US$3390

Per volunteer

* with 100% Employer Matching Program.
Total price: US$6780.

7 days

6 nights

5 activity days

10  7

Monitoring volunteer spaces left

Six unforgettable days in Belize, Central America

Join MarAlliance’s team of marine biologists, guides and fishers for five unforgettable days at the Belize Barrier Reef, helping to research sharks, rays and turtles (marine megafauna). During this trip, you will experience the life of a tropical marine field biologist while helping us collect invaluable data that will contribute to the conservation of these vital species.

We will train you so that you can be directly involved in each aspect of our field work from setting longlines to capture, measure and tag sharks and rays, and launching Baited Remote Underwater Videos. We are excited to have the opportunity to share our findings with you and the fieldwork will be complemented by presentations by our research team during the course of the week.

The Details

Why are marine megafauna important?

Marine megafauna, notably sharks and rays (elasmobranchs), are predators that play a vital role in maintaining healthy and functional marine ecosystems. Overfishing coupled with a life history of slow growth, late maturity and low fecundity, make them vulnerable to overexploitation and in dire need of management to halt further decline. Much more research is needed on elasmobranch diversity, abundance and distribution, exploitation levels and value, habitat use, and movement throughout the lifecycle, particularly near tropical countries such as Belize.

MarAlliance in Belize

MarAlliance is a new and dynamic NGO whose staff collectively has more than seven decades of experience with marine megafauna. Working with the government and other stakeholders we seek to promote thriving populations of sharks, rays, turtles and piscivorous fish by undertaking annual monitoring of populations, age and growth, and assessing the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs).

While Belize still possesses much of the habitat considered essential for sharks and rays, their local populations are rapidly being damaged by overfishing and uncontrolled development in their nursery habitats. The overfishing of sharks, for example, can lead to an overabundance of secondary consumers and a scarcity of prey, both symptoms of ecosystem imbalance.

MPAs are a key means of stemming the decline of commercial fish species and Belize boasts 14 of them, seven of which are World Heritage Sites. Conservation targets urge governments to set aside 10% of the world’s seas under MPA management by 2020. This has made the need to assess MPAs’ effectiveness all the more urgent yet their benefits for highly mobile species have yet to be fully understood.

Travel and accommodation

You will arrive at Belize City’s Philip Goldson International Airport and transfer by boat the following day to Lighthouse Reef Atoll. You will lodge at the Island Expedition’s Glamping (Glamorous Camping) site on Half Moon Caye in simple but nicely laid out tents with shared bathrooms. Food will include traditional Belizean chicken, fish and beef dishes complemented by vegetables, salads and fruits…all distinctively delicious!

Training

Your objective is to assist MarAlliance’s Belize-based Shark and Ray Research Team to undertake the annual monitoring of marine megafauna at the Lighthouse Reef Atoll. To prepare for your trip and help us collect the most valuable data we will provide you with materials in advance to assist you with species identification and size/distance estimation. On your first days at Half Moon Caye and Lighthouse Reef Atoll we will hold training sessions to review the methods and fine-tune your size and distance estimation skills (on land and in the water).

Activities

Species identification of sharks, rays, turtles and piscivorous fish

Identifying marine megafauna by species is an important part of assessing biodiversity. Species ID will be used during in-water visual transects and in analyzing Baited Remote Underwater Video recordings. We will further ask you to familiarize yourself with species prior to the trip to improve species identification in the field.

In-water visual transect

Transects are a non-invasive method for assessing diversity and relative abundance of marine megafauna.

Each transect involves four swimmers positioned in the water and spaced 30 metres apart. Each transect is 1km in length and throughout the transect each swimmer is responsible for recording species, quantity, distance estimation, and size estimation for the sharks, rays, turtles, and piscivorous fish they see within their area.

You will learn species identification and size estimation techniques to accurately record data. Following field work you can help to transcribe data to provide indices of species diversity, abundance, demographics, and size frequencies according to the different habitats sampled.

Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV)

BRUVs are structures made out of PVC pipe or metal that contain a GoPro camera and an extended arm with a bait cage.

BRUVs are deployed at various sites around the archipelago for at least 60 mins at a time in order to record species that are attracted to the bait. These videos are later analyzed to record the species and relative number of individuals and assess diversity and relative abundance.

We will collectively review videos taken during the day and annotate these to record target species and frequency of occurrence.

Longline capture and tagging of sharks and rays

Scientific longlining is another method to assess shark and ray diversity and abundance, especially over long periods of time.

This technique involves setting a line of 50 baited hooks in order to capture individuals and collect more specific measurements, tag the animal with a marker that will identify them in future captures or sightings, and collect a tissue sample for DNA and contaminant analysis.

You will assist with baiting and setting the longline, collecting environmental data, and will learn proper handling techniques for safely tagging and releasing sharks and rays.

OPTIONAL (price not included): one day’s diving at famous Blue Hole, Half Moon Caye Wall and Aquarium, three iconic dive sites at Lighthouse Reef Atoll made famous by Jacques Cousteau.

Advanced open water diver certification is recommended for diving the Blue Hole. Some operators will not take divers out unless they have advanced diver certification and have recent logged dives to 80 feet. You must also submit PADI medical forms.

For more information on diving the Blue Hole please visit the following websites:
http://ambergriscaye.com/pages/town/greatbluehole.html
http://www.belizedivingservices.com/

Half Moon Caye, Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize

May 13-20th, 2017

Day 1

Saturday, May 13

International flight arrival at Philip Goldson International Airport, Belize City, Belize.

Tropic Air transfer to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Check in at Sunbreeze hotel, located directly across the street from the airport port (no need for taxi transfer).

19:00

Dinner with all expedition volunteers and MarAlliance Executive director Rachel Graham.

Day 2

Sunday, May 14

08:45

Expeditioners meet at the Sunbreeze hotel dock.

09:00

Boat transfer from Sunbreeze hotel dock to Lighthouse Reef Atoll.

11:00

Arrival at Lighthouse Reef Atoll’s Half Moon Caye.
Meet with members of the research team and get oriented at the Glamping Camp at Half Moon Caye.

12:00

Lunch at Half Moon Caye.

13:30-14:30

Meet the island’s Belize Audubon Rangers for a debrief on the island and orientation.

14:30-17:00

Overview of monitoring methods and 1st size estimation exercises.

18:00

Dinner at Half Moon Caye with the research team.
Welcome and full introductions.

19:30-20:30

Presentation by Dr. Rachel Graham, Executive Director, MarAlliance.

Day 3

Monday, May 15

NB: Participants will be divided into three groups (A, B, C) to personalize the experience and to ensure space on the boats; each group gets the opportunity to rotate through the different monitoring techniques.

7:00-8:00

Breakfast

8:30-10:00

Size estimation exercises on land and in water.
Instruction in survey methods and data collection (recap of previous afternoon’s exercises and the evening‘s presentation).

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group A)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group B)
Shark monitoring (Group C)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at Half Moon Caye or in the field.

13:30-17:30

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group A)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group B)
Shark monitoring (Group C)

18:00-19:00

Dinner

19:00-20:45

Presentation by Ivy Baremore, MSc., Technical Co-ordinator.
Night shark work and/or review of day’s videos.

Day 4

Tuesday, May 16

6:00-7:00

Breakfast

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group B)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group C)
Shark monitoring (Group A)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at Half Moon Caye or in the field.

13:30-17:30

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group B)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group C)
Shark monitoring (Group A)

18:00-19:00

Dinner

19:00-20:45

Night shark work and/or review of day’s videos.

Day 5

Wednesday, May 17

6:00-7:00

Breakfast

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group B)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group C)
Shark monitoring (Group A)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at Half Moon Caye or in the field.

13:30-17:30

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group B)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group C)
Shark monitoring (Group A)

18:00-19:00

Dinner

19:00-20:45

Panel session led by Traditional Fishers & Community Field Co-ordinator Hilmar Salazar.
Night shark work and/or review of day’s videos.

Day 6

Thursday, May 18

6:00-7:00

Breakfast

In-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles (Group B)
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (Group C)
Shark monitoring (Group A)

12:00-13:00

Lunch at Half Moon Caye.

13:30-17:30

Recreational time.

18:00-19:00

Last day dinner on Half Moon Caye.

19:00-21:00

Summary of the week’s activities by team leaders and volunteers.
Wrap-up party.

Day 7

Friday, May 19

7:00-8:00

Breakfast

8:30-10:45

Boat transfer to Belize City.

11:00-11:30

Van to airport or overnight stay in Belize City and other adventures that we would be happy to help organize for you!

NB: International air departures should be booked for after 13:00.

Please note agenda may be subject to change.

 Baited remote underwater video and underwater transects survey sites throughout Lighthouse Reef Atoll.

Travel tips

• The Belize dollar is the official currency of Belize and is pegged at BZ$2 = US$1.

• USD and Belize dollars are accepted as payment.

• Tipping in generally 10-20%. Porters at Belize International Airport charge $2.50 (Bz$5) bag to carry your bags.  Note that the porters do not inform passengers of this charge ahead of time.

• If you plan on using your cell phone, standard roaming charges will apply and rates will be carrier dependent.  Most restaurants, hotels and bars are equipped with free wifi for paying customers.

• Electrical outlets are the same as in the United States and typically 110V/60Hz.

• The local time is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT – 6), and there is no time change during the year.

• Tap water is officially potable, however we will provide filtered 5 gallon jugs of water so that you can fill reusable water bottles.

Safety

Safety is our top concern and MarAlliance has an emergency plan for all of our field work sites throughout Belize.  All boats carry basic first aid kits and a more comprehensive kit will be held at the field base.

There is no readily accessible internet on the island. But for safety we have a satellite telephone and a Delorme InReach satellite messenger for use in the event of an emergency.

Emergency contacts for Belize City

Hospital: Tel. 223 1548 or 223 3081
Police: Tel. 205 5051 or 223 3081

What to bring

For the sun and sea

page_icon_sunscreen

Sunscreen*

page_icon_sunglasses

Sunglasses**

page_icon_hat

Hat

page_icon_shorts

Swim wear (at least 2 suits)

page_icon_rashguard

Rashguard

page_icon_bodysuit

Lycra bodysuit

* Make sure your sunscreen is coral/reef safe and doesn’t contain oxybenzone, octinoxate, 4-MBC and the common preservative butylparaben, all of which kill coral.
** Polarized are recommended as they cut down the glare on the water.

Clothing

page_icon_3tshirts

2-3 T-shirts

page_icon_3shorts

2-3 pairs of shorts

page_icon_1and1

One long-sleeved shirt and one pair of long pants †

page_icon_towel

1 large regular towel

page_icon_quickdry

Large quick dry towel

page_icon_pareo

Pareo or wrap

† To take out on the water in case you start getting too much sun.

Equipment

page_icon_snorkel-fins

Mask, fins and snorkel (test equipment before arrival)

page_icon_rain-jacket

Rain jacket (just in case)

page_icon_gopro

Underwater or splash-proof camera/GoPro

page_icon_headlamp

Headlamp with rechargeable batteries

page_icon_drysack

Dry sack for keeping camera gear and other items water-free

page_icon_water-bottle

Re-useable water bottle

Health and wellbeing

page_icon_mosquito

Bug spray

page_icon_pill

Sea-sick? Dramamine or meclizine

page_icon_pill-bottle

Own medicines

page_icon_candy

Snacks, e.g. hard candy‡

page_icon_book

Books to read

‡ Always good to have following the snorkel transects!

Price includes

Lodging

  • 5-double occupancy tent with shared bath for 6 nights on Half Moon Caye

Transfers

  • Round-trip boat transfers between The Radisson docks in Belize City to Half Moon Caye
  • Boat transfers between Half Moon Caye and field sites
  • Ground transfer from the Radisson docks to Belize Internationsal upon return to Belize City from Half Moon Caye

Meals

  • All meals (breakfasts, lunches and dinners) beginning with dinner on the day of arrival at Half Moon Caye through breakfast on the morning of departure from Half Moon Caye.
  • Meals include coffee, tea and water

Other

  • Marine park conservation fee, swag bag!

Price does not include

Travel and transfers

  • International air travel
  • Mandatory trip cancellation insurance
  • Ground transfer from Belize International to your Belize City hotel (approx. US$25)
  • Ground transfer from your Belize City hotel to The Radisson docks (the docks are within easy walking distance from The Radisson Fort George or The Great House)
  • Transport from the Radisson docks to Belize International or your next Belize destination
  • Belize departure tax (US$39.25 per person)

Accommodations and meals/beverages prior to arrival at Half Moon Caye and after departure from Half Moon Caye for return to Belize City

Other

  • Alcoholic beverages, sodas and juices
  • Gratuities for glamping staff and boat captains (10-20%)
  • Snorkeling gear
  • Personal items and incidentals
  • Souvenirs