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

Coral reefs are complex ecosystems that are vital to the food security and livelihoods of local communities. Of particular importance are three key characteristics: (1) the underlying physical structure of the reef which provides habitats for a diverse community of animals, (2) the community of plants and invertebrates, such as corals, living attached to the surface of the reef (known as the benthic community) which both creates the physical structure and forms the basis of the reef’s food web, and (3) the fish community which both relies on and helps sculpt the benthic community, whilst also providing a major source of protein to local human populations. Traditionally, these three characteristics of a reef have been studied using basic methods based on diver observations in the water, and although more technology-driven alternatives have recently emerged, they are yet to be combined into a single unified approach that addresses all three characteristics to provide a snapshot of an area of reef. Students on this project will use multiple underwater videography techniques whilst SCUBA diving. They will then use state-of-the-art computer 3D modelling to measure the structural complexity of the reef, stereo-video analysis to assess the fish community structure and biomass, and machine learning algorithms to estimate the benthic community structure and overall reef health. Historical data also exists for both fish and benthic assessments, annually since 2012, allowing a temporal element to be added.

Extended Dissertation Summary

If you would like to do a dissertation or thesis with us but your university hasn’t started dissertation planning or the project selection process, that’s no problem. You can cancel your expedition with zero cancellation charges up until the 15th of April of if you provide documentation from your university saying that they won’t support completing a dissertation project with us.

Honduras Marine Research Objectives

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.

  • Develop an independent research project and write a formal proposal
  • Dive on a range of reefs around Utila island
  • Complete a week-long training course on Caribbean coral reef ecology
  • Learn to identify common Caribbean corals, fish and invertebrates
  • Collect data using a range of ecological survey techniques and cutting-edge technology
  • Learn how to organise and analyse large data sets
  • Opwall fee.
  • Cost of international flights into and out of San Pedro Sula.
  • Cost of internal travel to and from the start and end point of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. The standard package costs around £304 or $334 on average.
  • Extra nights’ accommodation in San Pedro Sula costs around £115 or $127 (breakfast included).
  • Park entrance fees are £23 or $25.
  • Dive equipment rental – $15 per day for everything (you will usually dive for 5 or 6 days per week) to be paid on site at the end of every week (cash or card payments accepted at all marine sites). If you only wish to snorkel and want to hire snorkel equipment, the cost is $5 per day. Please note that wetsuits/rash vests cannot be provided – you should bring your own if you wish to wear them (wetsuits are optional due to the warm water temperature).
  • PADI manual and PIC card (if you are completing your Open Water qualification) – £69 or $89 approx.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified.
  • Standard travel insurance – cost can vary, for 2 weeks it can range anywhere from £40-80 or $40-150.

Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.

Climate
Our marine sites are hot and usually dry, but with occasional storms.

Fitness level required
Low. Some fitness is required for in water activities, but conditions are relatively easy.

Creature comforts
Facilities are comfortable but basic. There is phone signal and limited wifi that is often unreliable.

Locations

  • Honduras
  • Utila
  • Tela

Want to get involved with this project?

Preparation

Want to get involved with this project?

   Latest from our blog

  • The Expedition Mindset

    Posted on 19th February 2024
    My name is Erin, and I recently returned from my two-week Terrestrial and Marine trip in Honduras. What made this trip so memorable to me was my mindset during and in my reflections following it. Embracing change and challenge allows experiences like...
    Read more...
  • An unforgettable moment of magic in Honduras

    Posted on 5th February 2024
    I spent six of the most incredible weeks of my life in Honduras this summer. It is almost impossible to decide which of the many experiences to include in this blog, ranging from heartwarming to adrenaline-inducing. Instead, I will share with you...
    Read more...
  • Field Notes Entry 2: Fabiola Rodriguez

    Posted on 19th January 2021
    Bio: Fabiola Rodriguez is a Honduran ecologist and doctoral candidate at Tulane University studying how coffee production impacts overwintering birds. We talk to Fabiola about coffee production in Northern Honduras and how it impacts bird populations that spend winter in Central America....
    Read more...
Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
| +44 (0) 1790 763194 | info@opwall.com