Operation Wallacea


Operation Wallacea is a network of academics from European and North American universities, who design and implement biodiversity and conservation management research programmes. Research is supported by students who join the programme, to strengthen their CV or resume or collect data for a dissertation or thesis. Academics benefit from funding for high quality fieldwork enabling them to publish papers in peer reviewed journals. This model enables the collection of large temporal and spatial datasets used for assessing the effectiveness of conservation management interventions.


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Yes, I recommend this program

A Truly Unique Experience

I had such a wonderful time in the Peruvian Amazon with OPWALL last summer! It was something that I signed up to without really thinking it through fully (because I would probably never have taken the chance, otherwise), but it was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I have made. Because there is nothing in the world that compares to waking up each morning to the urgent squawking of brightly-coloured macaws overhead, the splash of pink river dolphins out for an early morning hunt, and the low, stirring call of the howler monkey which echoes through the foliage on all sides.

The two-week expedition was packed full of exciting, varied and genuinely meaningful fieldwork tasks, ranging from fishing and mist-netting to bat-counting and caiman-catching. Not only were all of the tasks exciting and awe-inspiring in themselves, offering a unique set of close-up encounters with species endemic to the most biologically diverse region on Earth, but we were constantly surrounded by the knowledge that what we were doing was actually helping to make a difference. By contributing invaluable data to the fieldwork studies, we were playing our part in sustainable rainforest management,to ensure its protection for the wildlife and communities reliant upon its resources. And all whilst having the time of our lives!

The OPWALL staff and the natives played an enormous part in helping to make the trip so enjoyable. They really looked after us throughout the trip, right from the moment the plane landed in Iquitos, and not only that, but we were entertained each evening with activities from pub quizzes to a particularly memorable night of salsa dancing! The staff have dedicated most of their lives to observing and studying the species in the Amazon in meticulous detail, and so had so much wisdom to share with us, which they did through a series of fascinating biodiversity lectures held throughout the trip. The local people working on the boats could not have been more friendly and welcoming, and the extent of their skills and talents when it came to producing souvenir crafts for us to take home, using resources from the rainforest, has to be seen to be believed...!

Another highlight of the trip was visiting the village of San Martin de Tipishca on the return boat journey to Nauta. The local children there were so delighted to see the boat again (the arrival of which is clearly viewed as a big event!), and the local people showed us great gratitude for the gifts of toys, clothes and medical provisions which we took for them. It was really promising to see the developments which had taken place there over the past few years, and in particular the brand new school, which was about to open. And it was extremely thought-provoking to see the hopeful faces of the children beaming, in spite of the poverty that surrounded them. In addition to this, what better way to spend the final afternoon of the trip than by feeding manatees their greens at the rehabilitation centre near Iquitos?!

Overall, I cannot recommend undertaking an expedition with OPWALL highly enough, to anyone who is interested in conservation and willing to experience an extraordinary ecosystem which so many talk about, but so few have actually set foot in. Even as a mere Geography student, with no expert knowledge or experience in biological surveying techniques, I got a huge amount out of the trip, and learnt a great deal along the way. OPWALL were there supporting me right from the start, providing tips and guidance for fundraising and detailed packing lists and tutorials to ensure that I was fully prepared for the expedition, and that I had a brilliant time.

I couldn't have been happier with my trip to the Amazon with OPWALL, and I strongly urge you to push the boat out next summer and join them, too. You will never regret it.

Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable experience in Madagascar

This was an amazing experience and definitely one of the best trips I have been on. All of the different animals that we saw were so different from anything I had seen before. I discovered a new interest in snakes and many other animals that we studied. I made many new friends who will stay with me for a long time. This experience has opened my eyes to the different living conditions and cultures of different people in other countries.

What would you improve about this program?
Improve the sleeping and travel arrangements.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A magical splash in the ocean

On the long travel up the coast, as we stopped in the resort for an evenings rest, myself and the other teacher snuck away for a quick dip in the ocean. As we entered, the waves and fleeing fish turned bright blue with luminescence. Soon the whole camp was out for a midnight swim, chasing blue fish and painting blue snow angels in the water. It was a magical splash that was uncapturable by a camera and left only in memories and stories.

What would you improve about this program?
The dive site was not ready for us as the first group and provided very little scientific value.
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Yes, I recommend this program

South Africa

When we arrived on the outskirts Balule National Park we began the drive in we began the journey of a life time, within 5 minutes an Elephant was only 20 metres away, and every single on of us on that vehicle we speechless. However moments later we drove for the maximum of 1km before we saw not one but two black rhinos. They are one of the rarest animals on the planet and we had the privilege of seeing not only an adult female, but also its calf. The reality of what we had just seen finally set in when our ranger, had to call in on his radio the location and time we saw these two rhinos. We had only been there 10 minutes and we had already seen of the rarest animals on the planet, that is when I knew this was going to be the trip of a lifetime.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Opwall Transylvania Expedition Review - Butterflies! Everywhere!

I am very new to travelling, although not new to ecology and field work. Nonetheless, signing up for the Transylvania Expedition was a huge move for me - and I am thrilled I decided to join in!
This trip represented 1) my first time backpacking in Europe 2) First trip to Romania 3) First time camping and doing field work for a lengthy period of time.

A few things I noticed: It really helps to be fit. You will learn soon enough that you will be doing a lot of hiking, and it will really work your muscles! As well, stay hydrated and take care of yourself when you get back to camp.

This experience was wonderful overall. The camp and schedules were extremely well organized, and the camp was well stocked with medical materials if anyone were to fall ill. The staff were friendly, attentive, and addressed any concerns. We could have used a bit more time to rest to remain on form throughout the trip though! This experience allowed me to test my own endurance, to learn many new and cool skills, and to meet plenty of awesome people along the way. It was a safe intro to field work and camping, and an excellent stepping stone for future experiences abroad. I highly recommend it!


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Katie Trewick

Katie is in her final year of sixth form at Cockermouth School and plans to go on to study psychology at university. She has been part of the school's musical and drama groups for the past 7 years, and is playing the role of the baker's wife in her final school musical: Into the Woods.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program for the chance to travel the world and go into a region of the Amazon Rainforest that is not open to the general public. I was also drawn by the opportunity to work directly with the wildlife and learn from professionals.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I was fortunate to have the chance to go on this project through school; everything was organized for me aside from my injections and packing.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would advise anyone going on one of these projects to always take advantage of any opportunity presented to them. If you are asked if you want go take part in extra research or data logging just go for it.

You never know if you will get the chance again so just do everything you can while you are there.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

From waking up to incredible sights in the morning, to completing surveys during the night, everyday is different and unexpected. You typically start the day with a survey and nearly always have a lecture after lunch, followed by an afternoon survey and then potentially an evening survey. Sometimes there is an activity, such as salsa dancing, at night.

The activities and surveys are different every day and you could go from ringing birds in the morning to measuring caiman at night. Nearly everyday brought a trek into the jungle where you would see many different monkeys and other animals, or a trip upriver in a small canoe where you would see river dolphins and kingfishers.

Every day brings a different temperature as well; the weather went in three to four day cycles from burning hot to a massive storm with winds reaching up to 80mph.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was actually about the food, as I was up for pretty much everything else. When I got there we were given three big and filling meals everyday. I may have become sick of eggs, rice and pasta - but it was nowhere near as bad as I imagined.

What are your favorite memories from your time abroad?

I had so many incredible times and am left with amazing memories that it is difficult to pick a best moment. If someone had told me that on the way back from a survey I was going to see a Harpy Eagle eating a baby two-toed sloth I never would have believed them but that is a rare sight I will never forget.

One of my favorite memories has to be in the caiman survey when the guide told us to calm the caiman down we just had to stroke its tummy. We didn't believe them at first but the effect was incredible.

Just living in a boat for two weeks right alongside the jungle was amazing.

I loved visiting the Cocama tribes village and playing games with the local children, that was a highlight for me. I would recommend the Operation Wallacea program to anyone who has the chance to go.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Scott Sveiven

Job Title
U.S. Director

What is your favorite travel memory?

It's always difficult for me to pick favorites from my travel experiences, but it's between two epic experiences: driving re-dang-diculous 3-wheeled, worst-possible vehicle for 3 adults, no set route, and no prize for first charity racing adventures with my two closest friends across India in 2008 and South America in 2011.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

It's hard to succinctly describe how I've changed since coming to work for Opwall, mostly because my role is incredibly variable throughout the year.

In a broad sense, I have further fostered my ability to work independently and without supervision. In addition, adapting to changing conditions and circumstances has become practically second nature for me.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

I wouldn't ascribe this story to one student, but rather several that have had similar experiences from coming out to be a part of an Opwall field project.

Essentially, the students come with few expectations or clear ideas about how working on a remote field biology project might influence their lives and interests, but low and behold, it leads to an incredible expansion of personal perspective on themselves, sense of home, and understanding of their place in the world.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

In more ways than one, Opwall is really a one-of-a-kind organization. From a structural level, I do not know of any other company that is approaching one topic, in our case biodiversity conservation, from at least four distinct platforms at once: primary research, education, community engagement, and conservation management.

Moreover, the sheer scope of countries, environments, and taxa involved is staggering, and is nearly matched by the worldwide network of participating academics, biologists, educators, and nature enthusiasts.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

In my view, there is no one-size fits all answer for what makes a company successful.

That being said, having company values that emphasize the importance of clients and employees, maintaining a vibrant and constructive organizational culture, team work, a clear strategic vision and goals to achieve it, and generally being appreciate of all the hard work being in from everyone even tangentially involved with operations all seem like important factors to me.