Expedition with the first week helping researchers in the Peneda-Gerês National Park and a second week diving and helping with marine surveys.

  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

Forest Week

The first week of this two-week expedition is spent in the valley of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. At this site you will complete a series of lectures about Iberian wildlife and conservation, whilst during the day you will work alongside a series of research teams. The projects include mist netting for birds and recording morphometrics, plumage and moult, and mammal surveys using camera traps and searches for prints and faecal samples. The park hosts a large variation of vegetation characteristic of Mediterranean, Atlantic and alpine environments, making this an area of particular phytogeographic importance. The dramatic elevation changes observed throughout the park also mean these different habitats can easily be identified and surveys can be completed across all habitat types.

Key Surveys:

  • Fish Surveys: River surveys focusing on invasive fish species. These will be supported by laboratory sessions studying the diet of these species to give further information on how they could be competing with native fish.
  • Herpetofauna: Standard searches along routes will be used morning and evening to allow data collection of both diurnal and nocturnal species. Data collected will include morphological measurements for all individuals and photographs.
  • Bats: Mist net surveys will be used at night and all individuals caught will be measured for morphological data collection and marked for mark release recapture population studies.
  • Birds: Bird point counts will be carried out to support population data collection for bird species that are easily spotted or heard. Mist netting will also be used to capture individuals that may be more cryptic and fly at lower levels, so that morphological measurements can be taken and individuals marked for population studies.
  • Habitat: Habitat surveys will be carried out at set points along each route to enable a better understanding of the study site and to complement the data collected for all other taxonomic groups.
  • Mammals: Distance sampling methods along the transect routes will be used to infer population densities and surveys will be carried out each morning. Patch occupancy analysis will also be used to allow study of more elusive species such as the Iberian wolf. This will involve using tracks and faeces as signs of presence, and will be further supported by camera trapping along the river for otter distribution studies.

Groups will also complete an Iberian Ecology & Conservation course with lectures on Conservation, Operation Wallacea and the Peneda Gerês National Park, Biodiversity & Evolution, Endemism, Hotspots & Habitat Types, Birds of the Iberian Peninsula, Herpetofauna, Butterflies & Adaptations and Iberian Mammals & Survey Techniques.

Marine Week

In the second week, you will move to Peniche for their marine week and the students will be completing one of the following options:

  • PADI Open Water dive training course: This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives and Open Water divers to gain an official SCUBA qualification.
  • Oceanic marine ecology course: This course consists of lectures and in water practicals either by diving (if a qualified diver) or snorkelling. The lectures cover an introduction to the Berlengas Natural Reserve, marine survey techniques, the flora and fauna of the reserve and the threats of invasive species.
  • PADI Open Water referral course; For this option, students need to arrive having already completed their theory and pool training components with PADI. This course takes the first 3 days and they then join the Oceanic marine ecology course.

Students may also participate in the following activities:

  • Fish surveys
  • Seagrass surveys

Portugal Research Objectives

The Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês is the only national park in Portugal and it spans over an area of over 70 000 hectares of mountainous landscape in the North of Portugal spilling over to Spain where it is known as the Gerês-Xurés Transboundary Biosphere.

This is a UNESCO recognized site due to its cultural and biological significance hosting a diverse range of flora and fauna such as an Iberian breed of wild horse, Iberian ibex, Iberian wolf, a range of raptors and endemic herpetofauna. Approximately 235 vertebrate species have been identified within the boundaries of the park, of which 200 are threatened or under protection.

The Iberian Peninsula is rich in biodiversity however in recent decades, the appeal of a more urban lifestyle and of modernization has led to the abandonment of rural areas and of traditional cultural and agricultural practices, many of which are essential to maintaining the habitat types and biodiversity of this region. Nonetheless, more recently, there has been a growing interest, both local and foreign, in promoting the conservation of such habitats, cultural practices and, in general, in the protection or rehabilitation of the Iberian ecosystems. The Portuguese terrestrial project will focus on assessing the impact of changing agricultural practices and future management considerations for the national park.

Portugal has a large stretch of sea and Atlantic coast and a culture deeply connected with maritime activities, therefore it is only natural that many Portuguese research institutions have a great deal of focus on marine biology and fisheries management. Peniche it is one of the largest traditional fishing ports in Portugal and a major Atlantic hub for maritime tourist activities. The Berlenga Nature Reserve, located 10Km off the coast from Peniche is a unique location with transparent waters and underwater heritage. It is a marine reserve and is classified as a Biosphere Reserve by the Council of Europe and since 2011 as a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

  • Attend lectures/workshops on biodiversity and conservation
  • Learn about the biogeography of the region
  • Multiple survey methods for bat, birds, herpetofauna and mammals
  • PADI Open water dive qualification
  • Participate in Oceanic marine ecology course
  • Learn to adapt to team work and experience its importance

The costs of a school group expedition can be highly variable. There is a standard fee paid to Opwall for all expeditions but the location you are flying from, the size of your group, and how you wish to pay all impact the overall cost.

You can choose to book the expedition as a package (which includes your international flights) or you can organise your travel yourself and just pay us for the expedition related elements.

If you are booking your expedition as a package, you also have the option of being invoiced as a group, or on an individual basis.

Climate The expedition will be running during the summer months in Portugal, so it will be dry most of the time with temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees on most days. Temperatures will drop slightly lower in the evenings with occasional cooler spells as low as 15 degrees overnight.

Fitness level Medium. The terrain is slightly hilly at the terrestrial site, and you may be walking between 10-15km each day to cover the surveys. Fitness required for the marine site is relatively low.

Creature comforts Accommodation at both sites is tents with a combination of compost/flushing toilets and running showers, although these are not supplied with hot water. There is mobile phone signal at both sites but coverage can be patchy at the terrestrial camp.


  • Portugal
  • Tourém
  • Peniche

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
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