On the Expedition

Help learn whether a key Caribbean species is being protected by recent changes in environmental management policies.

As a participant on this project you'll have the rare opportunity to help Earthwatch scientists see if changes in ecosystem management based, in part, on their previous research are having the desired effect and protecting the habitat of the queen conch, a large sea snail.

This second phase of research and assessment offers the opportunity to spend days snorkeling in turquoise Caribbean waters, often under sunny skies, to survey, monitor, and tag queen conchs in critical coral island (cayes) areas within the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve.

Note: If you want to take part in the diving parts of the research*, you MUST be scuba certified (PADI Advance or equivalent) and have at least 20 logged dives, and have recent diving experience. You will also be required to bring your dive logbook and all scuba/ snorkel kit with you, except for weights, which are provided on site.

Meals and Accommodations

Volunteers will be staying on one of the small islands within the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve, sharing either small cabanas or dorm-style accommodations; bathrooms will most likely be in separate buildings, and hot water is likely to be limited--though sun showers might be available. The first and last night of the project will be spent at a hotel in Punta Gorda.

You'll enjoy the Belizean tradition of big breakfasts, with lunches generally packed for the boat or beach-based field sites. Local foods may include fry jacks, knol bread, rice and beans, lots of fresh fish, conch (in season), and stewed chicken.

About the Research Area

The tiny Central American country of Belize is acknowledged for its rich biodiversity as much as it is the efforts to understand and conserve it. Located on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America, it retains 93% of its tropical forest, nearly half of it under legal protection, and has improved efforts in recent years to protect its coastal and marine resources from the growing pressures of development. But the threats of ocean pollution, overfishing, climate change, and ocean acidification respect no national boundaries, and are real and growing dangers to the region's marine resources.

Working amid the world's second largest coral reef system, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, you will experience and explore the communities - human and non-human alike - that depend upon it. Thanks in part to the efforts of previous teams of Earthwatch volunteers and scientists, along with various local, national, and regional partners, the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve is now a proving ground for marine conservation initiatives.

As you explore majestic reefs and snorkel amongst vibrant tropical fish, you'll search for the signs that recent protections have been making a difference, and help gather the data to make them more effective where needed. In your recreational time, you can enjoy swimming, volleyball games, and the stunning views of the distant mountains of Guatemala and Honduras.