Coral reefs are a naturally noisy place, with a diverse community of sound-creating organisms combined with the ambient sounds of the ocean itself such as waves. Unsurprisingly, many of the species found on coral reefs have evolved to use this complex soundscape for aspects of their ecology, such as communication, feeding and navigation. For example, sounds have been shown to be one of the factors used by fish and invertebrate larvae to seek a suitable reef to settle upon. As reefs become degraded, their soundscape changes, and this can in turn impact larval recruitment rates if the acoustic triggers that stimulate larval attraction are diminished or lost. Alongside these natural reef sounds, humans have introduced numerous sources of noise pollution into the marine environment, including from boat traffic and SCUBA divers. This anthropogenic noise can disrupt natural behaviours and initiate flight responses in resident coral reef species. On this project, students will use a combination of underwater acoustic recorders and speakers to explore specific sounds created by Caribbean reef species and their human visitors, and investigate the effects of these sounds on the behaviour of local species and the composition of reef communities.
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.
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.
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.
Facilities are comfortable but basic. There is phone signal and limited wifi that is often unreliable.