Conservation with Operation Wallacea

Humna Sharif – April 1st, 2018

What is Operation Wallacea?
Operation Wallacea (Opwall) is an organization that runs a series of biological and conservation management research programs each year from early June to early August in remote locations across the world. Working alongside a large team of academics and PhD students, these annual surveys have produced 330+ publications in peer reviewed journals. The funding for Opwall programs comes from tuition fees paid by students who then have the opportunity to work with publishing scientists. This approach overcomes issues caused by the short-term nature of grant-based funding and enables long-term temporal data sets to be gathered in habitats around the world using comparable methods across research sites. More than 250 academics and 70+ PhD students have participated in this program, with resulting data then being used to lever funds for conservation interventions at these sites.

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Interested candidates can submit an Expression of Interest form, or contact Scott Sveiven at (973) 920-0487.

Opportunities for Field Training Courses
The research facilities established by Opwall are available for university training courses outside the normal expedition research season (June-August). The sites identified below all have sufficient local experts, survey equipment and logistics management to be used for 1 or 2-week field courses. Universities and colleges are able to design and plan field courses utilizing key benefits including:

  • Established field sites
  • Access to past datasets
  • Full lecture series (if required)
  • Local support and guides (if required)
  • Bespoke training course
  • Past testimonials
  • Workable project lists
  • Background reading list
  • Completed risk assessments
  • Fully packaged travel arrangements
  • Costs starting at $640 per week per student, excluding travel (one free place for an academic for each group of 10 students)

Mexico - Forest and Marine Courses
Based in the Yucatan Peninsula in forest camps for the first week, this Neotropical forest ecology and conservation course consists of practicals including camera trapping for jaguars and pumas, point count surveys for birds, standard search transects for herpetofauna, Morelet crocodile surveys, scan and focal sampling behavior surveys of spider monkeys, and assessing forest structure. The second week is based at a marine research center and consists of PADI Open Water dive training or a Caribbean reef ecology course with practicals, including sea turtle behavioral studies by diving or snorkeling. 

Peru - Amazon Forest Courses
Based on a research ship moored in the remote Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, this Amazonian Wildlife Ecology and Conservation course consists of practicals including line transects for pink and grey dolphins, gill net surveys for fish, point counts for macaws, caiman surveys, water bird transect surveys, distance and patch occupancy surveys of large mammals, camera trapping, niche separation in 12 species of primates, and amphibian surveys of floating vegetation mats.

South Africa - Bush Courses
Based in a range of Highveld, Lowveld and Fynbos reserves, this African Wildlife Management course consists of practicals including distance based surveys of large mammals from vehicles, foot based surveys of browsing and grazing pressure to calculate carrying capacities of reserves, bird point counts, and camera trapping. These courses have the students working with armed guards on foot in reserves for some practicals and includes initial training in bush survey and safety skills.

Indonesia - Marine Courses
Based in the famous Wakatobi Marine National Park, the most published site in the Coral Triangle, this field course includes dive training to PADI Open Water level as well as an Indo-Pacific reef ecology course with practicals focused on 3D mapping software to model reefs, stereo video surveys of reef fish, seagrass and mangrove studies, behavior projects on fiddler crabs and cleaner fish, and artisanal fishery survey methods.

Croatia - Terrestrial and Marine courses
 Based in Krka National Park research center for the first week, the Balkan field course consists of practicals including electrofishing, cave surveys, camera trapping for large mammals such as wolves, bird point counts and mist netting, and reptile surveys. The marine week is based in Mljet National Park, with dive training to PADI Open Water level or the Mediterranean Sea and islands ecology course with practicals including stereo video surveys of fish, sea grass surveys, and tortoise population surveys.