Conservation volunteers measure the size of a sea turtle during their marine project in Thailand

A Guide to Marine Conservation Internships Abroad

By Amelia McKinlay | 10th September, 2019

If you go to bed dreaming about scuba diving in crystal blue seas and learning about the marine life that lives beneath, then perhaps you should consider a career in marine conservation. A job in conservation allows you to work outdoors, visit off-the-beaten-track destinations and pursue your passion for safeguarding the natural world. 

One of the key aspects of being successful in a conservation career is gaining practical scientific experience in the field. Participating in marine work experience abroad will set your resume apart and help focus your research interests. Moreover, it will give you a unique and diverse skill set that can be applied to any future job.

From shark conservation in Fiji to diving and coral reef protection in Thailand and Belize, we offer Marine and Wildlife Conservation Projects spanning a range of research topics. To help you decide on the best internship for you, we’ve outlined the research potential in each of our projects.

Starfish spotted by Projects Abroad internss during a research dive.

Belize

Habitat: Coral reef

Research Fields: Marine Conservation and Coral Reef Ecology

Help protect coral reefs in the Caribbean and join our diving and marine internship in Belize! The Belize Barrier Reef is a world heritage site and home to many critically endangered species. Coral reefs are known to contain the largest diversity of marine life and produce more living renewable energy than any other marine ecosystem. Unfortunately, the Belize Barrier Reef is under threat due to fishing, mangrove deforestation, unsustainable tourism and climate change. Volunteering in Belize will expose you to the complexity of these conservation issues and allow you to experience the beauty of the reef first hand. 

This marine Conservation internship will enable you to assist in the monitoring of marine ecosystems through scientific data and reporting. You’ll have the opportunity to obtain your PADI open water diving certificate while learning about marine ecology and furthering your experience in this field. At our project in Belize, you’ll go on survey dives to document the occurrence of coral bleaching, measure the health of the reef and identify coral spawning activity. You’ll also record data about the animals that live along the reef.

There are also research projects focused around lobster, lionfish and crocodiles!. Each of these research programs directly contributes to furthering the health of the Belize Barrier Reef and provides ample learning opportunities so you can succeed in your future career. Protect and restore the Belize Barrier Reef and join our coral reef conservation internship today. 

Learn more about our Coral Reef Conservation Project in Belize.

Seagrass being monitored during a research project in Belize.

Thailand

Habitat: Andaman Sea

Research Fields: Marine Ecology and Ocean Pollution

Float through the Andaman Sea and learn how to conduct underwater biological surveys in Thailand. You’ll work with professional divers to gather data regarding the biodiversity and abundance of life in the nearby waters. Additionally, you’ll promote the recovery of key ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs through active reforestation and propagation.

If you have a direct interest in pursuing a divemaster conservation internship and want to learn how to conduct marine research underwater, Thailand may be the experience you are searching for. By obtaining your PADI Open Water Diver certificate during the marine conservation internship, you’ll be able to take part in some unique research options. If you choose to stay longer than four weeks, you can undergo fish and invertebrate survey training. In this training, you’ll learn how to identify specific fish, conduct in-water surveys and contribute to a nationwide marine research effort.

During your marine conservation internship in Thailand, you’ll also contribute to several land-based conservation activities. These projects span the themes of microplastic and litter pollution and play a fundamental role in influencing conservation strategy in the area. Plastics are one of the key substances polluting our oceans and decimating marine species. You’ll learn about plastics, and record and identify the causes of pollution in the area. Gathering this data is essential for educational purposes and for creating long-term conservation plans. 

The data you gather at Phi Phi National Park will be used to prove that a healthy reef produces a more abundant fish population. This directly translates into increased catches for local fishermen and a more attractive reef for tourism. This, combined with data from trash collection, will be presented to local authorities to further solidify the importance of conserving the marine park.

This unique experience will give you lots to talk about in future interviews and will provide a concrete demonstration of your passion and interest in the ocean to future employers.

Learn more about our Coral Reef Conservation Project in Thailand.

Conservation interns plant mangrove propagules during their project in Thailand.

Mexico

Habitat: Pacific Coastline

Research Fields: Sea Turtle Conservation and Crocodile Rehabilitation

If sea turtle conservation is at the heart of your research interests, why not consider a marine conservation internship in Mexico.

Sea turtles are important members of the marine ecosystem but are threatened due to poaching and other human activities. In Mexico, you’ll participate in beach patrols and nest relocation. Data will be recorded on the turtle nests and once the turtles hatch you’ll release them on a beautiful black sand beach so they can make their way into the ocean. We’ve have released nearly two million turtles back into the ocean!

Additionally, we work with La Colorada Crocodile Center in Mexico to monitor the number of crocodiles in the area. You’ll take biometric data of captive-bred crocodiles to assess growth rates and suitability for release. We also support an American crocodile breeding program to increase the declining number of American crocodiles in the area. This involves incubating and hatching crocodile eggs and monitoring the crocodiles once they’ve been released.

Bird surveys form an important part of the work in Mexico, as do beach clean-ups and mangrove reforestation projects. Mangrove forests are hugely important ecosystems as they form natural barriers against fierce storms, crashing waves and erosion. Part of this work will involve collecting germinated seeds from wild mangroves and planting them in our nursery. Once they reach a specific height they’re transplanted back into the wild. If you have an interest in botany, you’ll learn best practice in mangrove growing and contribute to protecting Mexico’s coastlines and marine organisms.

Learn more about our Sea Turtle Conservation Project in Mexico.

Conservation intern cleans the shell of a sea turtle in Mexico as part of his marine research project.

Fiji

Habitat: Pacific Ocean

Research Fields: Shark Ecology and Marine Biology

Shark conservation internships aren’t for the faint-hearted, but if you’re a brave conservationist looking to gain experience in cutting edge shark research, this could be the project for you!

Since its conception, the Conservation Project in Fiji has focused on carrying out scientific research to address shark conservation issues in the country. As apex predators, sharks are essential members of the marine ecosystem and maintain the balance between the trophic levels of the food chain. Sharks have been roaming our oceans for over 400 million years, surviving multiple major extinctions. But, in less than a century, we have decimated their populations.

In Fiji, we offer diving internships in marine conservation to protect and conserve sharks in the area. You’ll act as a research assistant and be involved with shark tagging, diving and identification. Tagging sharks allows the research team to understand their habitat use, ecology, feeding habits and behavior as well as improving global knowledge of sharks. Information gathering is an essential part of the project as it’ll determine future conservation policy decisions. 

You’ll attend a shark identification workshop where you’ll learn how to spot specific shark markings and distinguish known individuals. Self-training with flashcards will further solidify your knowledge of specific individuals. The level of training you receive in your conservation research internship will you help you stand out in future interviews as someone with a serious interest in marine biology. 

When out of the water, you’ll conduct environmental impact control, community outreach and mangrove reforestation to improve the health of the oceans. These projects aim to encourage volunteers, tourists and local communities to live a more sustainable lifestyle and reduce waste in the Pacific Harbour region!

The marine conservation internship in Fiji is a unique opportunity to work with shark experts from the WWF and Project AWARE and learn how to conserve these crucial species.

Learn more about our Shark Conservation Project in Fiji.

Shark Conservation interns hold a research sign underwater in Fiji.

Ecuador

Habitat: Galapagos Islands
Research Fields: Marine Biology and Island Biodiversity 

Join the battle to preserve unique ecosystems in one of the most biodiverse regions in the world; the Galapagos Islands. We’re the only volunteer organization allowed to work in the Galapagos National Park so this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work here. 

As a volunteer in the Galapagos, you’ll work alongside local conservationists to protect and preserve the endemic species on the island including giant tortoises, Galapagos sea lions and marine iguanas.

Unfortunately, the increasing pressure of human activities combined with the spread of invasive species and wild animals threatens the Galapagos’ delicate ecosystem. In conjunction with the Galapagos National Park Agency and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, we work to safeguard the ecosystem of the islands and implement management plans to help native species thrive.

As a volunteer, you’ll stay on San Cristobal Island and assist with removing invasive species, reforesting areas with historical plants and monitoring the flora and fauna of the island. Eliminating invasive species is an important process in order to keep the endemic vegetation thriving. Undertaking these comprehensive studies will allow us to better understand what is happening in the ecosystem. It’ll put us in a more informed position to advise and implement effective conservation strategy in the Galapagos National Park.

Throughout your stay, you’ll also work in the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. The breeding center was established to help stabilize and increase the numbers of giant tortoise on the island. In your conservation internship, you’ll carry out cleaning, feeding and collecting data on these animals. This is a unique opportunity to gain animal work experience abroad. In addition, you’ll learn to monitor sea lion populations, marine iguanas and a vast array of bird species so we can ensure their survival in the future.

Conducting research in Ecuador will give you first-hand insight into issues facing much of the conservation world including human-wildlife conflict, climate change and ocean pollution. 

Learn more about our Conservation Project in the Galapagos Islands.

Conservation interns feed a giant tortoise in the Galapagos Islands.

Marine based wildlife isn’t for everyone and having your feet firmly on land may be more your style. With this in mind, we also have Wildlife Conservation internships for you to take a look at. You might find yourself monitoring giraffes in Kenya, studying butterflies in Nepal, or tracking endangered animals in Peru.

With all this in mind, where will you be headed?

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