US$2950*

Per volunteer

* with 100% Employer Matching Program.
Total price: US$5900.

7 days

6 nights

5 activity days

10  8

Monitoring volunteer spaces left

A unique opportunity to help advance tropical marine research with marine megafauna

Join the MarAlliance team of marine biologists and fishers for a once-in-a-lifetime experience among the incredible reefs of Roatan in the Bay Islands of Honduras. During your trip you will be collecting data on critically endangered sharks, rays, turtles and other charismatic marine megafauna. You will be on the front line of marine megafauna monitoring and directly contribute to the conservation of these iconic species within Honduran waters.

Dr Rachel Graham and her team will introduce you to essential marine research methodologies including longline captures for shark and turtle tagging, underwater transects and Baited Remote Underwater Videos. You will work alongside our team of experienced biologist and fishers each day during our monitoring, while experiencing the stunning underwater world of Roatan.

The week will be complemented with presentations by our research team to deepen your understanding of these iconic species and the threats they face.

The Details

Why are marine megafauna important?

Sharks, rays, turtles and piscivorous fish (marine megafauna) are among the most charismatic species in our oceans. They play a vital ecological role within their marine communities, helping to maintain fish and reef populations.  Sharks and rays (elasmobranchs) are top predators that are essential in maintaining healthy and resilient reefs. Given their life history of slow growth, late maturity and few offspring they are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and their numbers are rapidly declining due to fishing pressure.

MarAlliance’s work in Honduras

Honduras, in the heart of Central America, plays host to part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest reef system in the western hemisphere, stretching from the Bay Islands in Honduras to the tip of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. The reef surrounds the Bay Islands of which Roatan – 48 miles in length and less than 5 miles wide – is the largest. Roatan lies within the largest marine protected area in Honduras and is home to one of two reefs with 70% cover of the critically endangered staghorn coral.

Roatan also serves as MarAlliance’s base in Honduras. We lead annual monitoring of the marine megafauna at several sites within Honduran waters, utilizing fisheries-independent methods. Our focus is on assessing the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs), integrating fishers into monitoring activities for representative decision-making and improving the management of the shark and ray population.

Although Honduras was declared a Shark Sanctuary in 2011 fishing of sharks persists and rays are not protected. Short and long-term information on elasmobranch diversity, abundance and distribution, current exploitation levels and value, habitat use, and movement during their lifecycle remains sparse in Honduras.

Travel and accommodations

You will arrive at Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport Roatan, Honduras. Once at the airport, resort shuttle service will take you and your luggage to Las Rocas Resort & Dive Center.

Las Rocas Resort is an intimate resort located on the soft white sands of West Bay, Roatan. Las Rocas’ exclusive location puts Roatan Marine Park just steps from your door, yet hidden from the usual hassle and bustle of the beach.

You will stay in air conditioned bungalows which feature private verandas (with hammock) and ocean views. Other amenities include a guest PC, house keeping, mini bar and free wifi.

Training

Your objective is to assist MarAlliance’s Honduras-based team to undertake the annual monitoring of marine megafauna at Roatan. 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 in Roatan, 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.

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 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.

During our in-water visual transect work, you will get the opportunity to survey the famous Cordelia Banks with large-scale threatened staghorn and elkhorn coral cover located on the south shore.

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 Bay Islands for at least 90 minutes 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.

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): Caribbean reef shark encounter at Cara Cara dive site

For advanced certified divers.

For more information on this activity please visit sharkdiveroatan.net 

Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras

April 2017

Day 1

Saturday

By 12:00

International flight arrival into Juan Manuel Galvez Intl. Airport, Roatan, Honduras

13:00-13:30

Taxi and boat transfer to Las Rocas Resort & Dive Center

13:30-14:00

Arrival at Las Rocas Resort
Meet with researchers and get oriented with CoCo View Resort

14:30

Lunch at Las Rocas Resort

16:00-18:00

Overview of the research and the next week.
Species ID instruction and/or review, Instruction in survey methods and data Collection.
Reviewing rotating teams and equipment for the field work
Instruction in survey methods and data collection.

14:30

Dinner with research team

19:30-20:30

Presentation by Dr. Rachel Graham, Executive Director, MarAlliance

Day 2

Sunday

7:00-8:00

Breakfast

08:00-11:00

Size estimation exercises on land and in water, review of species ID review, survey methods and data collection (recap of previous evening’s presentation).

12:00-13:00

Lunch at Las Rocas Resort or in the field

13:30-17:30

Training in in-water surveys for sharks, rays and turtles
Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys
Shark monitoring

18:00-19:00

Dinner with the team

19:00-20:00

Presentation by Gabriela Ochoa, Honduras Coordinator, MarAlliance

Day 3

Monday

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.

6:00-7:00

Breakfast 

7:00-12:00

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 Las Rocas Resort 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 with team

19:00-20:00

Presentation by Mickey Charteris, author of Caribbean Reef Life

Day 4

Tuesday

6:00-7:00

Breakfast

7:30-12:00

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 Las Rocas Resort 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 with the team

19:00-20:45

Review of day’s BRUV videos

Day 5

Wednesday

6:00-7:00

Breakfast

7:30-12:00

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

12:00-13:00

Lunch at Las Rocas Resort or in the field

13:30-17:30

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

18:00-19:30

Dinner, free choice in West End

19:30-20:30

Review of BRUV videos

Day 6

Thursday

6:00-7:00

Breakfast

7:30-12:00

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

12:00-13:00

Lunch at Las Rocas Resort or in the field

13:30-17:30

Recreational time

18:00-19:00

Last day dinner with the team

19:00-21:00

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

Day 7

Friday

7:00-8:00

Breakfast, check-out

08:30

Boat transfer and taxi to Juan Manuel Galvez International Airport

If you wish to stay and enjoy Roatan or transfer to any other destination in Honduras for an extended stay, we would be happy to assist you!

Please note agenda may be subject to change.

Travel tips

The official currency of Honduras is the Honduran Lempira (HNL). The US$ is equivalent to approximately 23 HNL. Foreign exchange can be undertaken at any local bank although the rate is subject to change depending on the bank. ATMs can be found in the airport as well. Many shops and restaurants will take US dollars, however it’s best to ask in advance.

Electrical outlets in Honduras supply between 110 and 120 Volts AC. If you are plugging in US or Canadian 120 volt appliance or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

Tap water is not potable in Honduras; drink only bottled water. In the field and at the hotel we will provide you with filtered bottled water.

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 Wi-Fi that is free for paying customers.

Most of the local people are bilingual, so you will have no problem getting around the island.

Safety

Safety is our top concern and MarAlliance has an emergency plan for field work conducted at all its sites in Roatan. All boats carry basic first aid kits and a more comprehensive kit will be held at the hotel.

Emergency contacts for Roatan

Emergency helicopter service: Tel. 9660 1356
Ronald Shortis  (pilot)
Medical Center: Tel. 2445 1080
Police: Tel. 911

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.
*** We will have these for sale too!

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

  • Double occupancy room with private bath for 6 nights at Las Rocas Resort & Dive Center, Roatan. (Note: private rooms are not available at Las Rocas)

Transfers

  • Round-trip ground transfers between Juan Manuel Galvez international airport and Las Rocas resort on Roatan.
  • Boat transfers between CocoView Resort and field sites

Meals

  • 3 full meals daily, including arrival dinner
  • Meals include breakfast, lunch and dinner ‘a la carte’
  • Meals include wanter and ice tea

Other

  • Marine Conservation Fee

Price does not include

Travel and transfers

  • International air (Honduras departure tax is included in your airfare here in Honduras, unless you fly Spirit)
  • Mandatory trip cancellation insurance

Meals and beverages

  • Alcoholic beverages, extra soda, juices and snacks
  • One dinner in West End

Other

  • Gratuities for hotel staff and drivers (10-15% is standard)
  • Snorkeling gear, but guests are free to bring their own.
  • Personal items and incidentals
  • Souvenirs