What is Operation Wallacea?
Operation Wallacea (Opwall) is an organisation that runs a series of biological and conservation management research programmes in remote locations across the world. These expeditions are designed with specific wildlife conservation aims in mind – from identifying areas needing protection, through to implementing and assessing conservation management programmes. What is different about Operation Wallacea is that large teams of ecologists, scientists, academics and postgraduate researchers who are specialists in various aspects of biodiversity or social and economic studies are concentrated at the target study sites. This gives volunteers the opportunity to work on a range of projects. The surveys produce a large number of publications in peer-reviewed journals each year and have resulted in 30 vertebrate species new to science being discovered, 4 ‘extinct’ species being re-discovered, and over US$ 2 million levered from funding agencies to set up best practice management examples at the study sites. These large survey teams of scientists and volunteers are funded independently of normal academic sources. This enables large temporal and spatial biodiversity and socio-economic datasets to be produced and provide information to help with organising effective conservation management programmes.
In 2016, the expeditions are operating in 14 countries and 11 are available for university students to join. In each country, a long-term agreement is signed with a partner organisation (e.g. Tela Marine Research Centre in Honduras, Fund Amazonia in Peru, Wildlife Ecological Investments in South Africa) and over the course of this agreement, it is hoped to achieve a survey and management development programme at each of the sites. Occasionally, a competent local partner organisation is not available. In these cases, Operation Wallacea mentors the formation of a new NGO formed from local staff who have provided successful input to the expedition surveys (e.g. Expediciones y Servicios Ambientales de Cusuco for the Honduran cloud forests).