Mexico Coral Reef Ecology and Conservation Short Term Internship
- Experiences | Vol and Intern
- Puerto Morelos, Mexico
1 month ago
Mexico Coral Reef Ecology and Conservation Short Term Internship
- Experiences | Vol and Intern
- Puerto Morelos, Mexico
1 month ago
Learn practical skills in marine conservation and contribute towards your career development, while doing your part to preserve coral reefs in the Mexican Caribbean AND get career training from Conservation Careers!
Enjoy the warm tropical waters and the coral reefs of the Mexican Caribbean in Puerto Morelos, as you participate in marine conservation training and development. This internship is designed to help you learn about the ecology of the coral reef ecosystem through lectures and in field training while contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals #14 Life Below Water.Your internship will start with you mastering the diving and underwater survey techniques needed to conduct coral reef surveys which are accurate and don’t harm the reef. Our experienced instructors will support you all the way while you work toward earning your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certificate. Receive the Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality segment of the PADI Divemaster course. This unique offering by us & PADI teaches you about best practices when conducting underwater coral reef surveys. This is offered to participants staying for 2 weeks or longer.You will see firsthand the diverse environmental factors that impact the reef ecosystem, and work with the community in the conservation and restoration of the Mesoamerican reef system in the region. These activities will also mean that you will be contributing towards UNSDG #13 Climate Action, UNSDG #12 Responsible Consumption and Production and UNSDG #4 Quality Education.
Approximately 50% of coral reefs around the world have bleached over the past three decades. This biodiverse species faces a true threat of extinction with the rise of global warming, and our work in Mexico directly contributes not only to studies in replicating and protecting surviving species, but also looks at longer term preservation and education strategies, in aid of protecting the species on a larger scale.
Working with an international team, you will undergo extensive training, designed to improve your skills and further your knowledge of the marine ecosystem. This program also provides a fine balance between theoretical and practical learning, giving you a “hands on” experience, which will be of great benefit not only from a professional development point of view, but also in terms of your personal development too.
Puerto Morelos is a tiny port town based on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Your adventure with us starts here, as you immerse yourself in the charming character and culture of what is traditionally a well known fishing village. The town contains a wide variety of dive sites and breathtaking cenotes, which you may explore as part of your participation on this program. This particular project is made possible by us in conjunction with highly revered local partners and organisations in the region. Through these partnerships, our interns are assured of measurable impact while on the ground.
- Improve your employability if you have dreams of starting a career in (or growing your skills in) marine conservation.
- Earn your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification.
- Complete our & PADI’s unique qualification, the PADI Coral Reef Research Speciality.
- Work both in and outside the water, as you contribute to national efforts to protect and assist in reproducing endangered coral reefs.
- Visit a tropical paradise, providing you with an opportunity to experience a new culture and way of life.
- Experience snorkelling, swimming and diving in a comfortable, warm landscape and climate.
- Meet people from all corners of the world, as you expand your network and boost your status as a global citizen.
Our Award-winning Partner
Conservation Careers has teamed up with an award-winning, mission-driven organisation with a team of passionate experts across the globe who will make your experience a truly unforgettable one.
Founded in 1998, they run programs in 21 locations, in 13 countries around the world, each aligned to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as well as the objectives of local partners. They welcome participants from all around the world and help facilitate their development into global citizens. This is how they achieve their mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Their commitment to running high-quality sustainable development and experiential education programs has earned them recognition from numerous organizations such as Panthera, the Seychelles Parks & Gardens Authority, as well as Stanford, NYU, Duke, and Ohio State.
If you register your interest below, you’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!
To see all our Conservation Careers Internship opportunities, please click here.
Life on base
Live on the beach a few metres from the Puerto Morelos National Park Reef and a 15-minute drive from downtown Puerto Morelos. Situated in the stunning Puerto Morelos, the oldest porteño community in the Mexican Caribbean, this site allows for some fantastic diving. A typical day may involve diving, lab work, training on base, community days, and beach cleanups. Days are rounded off with evening debriefs, followed by dinner and time to relax, taking in a beautiful sunset and sharing stories with your fellow team members.
Increasing Employability: Pre Departure Program Training
Our programs are not only life-changing experiences but are also designed to help participants increase their employability. We have developed a curriculum to be completed prior to arrival in the country in order to ensure that more time is dedicated to program work once you commence your volunteer program.
Eight weeks prior to your start date, you will complete the following online courses in preparation for your in-country program:
PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION (1 hour)
PROGRAM SPECIFIC TRAINING (1 – 5 hours)
MARINE CONSERVATION COURSE (10 – 15 hours)
LEADERSHIP COURSE (10 – 15 hours)
CAREERS COURSE (10 – 15 hours)
In order to obtain a certificate for the Marine Conservation, Leadership and Careers courses which are endorsed by the University of Richmond and UNC Charlotte, you will need to complete quizzes & assignments and will be given 4 weeks post program to submit your work.
If you are looking to travel in less than 8 weeks from now, you will still complete the course however this will be done in country and all content will need to be downloaded before arrival.
Health & Hygiene
The work we contribute to across the globe remains important and new measures allow our participants to continue to join our programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. Changes to our existing protocols have been made by our health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities. Please inquire for more information on the protocols.
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Puerto Morelos is the oldest port city in the Mexican Caribbean. The port has been used since the time of the Mayan empire, but its history as a modern port began in 1898. It was built to enable the exportation of gum from the gum tree and the wood of the dye tree, an activity that together with fishing were the main productive activities in the area.
The area has a unique diversity of ecosystems including low evergreen jungles, low swamp jungles, savannahs, coastal dunes, mangroves, cenotes, beaches, marine grass, and coral reefs. The reef of Puerto Morelos is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, MBRS, considered the second largest reef barrier in the world and home to thousands of marine species.
Today, Puerto Morelos is part of the 120 kilometer tourist corridor, located between Cancun and Tulum. Tourism is the main economic activity of Puerto Morelos and continues to grow due to the development of large hotels as well as holiday housing along its coast. Local tour operators offer scuba, snorkelling, and free diving tours in the Caribbean Sea and reef lagoon, tours of or diving in cenotes close to the town, as well as sport fishing tours.
Fishing is the second most common commercial activity after tourism. Fishermen fish using small skiffs collect many commercial Caribbean fish species and lobster. Local fishing organisations are aware that unsustainable fishing leads to a destruction of the reef, and therefore loss of fishing resources as well as harm to ecotourism activities.
We assists our partners in Puerto Morelos with collecting and collating data to assist decision makers in coastal zone management. We assist them with the manpower, logistical resources, and, in the case of our Trust, finances.
Fish and Coral Surveys
We have several monitoring sites that we survey each year. At each monitoring site, we do 10 adult and juvenile fish transects and five coral community and point intercept transects. The data on fish we gather helps us determine the abundance and the size of fish and understand the changes in the fish community dynamics. The data on coral, and other sessile organisms like sponges and mussels, is used to understand the rate of recovery of the reef and its overall health. For four week short term interns the surveys will be simpler as we aim to gather high-quality data by focusing the learning on fish species while touching on other topics such as coral species. The aim of this is to collect biomass data and information on coral illnesses and bleaching.
The National Park of Puerto Morelos is abundant in seagrass which is one of the favourite meals of green sea turtles. Our participants assist with monitoring sea turtle populations by taking pictures of them while snorkeling and diving. This helps with identifying both new and returning sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is from May to October.
Invasive Lionfish Monitoring and Eradication
Lionfish are an invasive species in the Mexican Caribbean. Lionfish eradication activities are carried on in coordination with local environmental authorities. Local authorities conduct lionfish spearfishing tournaments throughout the year in which we can participate or they assign us dates to carry out lionfish eradication on specific areas of the reef. Please note that this activity does not happen all year long.
Incidental Sightings of Megafauna
Every time we go on a dive we look for megafauna species such as sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, eels, and rays. We then input sighting of these species into our database. The presence of these species can be indicators of the health of the reef and general biodiversity.
Plastic Pollution Cleanup
We have weekly beach cleans where we collect the rubbish that washes up on our beach and classify it into different categories depending on their source. This information is recorded and sent to our partners for analysis.
They also assist the community by conducting environmental education programs. The town of Puerto Morelos was once a fishing village, but is now part of one of the largest Marine Parks in Mexico. Fish is still an important food source in the community and fishing a common means of earning an income. Sustainable fishing methods and other means of protecting the natural environment are vital to maintaining the marine abundance that makes both fishing and international tourism profitable. Teaching young people and tour operators the importance of protecting their marine resources and how this can be done is vital to ensuring the future health of the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos.
All these initiatives allow us to offer support to the conservation work, the community and our local partners, and to address many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, such as #4 – Quality Education and #14 – Life Below Water.
Please note: Both conservation- and community-focused programs are offered at this location.
Puerto Morelos Marine, Long-term Objectives
- Provide data to our partners on the overall health of the reef, to be used for coastal management within the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park, and collaborate in the coral restoration project.
- Raise environmental awareness with the community in Puerto Morelos.
- Minimise the environmental impact that visitors and other people have within the national park
- Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park
Joining a program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer.
Long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Many decide to travel before or after their experience (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.
There are many Mayan ruins scattered throughout the Riviera Maya and the province in which Puerto Morelos is located, Quintana Roo, is no exception. One of the most popular sites is Tulum, a walled Mayan city built near the end of the empire located on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Visitors can climb the pyramid structure, the tallest in the complex and visit the wind god temple at the edge of the bay. There is also the nearby city of Chichen Itza, which was built at a much earlier date and is one of the largest in Mayan history. Here you will find the magnificent pyramid structure known as the Temple of Kukulcan. There is also a nearby ruin featuring residential buildings known as Coba. Exploring any of these sites will help visitors experience what Mayan culture was really like.
Eco Adventure Parks
A top destination for those visiting the Riviera Maya are eco adventure parks like Xcaret and Xel-ha. These are naturally beautiful areas of land featuring a rich biodiversity and Mayan ruins that have been turned into sustainable theme parks. The parks feature water activities like swimming, tubing, and snorkeling as there are also plenty of opportunities to spot and learn more about the unique flora and fauna of the region including orchids, mangroves, butterflies, monkeys, and manatees. Cultural activities are also offered include remodeled Maya villages and Mariachi performances.
Diving and snorkeling
Diving and Snorkeling: Experience the stunning diversity of underwater life to be found among the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world. While diving is a part of all our marine conservation projects in Puerto Morelos, any interns and volunteers, including those participating in community projects, can easily book a recreational dive. The stretch of ocean near Puerto Morelos is well-protected allowing divers and snorkelers to view Mexican marine life at its best. You can also travel to other top diving sites such as the island of Cozumel.
If you have never heard of a cenote, you are in for a treat. No, not a type of french pastry, but a kind of naturally occurring limestone cathedral, filled with deep blue water, and lit up by slants of tropical sunlight from above. Unique to the Yucatan Peninsula, cenotes were believed by the ancient and medieval cultures of the region to be sacred sites. There are plenty of cenotes close to Puerto Morelos where visitors can swim, snorkel, or dive while observing the dabbled light dancing along the cave walls. Visit the “Ruta de los Cenotes” or route of the cenotes, a 44 km road that joins Puerto Morelos town with Leona Vicario and is filled with dozens of cenotes. Like Las Mojarras, Verde Lucero, Siete Bocas, Kin Ha, Hells Bells, Boca de Puma, just to name a few.
Other Latin America countries
Mexico is the perfect destination from which to explore other Central and South American countries. Travel down to the jungles and volcanoes of Costa Rica and then further down to the Andes mountains and Incan structures of Peru.
Mexico City is the home of many iconic cultural sites including Frida Khalo’s blue house and the Palace of Fine Arts where the work of her husband, Digeo Rivera, and other artists, can be viewed. You can also visit the historic Zocalo plaza, parts of which date back to the Aztec era, and the National Archeological Museum where artifacts from Mayan culture can be viewed. Another Mexican locations famed for its cultural significance is Guadalajara, the birthplace of mariachi music.
Hiking and rock climbing
There are plenty of excellent hiking, trekking, and mountain climbing destinations available in Mexico. Pico de Orizaba is Mexico’s highest peak, followed by the active volcano Popocatepetl, and Iztaccihuatl, its twin, which is dormant. Some popular rock climbing destinations include El Potrero Chico.
On the other side of the Caribbean coast, Baja California is a peninsula bordered by the Pacific Ocean. One of the main reasons to visit this location is the annual visit of grey whales from Arctic regions. The best months for whale spotting are from January to March. There are, of course, many other reasons to visit Baja California such as surfing and to explore the natural rocky landscape.
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.
- January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the largely Catholic population celebrates el Día de Reyes, the Day of the Three Kings. Traditionally Christmastime presents are open on this day.
- April: The traditionally Catholic holidays of Holy Week and Easter are honoured with parades through the streets, attending mass at the local cathedral, and quiet meals with family.
- September: On the sixteenth of September, Mexico celebrates its independence day, Cinco de Mayo. Parades and feasts featuring national favourites like the Jarabe Tapatío dance and black bean tamales with mole sauce are popular.
- November: The iconic Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated each year on the 2nd of November. While this is considered a Catholic holiday it incorporates indigenous customs that are much older.
- December: As a mainly Catholic country, Christmas is celebrated with great fanfare throughout Mexico. For nine nights up until Christmas Day children travel door-to-door singly a traditional song. The activity and song is known as posadas and represents the story of the parents of the Christ asking for shelter. Nativity scenes are more popular than Christmas trees in Mexico.
Probably the most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the Mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is actually more unique to a specific region of Mexico, Guadalajara, and only evolved later in the 18th century. It is difficult to separate out the colonialist influences from the indigenous influences, but what is known is that Mayan cultures did have bands featuring among other instruments, drums, trumpets, and maracas. There are many usually opportunities to watch Mariachi bands perform during your time in Mexico.
The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. The dance is performed by a male and female partner. At one point during the dance, the male partner, drops his hat and the couple dances around the hat. This has earned the dance the name ‘the Mexican hat dance’ in English-speaking regions. Other Mexican dances include La Bamba and Polka Norteno. A popular dance in the Yucatan region is the Jarana. Our programs in Mexico allow you can participate in dance classes in evenings or during weekends.
Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to sample authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ingredients such as tomatoes, chillies, avocados, and cocoa beans, are indigenous Mexican crops that spread to other cultures as result of colonialism. By traveling to Mexico you can sample these flavours through the eyes of the cultures that first discovered them. Tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, quesadillas — while these are household names and most of us have tried them before, both Mexican nationals and international visitors would agree, they are best enjoyed within the borders of Mexico itself.
Religion and local customs
Most of Mexico’s population ascribe to the Catholic religion, also due to colonialism. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is home to the most visited site of religious significance for Catholics around the world, the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe. Much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures that predate the colonialist era.
As a result of colonialism, Spanish is overwhelmingly the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language in the world, visiting Mexico is a great opportunity for learning Spanish and you will have plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish on our community development programs. You can even book extra Spanish language lessons for an additional fee. The indigenous languages of Mexico number over five dozen, however, they are not widely spoken, and are considered ‘endangered languages.’
During your program, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience tailor-made adventure and wellness activities. These have been specially designed to further immerse you in the diversity and richness of the habitats and cultures around you.
Exclusive local experiences:
- Learn to cook traditional Yucatán food
- Visit a Mayan ruin
- Take a beach yoga class
- Dive through the cenotes
- Stand-up paddleboard at sunrise
- Climb rock formations in the jungle
- Learn the unique geography of the Yucatán Peninsula
Explore the ancient city of Coba
BONUS! Conservation Career Kick-Starter online training programme (worth £295)
Do you want to spend your career helping wildlife to flourish, but are feeling a little lost, confused or disillusioned?
Start your career in wildlife conservation with a unique programme of training, support community & jobs from Conservation Careers!
The Conservation Career Kick-Starter is a proven step-by-step system to get clear, get ready, and get hired as a professional conservationist.
Whether you’re at university and planning your next steps, a graduate in the job hunt or working in an unrelated job but interested to switch into conservation, this course is designed to help you.
After going through the course, you’ll have created a personal career plan which will give you confidence in your job hunt and will make everything quicker, simpler and more fun!
All you need to do is register your interest in the project below, and if you choose to make a booking we’ll save a place for you on the Kick-Starter when you get back from your placement.
Included with the Kick-Starter is a year’s full-access to the world’s biggest conservation job board with over 15,000 jobs, plus access to our private online support community, CC Pro.
Duration, dates and costs
Duration of fieldwork: 4 – 12 weeks
Start dates are as follows:
- 2023: 29 Apr; 13 May; 27 May; 10 Jun; 24 Jun; 08 Jul; 22 Jul; 05 Aug; 19 Aug; 02 Sep; 16 Sep; 30 Sep; 14 Oct; 28 Oct; 11 Nov; 25 Nov; 09 Dec; 23 Dec
The costs are:
- 4 weeks – £4,295
- 6 weeks – £5,345
- 8 weeks – £6,095
- 10 weeks – £7,045
- 12 weeks – £7,895
- 24-hour emergency desk
- 24-hour in-country support
- Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
- Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
- All necessary project equipment and materials
- All necessary project training by experienced staff
- Location orientation
- Long term experienced staff
- Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
- Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
- Welcome meeting
What’s not included
- Additional drinks and gratuities
- COVID-19: Health and Hygiene Fee
- Extra local excursions
- International and domestic airport taxes
- Medical and travel insurance
- Personal items and toiletries
- Police or background check
- Visa costs (where necessary)