Mexico - Operation Wallacea

Mexico

Expedition options

The training course and research assistant options described below (see constituent parts) have been packaged as a series of 2, 4 and 6 week expeditions

Want to get involved or know more? Submit an Expression of Interest!

Expedition 1 – introduction to the Caribbean

Start date: 18 June
Expedition length: 2 weeks ( 2 weeks marine)

There is limited space available on this project

Why choose this expedition? Introduction to diving and marine research

This expedition is based at the marine research site in Akumal. If you are not already dive trained, you can spend your first week completing a PADI Open Water dive training course, before moving onto the Caribbean reef ecology course in your final week. This course consists of lectures and morning and afternoon in-water practicals and trains you in some of the survey techniques used in the marine environment to assess the status of reefs and their associated fish communities. If you are already dive trained or just wanting to snorkel your first week is on the Caribbean reef ecology course and the second would be spent working with different researchers on-site. Projects you will join include monitoring of sea turtle grazing of seagrasses and seagrass biomass in Akumal Bay and investigation of the carbon biomass, health and function of different mangrove systems, including the unique cenote fed mangroves found only in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Expedition 2 – tropical forest and Caribbean biodiversity

Start date: 18 June
Expedition length: 2 weeks ( 2 weeks terrestrial,
 2 weeks marine)
Why choose this expedition? Good introduction to both forest and marine biodiversity surveys

This project has a waiting list

The four week expedition splits your time in half between both the jungles of Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and the picturesque Caribbean marine site of Akumal Bay. Spending your first two weeks in the Mayan jungle, you will complete an introduction to the ancient Maya and Mayan jungle ecology course alongside practicals in survey techniques. Following this you will spend a week helping teams of field biologists completing standardised surveys on a series of key taxa. Surveys include mist netting long into the night for bats, where morphometric measurements of captured bats are taken and species identified. Mist netting is also used early in the morning for birds as well as point count surveys. Large mammal surveys involve recording primate sightings (distance sampling) and terrestrial mammal tracks (patch occupancy sampling) encountered along forest transects during morning surveys accompanied by an afternoon session analysing camera trap data. Herpetofauna are surveyed using line transect surveys and timed searches of aguada habitats. Frugivorous butterflies are surveyed using baited traps in different forest types. Forest structure is an essential data set for the project and you will also assist with carrying out quadrat samples. For your last two weeks you will be at the Opwall Akumal marine site. If you are not already dive trained, then you would be able to complete a PADI Open Water dive training course before moving onto the Caribbean reef ecology by diving in the following week. If you are already dive trained or just want to snorkel and not dive, then your first Akumal week will be spent on the Caribbean reef ecology course with practicals by either diving or snorkelling. Once having completed this course your last week in Akumal will be spent working with a range of different marine scientists including projects on mangrove carbon levels, mapping of hard corals and rapid assessment of habitat quality across the Akumal reefs and reef restoration nurseries and monitoring of sea turtle grazing of seagrasses and seagrass biomass in Akumal Bay.

Expedition 3 – remote biodiversity monitoring of the Mayan jungle

Start date: 16 July
Expedition length: 4 weeks ( 4 weeks terrestrial
)
Why choose this expedition? Best project for learning monitoring techniques on a wide array of terrestrial wildlife

This expedition is based in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and provides the opportunity to visit multiple different camps and see first-hand how the forest changes in relation to water distribution and Mayan ruins and how this impacts of the diversity of fauna. Your first week will be spent completing an introduction to the ancient Maya and Mayan jungle ecology course which involves field practicals to illustrate the survey techniques being used. Then you will spend the next two weeks in a remote camp in the humid forests near the Guatemalan border which has large fruiting trees and an abundant food supply resulting in a high density of wildlife. Initial data collected at the remote Dos Naciones camp indicates that these humid forests are crucial for the conservation of flagship species such as jaguar, tapir and spider monkeys and have the highest diversity of birds, bats and herpetofauna in the reserve. Here you will help with surveys on forest structure and tree species composition, birds, bats, herpetofauna, primates and large terrestrial mammals using the same methods as the standard biodiversity surveys and will experience a high number of animal sightings and captures. During remote biodiversity surveys, students will need to help with running the field camp as well as assisting with surveys and a good level of fitness is required due to the hilly terrain. In the last week of the expedition you will travel to the core zone of the reserve to focus on biodiversity surveys in this pristine habitat. Mist net surveys include taking morphometric measurements of captures to monitor birds and bats and the species captured vary considerably across camps. Large mammal surveys involve recording primate sightings (distance sampling) and terrestrial mammal tracks (patch occupancy sampling) encountered along forest transects during morning surveys accompanied by afternoon sessions analysing camera trap data. Herpetofauna are surveyed using line transect surveys and timed searches of aguada habitats for
crocodiles and other aquatic species. Frugivorous butterflies are surveyed using baited traps in different forest types. Forest structure is an essential data set for the project and you will also assist with carrying out quadrat samples.

Expedition 4 – tropical forest and Caribbean diving

Start date: 16 July
Expedition length: 4 weeks ( 3 weeks terrestrial, 1 week marine
)
Why choose this expedition? Broad forest experience and a taste of Caribbean reefs

The four week expedition involves three weeks in the jungle of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserveand a final week in the picturesque Caribbean marine site of Akumal Bay. During your first week in the Mayan jungle, you will complete an introduction to the ancient Maya and Mayan jungle ecology course alongside practicals in survey techniques. For your next two weeks you can travel to different forest camps to assist with biodiversity surveys or remote biodiversity surveys. You could therefore opt for two weeks of standard surveys, two weeks of remote surveys or one week of each. Mist net surveys including morphometric measurements of captures are used to monitor birds and bats and the species captured varies considerably across camps. Large mammal surveys involve recording primate sightings (distance sampling) and terrestrial mammal tracks (patch occupancy sampling) encountered along forest transects during morning surveys accompanied by an afternoon session analysing camera trap data. Herpetofauna are surveyed using line transect surveys and timed searches of aguada habitats. Frugivorous butterflies are surveyed using baited traps in different forest types. Forest structure is an essential data set for the project and you will also assist with carrying out quadrat samples.

For your last week you will be at the Opwall Akumal marine site to complete a PADI Open Water dive training course. If you are already dive trained or just wanting to snorkel and not dive, then you will complete the Caribbean reef ecology course with
practicals by either diving or snorkelling. Diving and snorkelling in Akumal provides an excellent example of the Caribbean reef with an abundant population of sea turtles.

Expedition 5 – jaguars, monkeys and turtles

Start date: 2 July
Expedition length: 6 weeks ( 3 weeks terrestrial, 3 weeks marine
)
Why choose this expedition? Best project for learning about forest and marine biodiversity research

There is limited space available on this project

This six week expedition gives you an in-depth research experience with three weeks in the Calakmul Biosphere reserve forests and then three weeks working on marine research projects at Akumal. Your first week in the forest would start with the introduction to the ancient Maya and a Mayan jungle ecology course. For the next two weeks you will be focussing on remote biodiversity surveys helping teams of field biologists in the remote Dos Naciones camp. Initial data in this area indicates that
these humid forests are crucial for the conservation of flagship species such as jaguar, tapir and spider monkeys and have the highest diversity of birds, bats and herpetofauna in the reserve. Here you will help with surveys on forest structure and tree species composition, birds, bats, herpetofauna, primates and large terrestrial mammals using the same methods as the standard biodiversity surveys and will experience a high number of animal sightings and captures. During remote biodiversity
surveys, students will need to help with running the field camp as well as assisting with surveys and a good level of fitness is required due to the hilly terrain.

Your next three weeks will be spent at the Akumal marine protected area. If you are not already dive trained, then you will be able to complete a PADI Open Water dive training course before moving onto the Caribbean reef ecology by diving in the following week. Your final week will then be spent assisting the marine science team. If you are already dive trained, or wanting to only snorkel, then your first Akumal week will be spent on the Caribbean reef ecology course by snorkelling and having completed this course your next two weeks will be spent working with different marine scientists. The monitoring programme focusses on mapping hard corals and rapid assessment of habitat quality across the Akumal reefs and reef restoration nurseries, monitoring of sea turtle grazing of seagrasses and seagrass biomass in Akumal Bay and investigation of the carbon biomass, health and function of different mangrove systems, including the unique cenote fed mangroves found only in the Yucatan Peninsula. Students participating in this monitoring programme will have an active schedule that involves dive or snorkel based surveys to assess the health of the reefs and snorkel, kayak or land based surveys to monitor mangroves.


Mexico

Mexico 2