Coral reef and turtle conservation
Operation Wallacea (5)
Coral reef and turtle conservation
Weekly cost (approx USD):
Direct benefits you gain:
field research skills
gain qualification and/or credit
remote scenic location
undertake your own research
Noteworthy conservation points:
development goals (supporting local community)
publishes peer-reviewed science
Set away from the main town of Akumal, students stay in purpose built accommodation set in a pleasant forested area. They will sleep in bunk beds with dormitories spread across three floors. Rooms are shared with up to 14 people. Each dormitory has its own set of showers and toilets. There is a communal eating area and lecture areas on each floor. Open rooftop for watching the sunset. From here there is a ten minute drive to and from the beach each day.
When does the project run?
June to August
accommodation included, food included, electricity, local shops, nearby medical facilities, refillable drinking water, cold shower, western toilets, wifi. Dive Training Centre on the beach. Site is in a tourist area so plenty of shops whilst at the beach. Swimming pool! Also a small sweet shop at the accommodation.
How long can I stay?
Minimum 2 weeks. Maximum 8 weeks.
Details of the day-to-day life on the project:
**There are many different programs running with opwall for varying amounts of time. The price listed here may change upon further enquiry**
Akumal is a small coastal town located approximately 2 hours’ drive south from the major tourist destination of Cancun. The name Akumal literally means “home of the turtles” in Mayan. It earned this name due to the numerous turtle nesting sites along the beaches and the permanent presence of juvenile turtles in the seagrasses just off shore. Prior to established tourism in the Yucatan, the only real source of income was from fishing. The reefs were so heavily overfished that the entire ecosystem almost collapsed. Moreover, sea turtles and their eggs were a major food source rather than an attraction to be admired, resulting in a serious decline in the turtle population. In an attempt to save the reef ecosystem and provide alternative income for local people, dive and snorkel based tourism was actively encouraged by the Mexican government. Tourism in the area has steadily increased over the last 20 years, but now it has brought problems of its own. More hotels are being built to accommodate tourists leading to loss of important nesting habitat for turtles, loss of mangrove habitat that cleans water and prevents sediment from washing onto the reef, and too many people snorkelling with turtles.
At the marine site, the research is focussed on assessing the efficacy of the newly formed Akumal marine protected area on the abundance and health of seagrasses and the impact of snorkel tours on the abundance, health and behaviour of sea turtles. The new protected area also provides the opportunity for recovery of the coral reefs, but as natural coral recovery rates are so slow, we are assisting the process by attaching coral fragments to artificial reefs composed of different substrates of varying structural complexity in order to assess the best methods for coral reef restoration in the region. Combined with mapping and monitoring of the existing reefs we are able to determine the positive impact of the new protected area on the coral reef ecosystem. Another aim of the Akumal project is to monitor the impact of mangrove degradation on the adjacent reefs and to investigate the ecology of the unique mangroves surrounding sink holes (cenotes) connected to the underground river system that runs throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.
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