*Tax deductible in the US.
Eligible for employer matching to reduce participant cost. 25% due upon booking
*Tax deductible in the US.
Eligible for employer matching to reduce participant cost. 25% due upon booking
MarAlliance invites you to immerse yourself in a once-in-a-life-time experience in Coiba National Park, Panama. Join our team of marine biologists, guides and fishers for an unforgettable week: experience the life of a tropical marine field biologist while helping us collect invaluable data on populations, abundance, density and habitat preference of a range of species of sharks, rays, sea turtles, and other poorly studied marine megafauna in this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will be on the front line of marine megafauna monitoring and contribute to the conservation of these vital inhabitants, while experiencing an unparalleled underwater world. During this dive-focused Expedition, we will train you to be directly involved in each aspect of field work from underwater visual surveys and megafauna tagging that will bring you one on one with Panama’s most exhilarating marine animals, launching baited remote underwater videos, to setting longlines with hands-on work to capture, measure, and tag sharks and rays.
We are excited to have the opportunity to share our findings with you and the field work will be complemented by presentations by our research team during the course of the week.
Megafauna play an essential ecological role within marine communities, helping to balance and maintain fish and reef populations. Throughout the world these important creatures face multiple threats, and populations are in decline due to overfishing and destruction of their habitat. Knowledge of the diversity and abundance of marine megafauna and how their populations change over time is crucial to managing these populations.
Monitoring through fisheries-independent methods enables researchers and government officials to understand the status of marine megafauna populations and the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas, as well as fill in gaps in our knowledge of their life history including their habitat use and movements throughout their life cycle.
With over 1,500 miles (2,500 km) of coastline along the Pacific and Caribbean sides, Panama hosts a wide variety of marine habitats. While fishing is an important source of income for a large number of Panamanians, monitoring the volume of fish caught is almost nonexistent and anecdotal reports suggest declines in fish populations throughout the country. Although few fishers directly target sharks and rays, incidental capture is not uncommon and shark meat can be found in many fish markets.
MarAlliance leads annual monitoring of the marine megafauna at several sites along the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the indigenous Guna Yala Comarca, Bocas del Toro (see expedition), and we have recently launched research and monitoring efforts in Coiba World Heritage Site and National Park.
Panama’s Coiba Island and its surrounding waters, a UNESCO World Heritage site and National Park located in the Gulf of Chriqui, are considered to have some of the richest marine biodiversity in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Frequented by divers and sports fishers, this is an important foraging ground for key populations of endangered scalloped hammerheads, whale sharks, and mantas which form part of our recently initiated site-based monitoring and conservation efforts.
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 videos recordings. We will further ask you to familiarize yourself with species prior to the trip to improve species identification in the field.
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 15 meters 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.
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.
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.
A commonly practiced method within MarAlliance, this will be our second year using longline in Panama. 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.
Agenda may be subject to change
Safety is our top concern and MarAlliance has an emergency plan for each of our field work sites throughout Panama. All boats carry basic first aid kits and a more comprehensive kit will be held at the hotel.
Because travel requirements for COVID vaccinations and testing are changing frequently, we ask that you consult us about the latest requirements for specific Expedition locations and dates. Email us at email@example.com
Police: Tel. 011-507-757-9217, 011-507-757-9485
Air Panama: Tel: 011-507-757-9841
If you need any of the below items, you can help sharks and rays by choosing MarAlliance as your nonprofit on Amazon Smile. Amazon donates a few cents from each purchase to help us to conduct research, education and conservation for sharks and rays and fight for these awesome animals. It all adds up and it really makes a difference. Thank you for your support!
Swim wear (at least 2 suits), for women: quick dry shorts
* 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.
*** We will have these for sale too (The tropical sun is strong; full coverage is important)
2-3 pairs of shorts
One long-sleeved shirt and one pair of long pants *
1 large regular towel (if you have space)
Large quick dry towel
Pareo or wrap
* To take out on the water in case you start getting too much sun
Mask, fins and snorkel (test equipment before arrival)
Rain jacket/poncho (just in case)
Underwater or splash-proof camera/GoPro
Headlamp with rechargeable batteries
Dry sack for keeping camera gear and other items water-free
Re-useable water bottle
Sea-sick? Dramamine or meclizine**
Snacks, e.g. hard candy‡
Books to read
‡ Always good to have following the snorkel transects
**Bring a supply of Dramamine or meclizine to ensure you are comfortable while out at sea.
Yes! Note, however, that the quoted trip cost is made possible by your company’s 100% donation matching. Non-company employees would pay the quoted trip cost AND ask to make a donation for the same amount (in other words, their total cost would be 2x the company cost). *A prospective volunteer pointed out that if he pays for both himself and his +1, then the entire payment is a donation and should be eligible for matching.
The prices quoted are the prices that you would pay. MarAlliance is relying on your company’s gift match to cover its total costs, so if you were to sign up for a trip, you would pay 50% of the total cost, and your company’s matching gift would be the other 50%.*Due to the purely volunteer nature of the trip (not a tourist venture), the price you pay for the trip can be considered a donation to MarAlliance (a nonprofit) and is thus (a) tax deductible; and (b) eligible for 100% gift matching.**Non-company employees whose companies do not offer 100% gift matching would pay the full, tax-deductible. If you’re bringing a +1 and elect to pay for both trips yourself, the full donation should be eligible for gift matching.
Yes, you can either elect to forego gift matching (and make a separate donation to cover the incremental match price). Or, you can work with MarAlliance to reserve a spot on your trip of choice and hold payment until the following year, when you’ll once again be eligible for gift matching. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers will spend most of their days in boats, out on the water participating in one of three activities; typically, from 8am until sunset. Data entry & presentations will follow in the evenings.
– To work side-by-side with MarAlliance staff and local fishermen as part of the expedition team
– To contribute to critical marine conservation and monitoring/research efforts
– To learn new skills
– Learn about marine animals, the reef, the countries culture, politics, and about the local fishermen’s livelihoods
– Enjoy tropical island life for a week
– To be well fed and enjoy good company!
The only way we can measure and tag sharks is if we catch them. We minimize our handling time and sharks have little to no feeling in their dorsal fins where we place the tag. By comparison millions of sharks are killed yearly and we are trying to reduce these deaths.
No! However, if you would like to extend your stay, we would be happy to arrange your diving excursions. For optional diving, one must possess a certification card.
No, evenings comprise of data entry and presentations.
Yes! Most if not all dietary needs can be accommodated.
Belize, Honduras, and Panama have 10 spots allocated to each. Cabo Verde and Mexico have 8 spots.
Yes, MarAlliance does require participants to have travel insurance, however if your company provides travel insurance you may consider whether coverage is sufficient.
Note: Company provided travel insurance-things to consider
Yes! Whether you join one of the expeditions or not, MarAlliance is always looking for donors to fund satellite tags that will track the migration patterns of sharks, rays and turtles.
*Donated tags are also tax deductible