Divers needed for marine protected area surveys

UPDATE: The application deadline for our March/April surveys is now closed. Thanks to everyone who applied for your interest. Please note that we will be accepting applications for our September/October surveys later this year. Please check back in the spring/summer.

Volunteer Divers in Marine Protected Areas (Philippines), March/April 2012

Project Seahorse and its NGO partner in the Philippines are seeking volunteer, certified SCUBA divers (minimum 15 logged dives) who are interested in participating in a long-term monitoring program for assessing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in northern Bohol, Philippines. 

The surveys are conducted biannually, one in the dry season (March - April) and one in the wet season (September - October). An eight-week commitment is required comprising approximately two weeks of training and six weeks of survey work. Surveys are easily influenced by weather and other unpredictable events, so the duration of the fieldwork may vary. If completed quickly, volunteers will be asked to assist with other conservation work, such as data encoding or assisting with other biological field programs.

Download an application in pdf or Word format. The application deadline for the March/April 2012 survey is Jan 13, 2012. Please email your application to Tarah Brachman at t.brachman@fisheries.ubc.ca.

Diving Survey Work

In the dry season (March/April), sites are surveyed for fish communities and seahorses. In the fall (Wet season: Sep - Oct), benthic communities, coral complexity and seahorses are censused. Diving will involve shallow dives, generally 3-10 m, rarely to a maximum of 14 m, both during the day (benthic, coral and fish surveys) and during the night (seahorse surveys). Photography is used in the benthic surveys; although beneficial, no prior experience with underwater photography is required. We will select 3-4 international volunteers for each survey.

Requirements for volunteering

The Project Seahorse Foundation requires a donation of $2700 USD to help cover survey costs, local travel, accommodation, and food. Volunteers must also provide their own SCUBA gear and are responsible for the cost of their return airfare to the Philippines, visa costs, travel/health insurance and appropriate vaccinations, together with providing proof of a current dive medical and dive insurance.

A working knowledge of coral reef fish families and benthic fauna (esp. corals) and flora would be an advantage.

Volunteers will be supervised by the Project Seahorse Foundation Survey Biologist and based in Handumon (Jandayan Island). On arrival in Cebu City, the Project Seahorse Foundation National Coordinator will organize a comprehensive orientation on its programs and projects, MPA survey schedule, safety protocols, and community and team living.

Application timeline

Interviews will be conducted in January 2012 by phone.

Payment of donation: 50% of the required donation should be paid after selected applicants have been notified, and the remaining 50% at start of the programme.

Recommended texts

Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide by Allen, G. and Steene, R. (1999). 

Marine Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and South East Asia by Allen, G. (1997).

Diving/Scuba equipment (*essential) 

  • Mask & snorkel
  • Fins for booties (not socks)
  • Booties (for walking among mangroves and over coral rubble)
  • Full wetsuit (3 mm, protects against stinging jellyfish and sun)
  • Weight belt (Project Seahorse will provide weights)
  • Knife 
  • SCUBA gear
  • Buoyancy compensation device (BCD) Regulator with content gauge and depth gauge

Background information

Long-term monitoring of Marine Protected Areas 

In 1998, Project Seahorse initiated the long term monitoring programme for assessing MPA effectiveness in northern Bohol. The motivation behind the programme is three-fold:

(1) to provide up-to-date monitoring data to inform fishing communities about the status of their reefs, (2) to catalyze community interest in managing and establishing additional MPAs, and (3) to provide scientifically robust data for assessing the impact on MPAs on the recovery of coral reefs.

Trial surveys were conducted in the late 1990s, and the full design of the programme was established in 2001. Over the past decade, nearly 50 international volunteers have participated in the programme, and it is with their hard work and commitment that we continue to meet our objective of quantifying the response of seahorses, fishes and benthic organisms (e.g. live coral) to protection.

Currently a total of seven MPAs are being monitored, each with a control site situated just outside the MPA. In addition, four more distant control sites have also been selected (see table). The MPAs are located in four municipalities in Bohol.