Coral reefs cover just 1% of the ocean`s surface, yet are home to over a quarter of all marine species. Conducting underwater research around the island is essential to understand the effects both global and local threats may be having on reef organisms in order to help minimise and manage them, as well as contribute solutions to more globalised threats to reefs in other parts of the world. Threats are e.g. growing industries, pollution, run-off, sedimentation and negative impacts of tourism.
With over 25 dive sites surrounding this tropical island and crystal clear waters it includes a variety of reef types from shallow walls carpeted with corals to deep submerged pinnacles home to dense schools and large predators. This setting provides a number of study systems to investigate a diverse range of topics surrounding marine ecology and conservation. In addition to the diversity of ecosystems, calm conditions of the water with minimal currents and visibility often reaching over 30 m allows to become more intimate with the marine organisms. The ability to get close with a minimal disturbance often benefits when trying to identify specific features and for conduction research.
With your participation in this program we can get to know the situation better via scientifically conducted research, make recommendations for actions and implement them in active conservation work. This all helps us understand and improve the future for corals, reefs and whole ecosystems.
Topics we will cover during a full 8 weeks participation will be:
- PADI Dive training to become an Open Water and Advanced Open Water diver in your first week, then you are ready to dive!
- Introduction to coral ecology and invertebrate ecology
- Introduction to fish ecology advanced survey methods
- Reef monitoring and coral restoration course
- Introduction to ecological studies
- Behavioural ecology
- Data collection
Projects you can get active in are as follows:
- Reef monitoring. Monitoring trends in the abundance and diversity of benthic substrates, invertebrate populations and reef fish populations at a selection of coral reef sites.
- Pelagic fish population monitoring. Monitoring trends in the abundance and diversity of higher trophic level pelagic species and other predators that are at an increased risk from high (and potentially poorly regulated) fishing pressures.
- Coral Watch. Citizen science project aimed at gathering data and monitoring trends on the bleaching status of corals.
- Crown of Thorns Research. Gathering data on the abundance, size classes, habitat preference, and dietary preference of Crown of Thorns on reefs holding potential outbreak populations.
- Coral Nurseries. Transplanting coral fragments found in sandy patches which would otherwise have a low probability of survival to promote survival and growth of new colonies. Also involves data collection on growth rates and changes in fragment condition.
- Water quality. Monitoring trends in abiotic factors e.g. water temperature, salinity, pH, turbidity, nutrient levels, dissolved oxygen content etc.
- Habitat preferences modelling. Identifying the habitat preferences of marine organisms including commercially harvested sea cucumbers with unknown population trends, some of which are classified as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.
- Behavioural studies. Used to assess the habituation of marine organisms to divers.
- Reef trash removal and discarded net salvage dives.
- Underwater mooring line establishment and maintenance.
- Beach clean ups
- Fun Dives!
Your work as a Marine Conservation volunteer will take place on 5 days a week from Mondays to Fridays with the weekend off.
Typically your schedule each day will look like this:
07:30 - 08:00: Breakfast
08:15 - 10:15: Presentation in the classroom to get all theoretical knowledge needed
10:15 - 10:45: Short break to collect your lunch
10:45 - 11:30: Preparation of dive equipment and dive slates for the practical part
11:30: Departure via taxi to the pier
11:45 - 16:00: Two dives connected to the theoretical lessons from the morning. Aims of the dives can be e.g. to explore practically, apply knowledge and conduct surveys, maintain coral nurseries, collect data, etc.
16:00 - 17:00: Debrief and data entry
The content of your work will have theoretical parts to help you understand issues and relevant knowledge in the field of Marine Conservation as well professional approaches to conduct scientific work underwater. The other part of your work will be to put everything you have learned into practice to actually "DO" something to protect marine wildlife underwater and on land.
Various topics will be covered like:
- Relevant subjects with regards to Marine Conservation and Marine Ecology
- Conducting surveys scientifically as well as data collection
- Actual planning, collecting and transfering of data
- Maintenance of Coral Nurseries
- Analysis of water quality
- Studies with regards to animal behaviour and counts
- Beach Clean Ups
As part of your placement as a volunteer you will get your RAID Open Water and Advanced Open Water diving certificate you can use worldwide afterwards to go diving again!
There is plenty to do in Koh Tao. You can always stay home and relax or join the team. Besides that you might optionally want to try snorkelling, hiking, cooking classes, beach volleyball, paddle boarding, kite surfing, trapeze, climbing, crazy golf, beachside BBQs, cinema, getting to know the local community etc. Also there is the possibility to do fun dives on the weekend!
In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
You need to speak English (basic level)
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
An interest in Marine Conservation, hands-on-mentality to get active in this area, open to new people and cultures, English and just a smile on your face - our team is very welcoming and will make you be part of it easily.
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 07:30 - 17:00
• Pre-departure briefing & support
• Group arrival and departure transfer from Koh Samui airport
• Local project staff
• All accommodation for the duration of the course
• Breakfast & dinner (Monday – Friday)
• Dive and conservation training listed in the itinerary
• Career Night
• 24/7 emergency back-up
• Financial bonding
• Dive Equipment for program: BCD, wetsuit, fins, weights and weight-belts, mask, snorkel, dive computer
• Travel Insurance (please get one including diving up to 30 m)
• Visa & Vaccinations
• Spending Money
• Lunches and weekend meals
• Additional safety dive equipment for "fun dives" you can do outside of the program