Honduras

Due to limited spaces on the forest research programme in some weeks, the forest only options in Honduras are available as either a 2 or 4 week period. There are also 4 week expeditions available which combine both forest and marine components consisting of either 2 or 3 weeks forest and the remainder marine. If you want a marine-only project then you can book an expedition of 2, 4, 6 or 8 weeks and choose from the marine expeditions below. Please read the expedition options below and then move to the descriptions of the constituent parts for further information.

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Expedition Options 

Expedition 1 – Neotropical forest ecology, jungle skills and biodiversity surveys

Start date expedition 1: 07 June
Expedition length:  4 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial, 2 weeks marine)

There is limited space available on this project

This expedition is ideal for those wanting to gain experience at both marine and terrestrial research sites. The first two weeks are spent in Cusuco (HO001 & HO003) followed by two weeks at one of the marine sites completing HO004/05/06. It is ideal if you are already dive qualified or wanting to snorkel only as it will then allow you to join the research teams for option HO007 in your final week.

Expedition 2 – Neotropical forest ecology, jungle skills and biodiversity surveys

Start date expedition 2: 05 July
Expedition length:  4 weeks (3 weeks terrestrial, 1 week marine)

There is limited space available on this project

This is an ideal choice for those with a higher level of fitness, who want to make the most of their time in the jungle and yet still wish to experience a marine research site. After completing HO001, you will then visit the more remote forest camps assisting with the research effort HO003 for the next two weeks. Your final week will be HO004/05/06.

Expedition 3 – Expedition Medicine Experiential Course for Pre-Meds

Start date expedition 3: 07 June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (3 weeks terrestrial, 1 week marine)

This expedition is aimed at giving Pre-Med students the best experience in how to provide medical support to teams working on expeditions in some of the most remote areas. The expedition medicine experiential course provides formal teaching in the form of interactive lectures coupled with mentorship by doctors working out in the field to gain experience in clinical diagnosis and treatment. The mentors will provide individual assessments for each of the students at the end of the placement. The format of the expedition is HO001, HO002, HO003 with a final week completing either HO004/ HO005/HO006.

Expedition 4 – Neotropical forest ecology, jungle skills and biodiversity surveys

Start date expedition 4: 14 June
Expedition length: 2 weeks (2 weeks terrestrial only)

This expedition is designed to give you a brief overview of what a field research site is like. You will complete HO001 before moving to assist researchers in HO003.

Expedition 5 – Neotropical forest ecology, jungle skills and biodiversity surveys

Start date expedition 5: 21 June
Expedition length: 4 weeks (4 weeks terrestrial only)

Ideal for those wanting to gain as much terrestrial research experience as possible whilst combining science and adventure. The expedition starts with HO001, then moves between research camps with the opportunity to trek right across the park, whilst assisting with the biodiversity surveys HO003

Expedition 6, 7 & 8 – PADI open water, caribbean reef ecology and survey techniques (diving / snorkelling) and marine research assistant

Start date expedition 6: 14 June (8 weeks)
Start date expedition 7: 14 June (6 weeks)
Start date expedition 8: 28 June (6 weeks)
Expedition length: 6/8 weeks (marine only)

This expedition is the ideal way to achieve a high level of research experience at a marine base, giving you 6/8 weeks working alongside leading scientists. In your first week you can learn to dive (HO004) followed by HO005/06 (depending on if you are diving or snorkeling). The remaining weeks are spent assisting the research teams in HO007, allowing ample opportunity to visit both marine sites and assist with a wide array of projects.

Expedition 9 & 10 – PADI open water, caribbean reef ecology and survey techniques (diving / snorkelling) and marine research assistant

Start date expedition 9: 21 June
Start date expedition 10: 12 July
Expedition length:  4 weeks (marine only)

There is limited space available on expedition 10

This is the perfect option for those without the funds or time to complete a 6 or 8 week expedition. In your first week you can learn to dive (HO004) followed by HO005/06 (depending on if diving or snorkelling). The group will then spend their final weeks assisting the research teams in HO007.

Expedition 11 & 12 – PADI open water, caribbean reef ecology and survey techniques (diving / snorkelling) and marine research assistant if already dive-trained

Start date expedition 11: 14 June
Start date expedition 12: 26 July
Expedition length:  2 weeks (marine only)

This 2 week expedition provides a basic introduction into marine research. If you are not already dive trained and wanting to learn you will not join the research teams and your options will be HO004/05/06. If snorkelling or already dive trained your first week will be HO005/06 and HO007 your final week.

Expedition 13 – Divemaster training on Utila

Start date expedition 13: 14 June
Expedition length:  4 weeks (marine only)

This 4 week expedition is based at the Utila Island Marine Research Centre and is to enable students already at Rescue Diver level and with 60 logged dives to complete their Divemaster qualification (HO008).

Special Expedition: PADI Dive Instructor Training Course
*Expedition 14

Start date special expedition: 07 June
Expedition length:  6 weeks (marine only)

This limited space expedition begins with the PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) and Emergency First Response Instructor Course (EFRI) concluding with a 2 day Instructor Examination (IE) hosted by PADI HQ. Followed by a custom designed training programme focusing on Opwall’s research programme. This includes 5 PADI Instructor Specialities that will prepare you to reach the Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) rating. You will then join the Opwall staff team, where you will be teaching dive courses under the guidance of your PADI mentor. Giving you hands on teaching experience while building towards your certification target. The PADI IDC and EFRI course materials are included within the 6 week cost along with online study programmes which must be completed before the expedition begins.

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Constituent parts: Training Courses

HO001 Neo-tropical Forest Ecology and Jungle Training

Series of lectures and practicals designed to ensure your survey skills are accurate, well-informed and that you can work safely within a field environment.

Canopy Access Experience (available throughout HO001)  Canopy Access Limited, the team that helped David Attenborough ascend into the canopy for Life of Mammals, Life in the Undergrowth and Planet Earth series.  The team will be at Base Camp running a half-day course on safe ascent into the canopy. The course can be done as part of the jungle training and will show you how to ascend 40m+ into the canopy along with a qualified instructor. This optional experience costs US$170 or £110 – just pre-book with Canopy Access Limited via their website: http://canopyaccess.co.uk

HO002 Expedition medicine experiential course

This course in expedition medicine covers pre-expedition planning, medical emergencies and trauma in the field, tropical infections and snake bite and envenomation procedures. The course is delivered as a series of lectures and practical exercises.

HO004 PADI Open Water Dive Training

This course involves a combination of theory lessons, confined water dives and open water dives to gain an official scuba diving qualification.

HO005/006 Caribbean reef ecology and survey techniques – diving / snorkeling

The course consists of lectures and in water practicals and teaches identification of common genera and species of coral and other macro-invertebrates, identification of the major reef-associated fish families and common species. Designed to introduce a variety of methods and practices used for scientific research in the marine environment.

HO008 PADI Open Water Dive Training

If you are already qualified as a PADI Rescue Diver and have at least 60 logged dives you can complete the PADI Divemaster training. Divemaster training has to be done as a full time commitment so you won’t have the chance to join the research projects on this option, although you will be learning to supervise students completing diving for research. An advantage of completing the course with Opwall is the opportunity it gives you of joining the programme as a Divemaster staff member at any of the Opwall sites worldwide in future years.

Optional Additional Dive Training

If you are already dive trained, you can sign up for additional dive training in your spare time. These courses include PADI Advanced Open Water (US$220) and PADI Rescue Diver with EFR (US$400).

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Details of Projects and Expeditions 

HO003 Monitoring Biodiversity Change

Operation Wallacea has established an annual monitoring programme for Cusuco National Park. This involves standardised monitoring of a number of taxa from standard sites and transects across the park to assess changes in the structure of the forest and how these changes are impacting the target taxa. Cusuco National Park is now the most published and best studied park in Honduras, so joining these teams will give you the opportunity to work with a large range of scientists across a series of camps and habitats.

Students assist all research projects including:
• Helping to set up and empty invertebrate pitfall traps to assess dung beetle communities, light traps for moths and jewel scarab beetles
• Performing timed searches for herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians)
• Point counts and mist netting for birds, recording data and taking biometric measurements
• Habitat monitoring by completing forest structure plots
• Setting and emptying small mammal traps
• Patch occupancy and camera trap surveys for large mammals
• Mist netting and sound recording for bats

Additional studies include projects such as:
• Surveying epiphytic lichen diversity across different forest habitats in the park
• Determining territory size and bird behaviour using call back
• Examining invertebrate communities in bromeliads and looking at infection rates of chytrid fungus (a disease that has decimated amphibian populations elsewhere) in these tiny mountain top amphibian communities to determine the best strategy for their conservation

HO007 Marine Research Assistant Pool

Our team of scientists conduct a wide range of research projects at our sites on Utila and Tela, ranging from those involving in-water surveys to laboratory based studies. These projects require help with data collection and analysis, students in the research assistant pool will have the opportunity to experience multiple research projects.

Projects include:
• Stereo-video: Ecosystem monitoring using stereo-video fish surveys and benthic video transects
• Sea urchin population dynamics
• Invasive lionfish ecology
• In-situ behavioural studies of cleaning symbioses
• Laboratory behaviour studies of urchins and invasive lionfish
• Mangrove system ecology

At a weekly research assistant meeting, the science team present their research and what assistance they require that week, and research assistants sign up to one or more projects accordingly.

Facilities

Forest

Accommodation at Base Camp is in tents and there are toilets and showers. There is a wireless networked computer system with an internet link at Base Camp (although access to the internet will be limited) and this is where all the data from the various survey teams are collated. In addition, there is a field DNA lab. From Base Camp, teams can access four core zone fly camps across the park, giving the experience of living deep in the forest, sleeping in hammocks or tents and with the river as your shower facility. Terrain in Cusuco is the toughest of all our expeditions.

Marine

Utila

Located outside of Utila town is the Coral View hotel, situated between some of the best reefs and the largest mangrove-lined lagoon system on the island. Accommodation is in shared rooms and is run by a local Utilan family who have built, in conjunction with Operation Wallacea, a well-equipped dive and environmental monitoring field lab. The home reef can be accessed from the jetty by snorkelling or diving and provides a site for more intensive experimental research.

Tela

The Bay of Tela is situated between the national parks of Punta Sal and Punto Isopo. Honduras Shores Plantation is located on the beach in the Bay of Tela between the sea and a small lagoon which connects to some of the larger lagoons in the area. Accommodation is in fan cooled dormitory style rooms. There is a small dive centre with newly built lab facilities, a swimming pool and lecture facilities. All diving is by boat, with mangroves reached by a combination of kayaks and a small boat.