What is Operation Wallacea?
Operation Wallacea is an organisation funded by tuition fees that runs a series of biological and conservation management research programmes that operate 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 university academics who are specialists in various aspects of biodiversity or social and economic studies are concentrated at the target study sites giving volunteers the opportunity to work on a range of projects. The surveys result in a large number of publications in peer-reviewed journals each year, have resulted in 30 vertebrate species new to science being discovered, 4 ‘extinct’ species being re-discovered and $2 million levered from funding agencies to set up best practice management examples at the study sites. These large survey teams of academics and volunteers that are funded independently of normal academic sources have enabled large temporal and spatial biodiversity and socio-economic data sets to be produced, and provide information to help with organising effective conservation management programmes.
In 2013/14, the expeditions are operating in 11 countries: Indonesia, Honduras, Egypt, Cuba, South Africa, Peru, Madagascar, Guyana, Romania, Mexico and Ecuador. In each country, a long-term agreement is signed with a partner organisation (e.g. Honduran Coral Reef Foundation in Honduras, Fund Amazonia in Peru, Wildlife Ecological Investments in South Africa, Nature and Science Foundation in Egypt) 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. Lawane Ecotone for the Indonesian forest and Expediciones y Servicios Ambientales de Cusuco for the Honduran cloud forests).
The vast majority of science programmes that deliver key research outcomes are characterised by short-term funding with restricted aims and bio-geographical ranges. Long-term projects covering large bio-geographical scales and that incorporate more than one ecosystem are rare. The Operation Wallacea programme provides the opportunity to consider science and conservation of key ecosystems from a global perspective. Opwall is able to draw upon researchers from a wide range of different disciplines and academic institutions to address major issues related to the sustainable management and conservation of some of the world’s most diverse but threatened environments.