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Coral Reef Monitoring at Turneffe Atoll (Scuba)

Join our researchers for an in-depth scuba research program to monitor coral reef health at Turneffe Atoll, Belize.

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In a collaborative program with Belizean agencies, Oceanic Society monitors the health of coral reefs around Turneffe Atoll via scuba. Specifically, we monitor the presence/absence and the age- and size-classes of indicator species as well as algal cover on the reefs, and we gather baseline data on species composition. Volunteers in this program assist the researcher in daily scuba dives to collect data using nondestructive sampling techniques. Divers will receive on-site training in sampling methods and will learn to identify local fish and invertebrates. Participants must be scuba certified and be generally competent in buoyancy control, but no other certifications or skills are required.

Divers collect coral reef data. © Nicole Duplaix Coral reefs are the most diverse and complex of all marine communities. In the Western Atlantic Ocean, the best developed coral reef systems are in the vicinity of Belize and Honduras. In a collaborative program with Belizean agencies, the Oceanic Society is conducting coral reef monitoring to provide baseline data on current conditions of reef health along Belize's offshore coral atolls.

Divers are needed to assist marine biologists in the field. The long-term goal of this study is to assess the overall health of the reefs around Turneffe Atoll, to monitor the presence/absence as well as age/size classes of indicator fishes, one invertebrate and one major predator. In addition, this study monitors coral and algae cover on the reefs, and also gathers baseline data on species composition at the study sites. Under the direction of an Oceanic Society Principal Investigator, scuba divers will use non-destructive sampling techniques including quadrants, transects, and still photography. Divers will receive on-site training in sampling methods and will also learn to identify local fish and invertebrates, and become familiar with their behavior, distribution and cover.

A monitoring program and baseline data are essential components of a marine management plan, providing valuable information about reef ecosystems and the human activities affecting them. Expect six days of diving, averaging four hours daily to collect sub-tidal data, with a final dive on the morning of the seventh day. Some opportunities for recreational diving are available during off-hours.

This project offers unmatched diving opportunities while contributing to important coral reef conservation. Divers must be scuba certified and generally competent with buoyancy control but no other special certifications or skills are needed.

Headquarters for this project are at the Oceanic Society Field Station; participants will stay at Blackbird Caye Dive Resort, just a few steps from the field station.

Trip Dates & Cost

2018: Dates to be announced. Contact us to inquire.

* Trip prices do not include international airfare. Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.


Michelle Paddack is a senior conservation scientist with Oceanic Society and assistant professor at Santa Barbara City College. She is a passionate marine researcher and educator whose goal is to provide tangible inputs toward sustainable management and conservation of marine ecosystems. Michelle holds a Ph.D. from the University of Miami and has worked with Oceanic Society since 1998. She is co-director of our reef monitoring programs, and co-investigator of the Ulithi Marine Conservation Project.


Day 1: Belize City - Blackbird Caye
Participants are transferred from Belize City to Blackbird Caye by boat (approx. 90 minutes).

Day 2: Training & Checkout
Morning methods training and check-out dive. Afternoon familiarization with first survey site.

Day 3 - 7: Research
Daily sub-tidal research activities.

Day 8: Blackbird Caye - Belize City
Participants are transferred to Belize City from Blackbird Caye (approx. 90 minutes)


During this program, participants will stay at the Blackbird Caye Dive Resort, just a short walk from the Oceanic Society field station. Blackbird Caye Dive Resort offers a laid back island atmosphere with oceanfront accommodations and all the comforts of home. Meals are prepared Belizean style and served from a central buffet, and the dining staff make the most of fresh seafood and prepare typical Belizean favorites such as stewed chicken with rice and beans. In the evenings, Blackbird's Beach Bar is quite popular as a convivial gathering spot after a full day's activities. It is a free-standing thatched design situated near the water's edge. There is also a second bar inside the main dining used in the evenings after dinner.

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