The training course and survey options described below have been packaged as a series of 2 or 4 week expeditions. Please read the packaged expedition descriptions and then move to the constituent part descriptions below for further details of what you will be doing.

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Expedition options

Expedition 1 & 2 – Dive training and marine biology research in Cuba

Start date expedition 1: 16 June        
Length expedition 1: 4 weeks (4 weeks marine only)

Start date expedition 2: 4th August        
Length expedition 2: 2 weeks ( 2 weeks marine only)

There are limited spaces available on these projects

All expeditions run in the remote southern part of the Isla de la Juventud in Cuba, and begin with a week spent completing a PADI Open Water dive training course (for those not already qualified – CU001) and a Caribbean coral reef ecology course (CU002/3). The reef ecology course focuses on species identification, survey techniques, and coral reef ecology to give you the training needed to join the research projects (CU004). Students on a 2 week expedition will spend their second week working on the stereo-video surveys of reef fish, macro-invertebrate belt transects and benthic line intercept video surveys for coral community assessments, as well as helping with the manatee surveys (CU004). Students on a 4 week expedition will have the opportunity to join each research team for several days and develop expertise in the various survey techniques being used, as well as visiting some of the more isolated reef sites.





Constituent parts

CU001 and CU002/3 PADI Open Water dive training and Caribbean coral reef ecology course

PADI Open Water dive training is free to Operation Wallacea volunteers except for the costs of the PADI registration card and the Open Water Crew Pack, which you need to buy and bring with you. Completion of this course will give you an internationally recognised diving qualification and enable you to join general diving projects accompanied by a Divemaster. During this week you will also be completing a Caribbean coral reef ecology course focusing on reef species and survey techniques designed to get you ready to join the research projects; the Caribbean coral reef ecology course can either be completed using SCUBA (CU002) or snorkelling (CU003). The lectures also give a detailed background to coral reef science and the threats they currently face, but a large proportion of the course concentrates on learning to identify the reef fish, macro-invertebrates and corals species commonly encountered on the surveys. Each part of the course (fish, corals and macro-invertebrates) finishes with a test with a pass mark required for progression into the research programme.


CU004 Reef fish, benthic communities and marine megafauna

Students joining this option will rotate between the following projects led by experts from the University of Havana.

  • Reef fish: Using stereo-video, you will be involved in the identification and measurement of fish species from analysis of the video data collected to calculate biomass and species community composition. In addition you will be helping with video line intercept surveys on the reefs and analysing these videos to identify the benthic organisms intercepting the line so the total coral and macroalgal cover at each site can be calculated.
  • Coastal fish: Coastal fish communities and recruitment is studied from seine net surveys of the beach areas and light traps are also used to assess larval populations in coastal waters.
  • Sharks: The shark project forms part of the Global FinPrint project. When conditions allow, baited long lines will also be set from the research ship to tag and release sharks.
  • Lionfish: This project involves the dissection of speared lionfish to examine size class structure, stomach contents, and other morphological and physiological characteristics.
  • Manatee surveys and capture: The manatee surveys are conducted in the mangrove channels and lagoons using side scan sonar surveys and observational transects. The position of all sighted manatees are logged and environmental data collected. Occasionally we are able to assist with captures and students will be helping using nets. Any manatees captured will be measured, the sex determined, and DNA and blood samples taken.