Utila and Tela marine biodiversity research
This research team is split across two centres – one on Utila Island and one on the mainland at Tela – and has published 60 papers from just the last few seasons. For your first week at the centre you will take part in one of the courses, either learning to dive to PADI Open Water level, or completing the Caribbean reef ecology course if you are already dive trained or have chosen to snorkel instead. If you are spending two weeks or longer at the marine sites, you will then either complete the Caribbean reef ecology course in your second week or help the researchers with multiple marine research projects. 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).
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.
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.