A volunteer examines plastic pollution as part of a dive trip geared towards citizen science
Text and image by Joseph Tepper
In light of the increasingly pressing threats the ocean is facing today, divers are wanting more from their vacation than just pampering. Participation in citizen science projects such as reef surveys, plastic pollution cleanups, or fish ID photography is becoming a popular activity among altruistic divers, and it is certainly a good thing to do, if done properly. If you wish to make a tangible, positive environmental impact on your next dive vacation, here are some dos and don’ts for “voluntourism”.
DO Take Notes:
It’s hard enough to remember the name of the previous dive site, let alone keep scientifically accurate observations. Consider taking a dive slate with you or make cure to take detailed notes in a logbook after every dive.
DON’T Leave Your Camera at Home:
Not only do voluntourism trips take you to some spectacular places for snapshots, but scientists frequently rely on images for making IDs of individual animals and monitoring the health of the reef.
DO Your Own Research:
You don’t need to have a PhD to make a meaningful impact on conservation efforts, but some basic understanding of the local ecology will help prepare you for the tasks ahead.
DON’T Rough It:
Just because you’re working like a scientist doesn’t mean you have to live like one. More and more five-star luxury liveaboards are teaming up with scientists to offer votuntourism itineraries.
DO Donate Funding:
Time and effort are greatly appreciated by researchers. But you know what else is? Monetary donations. Consider a gift of simple or generous proportions to augment your voluntourism.
DON’T Stress Out:
Remember, it’s your vacation too. Try not to take the research too seriously and make time to relax with your favourite non-diving activity such as a massage, the endless editing of photos, or (of course) more diving.
DO Interact with the Local Community:
Community based marine resource management (CBMRM) is an increasingly popular method for conservation, so try to spend some time talking with locals about how they view their marine environment.
DON’T Go Alone:
Voluntourism trips are all the more enjoyable when you have a buddy to help you contribute to science. If you can’t bring a buddy, try reaching out to other guests on the trip before departure.
DO Ask Questions:
Don’t understand something the lead researcher has said or asked you to do? Asking questions makes sure you thoroughly understand the topic and are contributing efficiently.
DON’T Stop After the Trip:
Your trip might end, but conservation and research efforts do not. Follow along the work of your research leader and look out for your efforts making the news.
DO Follow Directions:
Volunteering through physical sampling, photo IDs, or reef cleanups can be tedious, but by following the directions of the leader you’ll produce the best results.
DON’T Be Selfish:
The ocean gives divers so much. You’d be surprised how many dive destinations offer opportunities to give back.
This article is from Asian Diver Issue 2/2018, which can be purchased here.
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