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

Tropical coral reefs are hugely diverse and productive ecosystems but degrade rapidly under environmental change. The persistence of coral reef organisms is therefore partly dependent on how individuals, populations and species can respond behaviourally. Mutualistic interactions, whereby two species cooperate beneficially, play a fundamental role in the structure and function of almost all ecological communities. Cleaning mutualisms whereby ‘cleaners’, remove and consume ectoparasites from ‘client’ species positively affect the diversity, abundance, size, and immunity of coral reef fish communities. This project will quantify the behaviour of a functionally important Caribbean cleaner fish (The Sharknose goby, Elacatinus evelynae) in response to simulated environmental change to determine the role of behaviour (cleaning behaviour and fish boldness) in the maintenance of species interactions under environmental change. Students on this project will assess how the behaviour of sharknose goby species can be determined by different environmental and ecological conditions. Manipulation experiments will also be used to quantify how changes in habitat complexity and changes in the competitive landscape affect cleaner-client interactions. Students may also consider the macroecological consequences of behavioural variation between sharknose goby individuals across multiple coral reefs around the island of Utila. The results of this project could therefore be used to focus and guide conservation efforts aiming to preserve the biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems.

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 typical Caribbean coral reef on Utila island
  • Complete a week-long training course on Caribbean coral reef ecology
  • Learn to identify common Caribbean fish
  • Collect data using behavioural observations from remotely deployed video footage
  • 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. This costs around £200 or $290 on average. Extra nights’ accommodation in San Pedro Sula costs around £49 or $71.
  • 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).
  • Park entrance fees – £20 or $25
  • PADI manual and PIC card (if you are completing your Open Water qualification) – £69 or $87 approx.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified

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

Fitness level required
Low. Some fitness is required if including 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

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Preparation

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