On Expedition Research Projects

Many senior school syllabuses around the world require students to undertake an independent research project (IRP) where they look in more detail into a specific topic that interests them. Our expeditions give the students the perfect opportunity to do just that, and we’ve assisted with many successful IRPs in the past. Our approach can cover either a literature-based essay-style project or a data-led research project, and below we’ve outlined the support we are able to provide.

  • What we can provide:

    • Standardised support documents sent prior to the expedition to identify suitable projects from topics we have identified as being able to support
    • The opportunity for students to discuss their projects with the relevant researcher during the expedition, providing we are informed in advance
    • A collection of primary data sets with access to a previous time point (for data-led projects)
    • Examples of primary literature relevant to each research topic (for essay-style projects)
  • What we cannot provide:

    • The opportunity for students to design and implement their own data collection methods
    • Support for data analysis and project write-up
    • An unlimited variety of research questions at each site, please contact us for site-specific options
    • Provide marine data that the students will have helped to collect in the field (unless on a marine only expedition)

Types of Projects

  • Essay-based research projects

    Students will be provided with a background information document to the site they will be visiting, as well as ten suitable topic areas they may want to cover for their project. Each topic area will be accompanied by recent peer-reviewed publications that provide a starting point for the students’ own independent research. More relevant publications and reports can also be found in our Research Library or via more traditional search engines (e.g. Google Scholar).

    Past titles

    • Is the management of the rainforest in Iwokrama, Guyana, sustainable?
    • Monitoring biodiversity of birds in Krka National Park
    • Should culling be advocated to control the elephant population at Kruger National Park?
  • Data-led research projects

    Students will be provided with background information on the research site they will be visiting and detailed methods for the research areas that are appropriate and available for independent projects. Unfortunately, not all our data sets can be made available for students, please see the site-specific information for details of what is available for your expedition. For each data set, students will be provided with multiple sites from the data collected during your expedition year and a comparative data set from a previous year. These data will be cleaned and tidied, but otherwise raw and are therefore primary data. Suggested research questions can be provided upon request.

    Past titles

    • To what extent will the lionfish (Pterois volitan and Pterois miles) invasion impact the environment of the Utilian coral reef communities?
    • Evaluating the extent anthropological disturbances affect the avifauna community in Cusuco National Park, Honduras
    • Has the current conservation operation been successful in aiding lemur population recovery in the Mahamavo dry deciduous forest ecosystem of Madagascar over the past four years?

How it works

  • 1) Initial enquiry

    Interested teachers should contact Dr Roger Poland (Senior Science and Education Advisor) at schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com. This should be done a minimum of two months prior to the expedition.

    2) Information pack sent

    Dr Poland will send out the relevant information packs for the expedition detailing available data sets and research topics.

    3) Students develop research questions

    The students use the information packs to develop ideas for their projects and begin more extensive background reading on their chosen topic independently.

    4) Relevant journal articles and/or sample past data provided

    Once the students have decided on a topic from our available site-specific selection, support documents and example data can be provided. NOTE: Before any data are sent the teacher is required to sign a data sharing agreement on behalf of their students.

    5) Experience the research on site

    During the expedition the students will be able to assist with collecting data relevant to their research topic and can request time with the relevant scientist to discuss their project and get further insights.

    6) Get access to the primary data

    Once all expeditions for that year are complete, the research managers will provide students with the cleaned, primary data they require for their project.

    7) Complete project write-up

    Students can then use the information gained from the expedition (including conversations with scientists, experience of research methods and primary data, if applicable) to complete their independent project.


    Please do not hesitate to get in touch directly if you have any further questions via schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com.


  • Wallace Resource Library (WRL)

    This extensive resource contains 19 datasets and a further 45 mini-tasks based around the research being carried out worldwide and it has been prepared by the actual Opwall scientists involved.  It is a very valuable source of ideas with comprehensive datasets to look at and study.

    Opwall Research Library

    This area of the Opwall website contains a comprehensive collection of publications for the research being carried out across Opwall research sites.  Not only is it a great source of ideas but also a valuable place to find relevant scientific papers to back up your research. Please note that some sites are larger and older than others, while some have more of a primary research focus than others, and so the availability of publications will vary from expedition to expedition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who do I contact if I want to do my own Research project?

Consult your teacher or supervisor and email schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com.

Can I design and carry out my own personal investigation for my research project?

Due to our commitment to our partners to collect annual data for long-term monitoring purposes, it will not be possible to collect data outside the methods described in the information packs.

How do I find out what research is being carried out at my expedition site?

Please check out each countries “Objectives” tab on your expeditions page or email schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com.

When do I have to apply for a research project?

You should register your interest as soon as possible, and a minimum of two months prior to your expedition.

Will I have access to past data sets?

For data-led projects, a set of data from a previous year will be made available wherever possible to allow for a comparison between time-points.

Will I be able to communicate with the scientist involved?

Prior to the expedition, any questions you may have should be directed to Dr Roger Poland at schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com. If you have informed us in advance, it should be possible for you to meet with the relevant scientist during your expedition to discuss your chosen topic.

Will I have time to carry out my project when I get to my expedition site?

You will be fully involved in many research projects helping to collect data, but you should also have time to discuss your topic with the relevant scientist on site if you have let us know in advance.

Will I be able to publish my research project when I have finished it?

The data collected at each site is the result of hard work from sometimes dozens of scientists, and is often planned for large-scale, high-impact research articles. However, there may be situations when smaller publications by individuals may be possible, but this must be discussed with Dr Poland prior to work beginning. If you are interested in pursuing this option, please email schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com.

Can I use Opwall data for my research project?

If it is for school or exam purposes you may use the data as long as it is credited to the appropriate source.  If it is to be published you will need more specific permission from Opwall, please email schoolresearchprojects@opwall.com for more information.

Can I design my research project when I get to the expedition site?

You will need to have chosen a topic and carried out your preliminary background research well before you go on your expedition. This will give you a good idea of how to plan your time on site if you want to speak to specific scientists, for example. You may well change your plans, but modifications are much easier to perform on site than developing brand new ideas!

Will I be able to meet and talk with a scientist about my project when I reach my expedition site?

In most cases yes, especially if Opwall staff and scientists know when you will be on-site and what you are hoping to achieve.

How long will it take me to carry out an IRP?

This will depend on the type of IRP and may well involve 120+ hours of work although most of this will occur before and after your expedition takes place.  These projects are very time-consuming and you will need to dedicate sufficient time to do them justice.

Will I need someone from my school to supervise my research project?

Yes, ultimately the school or college are responsible for supervising your IRP.

Can someone from Opwall supervise my project?

Your project should be supervised by someone form your school or college, however if you have let us know in advance of your project idea we can provide time on site for you to discuss this with the relevant scientist.

How much help can I expect when at my research site?

Most projects require an ‘independent’ approach but you can ask as many questions as you wish and most scientists are very keen to help and advise.

Will I have access to a computer when I get to my expedition site?

Most sites will have power to recharge lap-tops and a place to work but are unlikely to have any spare machines for personal use so bring your own if you want to write-up your project whilst on-site. However, we recommend that while on expedition you focus on understanding the data collection and other aspects relevant to your project, and leave the write-up for when you are back home.

Will I have access to the internet at my expedition site?

Most sites have very limited if any access to the Internet so it is very unlikely you will be able to connect.

Will there be a research library at the site?

Many sites have small research libraries and the majority of scientists will have their own ‘electronic’ versions of key papers and they may be willing to help if asked!

What exactly is primary data?

AQA (A UK Examination Board)  have defined primary data: “Primary data is defined as unmanipulated data, either collected in the field or a raw dataset.“ Our past data sets and data students might collect as part of their expedition research programme is primary data.

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