Hi! My name is Niamh and I'm a second year science student in Ireland. This summer I will be volunteering as a research assistant in a science expedition to Mexico as part of Operation Wallacea
Operation Wallacea is an organisation that runs a series of biological and conservation management research programmes in remote locations across the world. This research is critical in understanding the way these ecosystems work and to help maintain these areas for future generations. I have set up this campaign to try to help fund my expedition and I would appreciate you giving anything you can!
This research will be focused primarily in Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and Akumal.
Calakmul is an UNESCO World Heritage Site of Culture and Nature and contains diverse and abundant wildlife with many endemic species. The forest is one of the few remaining strongholds of large mammals such as jaguar, puma, tapir, and spider monkey as well 50 species of bat, and 360 bird species. The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is an extremely important wildlife corridor that ensures gene flow between animal populations, and ensures that populations can withstand natural disasters such as droughts, forest fires, hurricanes and floods. However, climate change and deforestation in surrounding areas are threatening the habitat for many of these animals. The key research being carried out in this area is monitoring the efficacy of community projects in protecting the forest and its wildlife. The Operation Wallacea monitoring data will also increase our understanding of the abundance, diversity and distribution of key taxa in the reserve.
The marine site at Akumal was once known as "the home of the turtles" but in recent times overfishing has led to reef destruction and population collapse amongst both turtles, fish and coral populations. In addition to this, tourism in the area has caused great destruction of habitats including mangroves which are essential for a healthy water habitat. The research here will be based on coral reef diversity and turtle nesting in Akumal and to establish an annual monitoring programme for coastal ecosystem management that includes monitoring of tourist numbers and their use of the habitat, monitoring the effect of snorkel based tourism on turtle behaviour, monitoring water quality and Diadema abundance as a symptom of reef deterioration, monitoring of sea grasses and the juvenile turtles that feed on them, and monitoring of nesting turtles and the availability of suitable nesting sites.
Thank for your help!