The Deep Sea Marine Research Project in the Philippines. The reefs of Malapascua are incredibly beautiful…but under threat. Here you get the chance to learn methods and techniques used to explore, research and contribute to their protection.
As Biodiversity is a popular topic right now. The Philippines is a country that has biodiversity in abundance. However, recent decades have seen this biodiverse country be hampered by overfishing, destructive fishing, unregulated development and climatic events. With people knowing this, efforts are being made to adopt new methods of sustainable marine management and coastal resources so that these large ecosystems can be preserved.
The Deep Sea Marine Research program has started with the primary goal of collecting data about the marine environment around the island of Malapascua and also the wider Municipality of Daanbantayan. This information is crucial for the local government authorities who are working around the clock to preserves one of Philippines well knows attractions.
Our Expedition principle
Our Local NGO understands that considering an expedition like this is a big decision, and that there are several marine projects out there now to choose from. The Locals here truly value the efforts and work that the volunteers make, and in doing so, continue to support the people of the Philippines in working for a better future.
Volunteers do not just come to work alongside an existing team here. Instead, volunteers will be a part of that team. Small expeditions will be ran – there will be a maximum of eight volunteers at any one time. With so much work to achieve, everyone works in a smooth and efficient way in which they can learn, contribute, observe, and most importantly, feel fulfilled. It is important that volunteers understand the contribution they make here on this island. All volunteers receive a ‘Project Presentation’ upon arrival which sets up what volunteers can expect, and help them to understand the ‘larger picture’ with regards to conservation efforts being done in the region. Over the years volunteers feel that the most rewarding expedition result will be when volunteers see and understand the difference they have made.
Even if you have never been SCUBA diving before, you are still able to be part of the team on the expeditions. If you are scared or not comfortable going under water, there is a full-time professional instructor on site that can take you through all the necessary training, All participants in our marine conservation work are qualified as PADI Advanced Open Water Divers (or equivalent).
All the courses offered are from the world renowned Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Courses will be ran (and diving operations) with the safety of everyone involved as the first priority.
This will be a comfortable learning environment for everyone to make sure that their time underwater is both fun and stress free – plus an experience like no other!
Please note that the time required to complete any dive training will mean that the minimum expedition length is longer in order to allow you to use your new skills in surveys. All diving courses involve a ‘theory’ element – You will be able to learn the theory online prior to joining us to maximize your time in the water.
This is truly the main focus of the expedition. Here you will learn about the wonders of the underwater world that you never knew about. One of the most common feedbacks the NGO had received from past volunteers, even the ones who have been divers for a long time, is how incredible it is to learn about all that you see on a dive. Not just fish, but the variety of living creatures you find under the water! It can add a whole new aspect to SCUBA diving that you have not experienced before.
Relevant background knowledge in marine biology and underwater surveying is not needed. All the skills and knowledge you need is provided by their Science Officer on site. Although, they do make the effort to get you prepared in advance by sending you some learning materials that you can study in the comfort of your home before joining them
There is a ‘core’ survey programme that will be the focus for all new volunteers. They currently have over twenty research sites that are periodically visited and this introduction training gets you ready to conduct real surveys at one of these locations.
Topics covered at this time include:
- Basic Definitions
- Coral Reefs – Intro and Value
- Coral Biology
- Benthic Categories and Survey
- Invertebrate species and Survey
- Assessing Impacts
- Fish Biology and Survey (minimum four week stay required)
- Coral Recruits
- Data coding and recording
- Environmental Parameters
- Survey Methods & Dive planning
For those who want to stay longer because you love it there so much, there may be additional sections to your training that can include:
- Rapid Assessment Survey techniques
- Survey site selection, evaluation, marking and mapping.
- Mangrove planting, rehabilitation and monitoring
- Seagrass habitats: importance and threats
- Seagrass ID and surveying
- Crown of Thorn Starfish study: species collection and biometrics logging.
All of the data you are involved in collecting will be added to an existing database of information they have gathered over the years. During the course of your expedition, their team will take time to explain and show you the effects that this work is making, either in supporting locally based projects, or in the continuation of their ongoing research projects.
The Deep Sea Marine Research project have also established a variety of community engagement programmes that run in conjunction with marine conservation projects and will also be a part of all volunteers program too. All of these are ‘continuous’ projects meaning there will be a number of projects running at one time so it will be unclear to know which project volunteers will be doing – but don’t worry you will be kept busy! To give an idea, here are some of the projects they currently are running:
- Establishing a Homestay Association – an alternative livelihood programme
- Solid Waste Management – a variety of projects under this category.
- Education: Environmental Summer Internship Programme for students of the local high school
- Education: Marine Summer Camps for elementary school children
- Mangrove Planting – key for the protection of these vulnerable coastal communities, mangrove planting is part of our science programme also. However, the planting sessions always involve the motivation and involvement of the local community so they can better understand the benefits of this ecosystem.
A Typical Day
Two days will never be the same here – a typical day is in fact quite hard to describe. But here is the foundations of what a typical day looks like:
- 0700 hrs – Breakfast
- 0730 hrs – Diving kit preparation and briefing
- 0800 hrs – Boat leaves – 2 dives each day (e.g. dive training, science training, survey dives & data collection)
- 1230 hrs – Lunch
- 1300 hrs – Break – time to relax and to shade from the hottest part of the day
- 1430 hrs – Activities start. The afternoons can involve a wide variety of activities and are harder to predict. It can be any of the following, this all depends on the reason for the expedition and projects that have a priority:
- Dive Training theory sessions and exams
- Science Training – lectures, tests and ‘dry’ survey runs under the supervision of our Lead Science Officer
- ID sessions – self study to identify any species from the mornings dives
- Data entry – logging all information collected from the morning dives into the correct database
- Revision sessions for continued species lists learning
- Community engagement projects (mentioned above)
- 1730 hrs – Sunset beach clean
- 1800 hrs – Evening dinner
- including briefing for following days activities.
Details on Arrival
Our volunteer programmes for the Deep Sea Marine Research project run throughout the year.
We have expeditions starting on the first Friday of every month, however, we can certainly offer a level of flexibility in our expedition start dates. Your starting date will partly depend on your current level of dive qualification and level of experience
Once a deposit has been made you can discuss appropriate start date, depending on your level of diving experience
Malapascua is a small island. The prime activity on the island is that of scuba diving, There are other water sports available on the island too.
Their expeditions (usually) follow the following pattern:
- Monday – Friday – diving days
- Saturday – expedition day – but a ‘dry’ day… no diving
- Sunday – day off!
On Sunday, their offices are closed. Please note that meals are not included on Sundays in your Program Fees However, there are plenty of bars/restaurants nearby that offer a wide range of meals.