Have you been looking for something different to do that’s still meaningful and worthwhile? A way to get out there and do your part to help the planet? If so, then volunteering in marine conservation is an excellent choice!
You’ll accomplish these things and more when you take on a volunteer placement of this type. Chances are you’ll have the experience of a lifetime while you’re at it, too, exploring some of the world’s most beautiful places from a different perspective – under the sea. Not only will you witness some of the planet’s most fascinating ecosystems in action, but you’ll also meet some of its most diverse and vibrant creatures hiding in the reefs.
As a volunteer in marine conservation, you could be involved in a wide variety of different projects. Depending on the organization you volunteer with and the length of your placement, you may end up specializing in one particular area, or trying your hand at a few different tasks. Some of the most common project types include:
Marine Diving Surveys/Data Collection
After obtaining your diving certification and being trained on techniques and procedures for data collection, you’ll spend your days exploring some of the most important ecosystems in the world – coral reefs. This type of work involves identifying different species and observing them in their natural habitats. Data collection, entry, and analysis are likely to be central to this type of project
Many volunteer organizations have built successful relationships with the local communities they work in and around. Educating community members is a huge part of getting them on board and making projects successful. Volunteers for this type of project may give presentations at schools and community gatherings, or to local tour and dive companies about the importance of environmental protection. Volunteers could also prepare and lead workshops on a variety of topics related to marine conservation.
A project of this type may involve removing garbage and other debris in the water, on land, or both. Many organizations conduct frequent beach cleanups, removing harmful debris from habitats to ensure the survival of the organisms living there. You’ll be trained in how to correctly remove debris and how to dispose of the garbage collected safely and responsibly.
Marine Animal Conservation
Just as marine habitats and reef systems need to be protected, so do the animals that live among them. Many volunteer projects of this type focus on a particular marine creature, such as sea turtles, whales and dolphins, or sharks. Volunteers could be involved in observation and tracking, or rescue, rehabilitation, and habitat protection of these species.
Southeast Asia in particular has long been recognized as one of the best dive areas in the world, in large part due to its beautifully clear waters and abundance of coral reefs. The islands in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand are some of the most popular spots for divers and tourists alike today. However, their increasing popularity also mean they’re at greater risk for destruction and pollution.
Home to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the largest and most diverse coral reef ecosystem in the world, and other island paradises like Fiji, it’s no surprise that the South Pacific is another region offering volunteers an abundance of marine conservation options. Climate change, pollution, and industrialization are some of the biggest challenges facing this region.
With the world-renowned Galapagos Islands located here, there is much work to be done to help protect and preserve some of the planet’s rare and endangered species. Costa Rica is one of the most important places in the world for sea turtles, making it another popular destination for marine conservation in this region.
Planning Your Trip
Marine Conservation Institute: If you’re unsure about what exactly marine conservation is, or why it’s important, this is a great place to start. The Marine Conservation Institute provides all kinds of useful information about the subject. The website also includes maps, statistics, and other interesting facts.
The World Wildlife Foundation provides in depth information on our oceans, coasts, coral reefs and all sea creatures.
The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and conserving both lands and waters worldwide. They work on a variety of issues and run conservation projects all over the world. Their website is a great resource to learn more about marine conservation and why it’s both necessary and crucial to the overall health of the planet.
Contributed by Allison Burney