Independent Research Projects - Operation Wallacea

Independent Research Projects

In the last few years an increasing number of students joining our research programmes are taking this opportunity to undertake Independent Research Projects – IRPs. These research projects take many different forms, but what they all have in common is the need to pose and answer a research question. Examples of these include Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), Extended Essay (EE) for IB, as well as many different projects specific to many educational systems worldwide.

We are able to support the dissertation essay style research question; however individual scientific investigations (in which students design and collect their own data) are more difficult to facilitate given the short amount of time students are present on-site.

It is a great opportunity for a student to witness first-hand many of the aspects of their research question and, in many cases, they will have access to samples of past data-sets for their project. Students may also have the opportunity to talk with the actual scientists involved which will give them a convincing ‘slant’ to the way in which they answer their research question.

Much of the research they will be able to get involved with is specific to their expedition location. The projects that students will come into contact with range from students helping to collect ecological and biodiversity data through to working and learning alongside the scientists where primary data collection by school students is less practical or more difficult.

For success with IRPs, careful planning is needed by the student and a lot of the work will be done prior to their expedition. They will need close guidance from their school supervisor and the scientists in the field need to be briefed so that support can be provided where they can. We have now developed an application system to ensure that the student will be able to undertake (realistically) such a project, that their choice of topic is appropriate to their expedition site, the science staff ‘on-site’ are aware of the project and where practically we can assist in a constructive way before, during and after their expedition.


Some example research questions carried out by students are:

 ‘How does inter species competition and environmental changes affect the populations of the different species of caiman in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve?’

‘Comparing how habitat varies on a spatial scale across cloud forest in Cusuco National Park in Honduras.’

 ‘To what extent will the lionfish (Pterois volitan and Pterois miles) invasion impact the environment of the Utilian coral reef communities and evaluate current management strategies applied in Utila.’

‘What effects do different disturbance levels, both human and abiotic disturbance, have on bird abundance and species richness on Buton Island, Indonesia?’

‘What differences and similarities can be found between primary and secondary rainforests and what may be the causes? Which forest type has the biggest conservation value? ‘

‘How does the establishment of REDD+ scheme in Cusuco National Park (Honduras) affect the conservation of biodiversity and the communities living within and around the national park?’


More information:

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