Environmental and Conservation School Expeditions - Operation Wallacea

Environmental and Conservation School Expeditions


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The various biodiversity surveys being run as part of the Operation Wallacea programme are mostly carried out by university academics and university undergraduates acting as Research Assistants or completing independent research projects. However, there are some tasks that need a much greater amount of manpower than available just from university students. These tasks are being carried out by groups of high school/sixth form students from the UK, other parts of Europe, North America, Asia and Australia who are generally accompanied by their biology, geography or environmental science teachers (although occasionally teachers from other disciplines go with the group). These groups, known as General Surveyors, join the mixed teams of scientists and undergraduates but undertake their own programmes as school expeditions.

There are two week expeditions available at each of the sites for 16 – 18 year old students and are ideal for those studying biology, geography, environmental courses or interested in conservation. The two week expeditions have slightly different structures in each country and manuals outlining the programme of skills training, academic lectures, practicals to demonstrate the differing types of surveys being undertaken and the field research to be carried out are provided to the students in advance of the expeditions and are available on each countries page on the website. Training is also given in how to prepare for the expedition and how to fundraise.

We travelled to Madagascar with Opwall in summer 2014 having previously used other companies for this kind of expedition. From the outset we were very impressed with the organisation and adaptability of Opwall and in particular we liked the fact that there was a didactic element to the trips in that the participants had lectures about local ecology and conservation issues whilst they were in country. We also felt that the work that the students did in collecting data during wildlife surveys had real value to it and it was also good for them to see scientists working in conservation at first hand. Support with fundraising and planning the expedition was first rate and we had no hesitation in booking a second trip with Opwall, this time to Indonesia for summer 2016.”
Phil Cue. Head of Biology, Dulwich College

The expedition itineraries vary considerably. In Indonesia, Mexico, Madagascar, Honduras and Dominica the first week is spent in lowland or cloud forest and the second week on coral reefs. In Peru the programme is based for the two weeks on research ships within the Amazonian rainforest whilst in Cuba the project is mainly based on reefs with some mangrove lagoon surveys for manatees. The Ecuador project is in cloud forest for the first week followed by lowland forest for the second week. In South Africa the first week is in one of the game reserve research sites with the second week on reefs. Guyana is the toughest of all the projects with one week in lowland rainforest followed by a canoe based survey for one week on a river. The Transylvanian project, in the foothills of the Carpathians in Transylvania, is helping with assessing the management of a Special Conservation Area with bears and wolves. The first week in Croatia will be spent in the Krka river valley and the second week at the north western tip of the island of Mljet. In Fiji, the first week will be spent in a research camp in the Natewa forest, with the second week spent exploring previously unsurveyed reefs in Natewa Bay. The Great Rift Valley expedition is split in to three parts. The first part will be spent researching speciation mechanisms in the crater lakes north of Lake Malawi, in Tanzania. The second part includes dive training and fish surveys in Lake Malawi and the third part will be spent in Liwonde National Park in Malawi.

Schools might also be interested in the Wallace Resource Library – resource datasets that have been designed for use in the classroom and use data collected from different Opwall projects. You can find more information on the WRL Page elsewhere on the website (in the Library section, here) and find the demo version online at http://wallaceresourcelibrary.com/

Mexico Teacher