marine research projects led by our team of scientists. On these projects, you will help collect valuable data to contribute towards our Caribbean research and conservation goals, and you will have the choice of rotating between multiple teams or focusing on a single project, depending on your own interests. Projects will either focus on the use of technological solutions in coral reef research (e.g. stereo-video surveys of fish biomass, machine learning
in reef health surveys, and 3D computer modelling of reef architecture), or on improving our understanding of the ecology and behaviour of key coral reef organisms (e.g. cleaning interactions, invasive lionfish). You should complete 40 dives or more on this expedition and be familiar with multiple survey methods as well as common fish and coral species. If desired, additional PADI dive training can be done in your spare time, at an additional cost.
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.
Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.
In the cloud forest of Cusuco National Park it can get warm in open areas (temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius) but much cooler in the shade of the forest. Overnight the temperature can drop below 10 degrees Celsius at higher altitudes. It rarely rains in the morning but it regularly rains late in the afternoon and overnight.
Fitness level required
Medium – High. You will need to hike from camp to camp for up to 5 hours over steep terrain with your backpack.
Facilities in Cusuco are very basic (tents, hammocks, river showers, basic trench toilets). There is no cell phone signal in Cusuco National Park and very limited satellite internet available through a communal laptop at Base Camp.