So, how does dive volunteer tourism (or as we call it, dive voluntourism) in Australia combine with marine research and conservation?
Some activities are more suited to the involvement of volunteers or melding with scuba dive tourism than others. The traits that we try to identify in activities for scuba dive tourism volunteer involvement are:
- data collection protocols which can be easily taught to non-experts in a few days
- an area of study that can be understood and appreciated by a recreational diver
- no health and safety hazards involved. DiVo will screen the projects, ensure that necessary insurances are in place and where necessary, arrange local medical checkups
- a meaningful contribution of the volunteer towards the research or conservation objective. Namely activities which involve large scale engagement of labour, eg baseline surveys (a survey establishing a starting point to be measured up against in future surveys) over extensive spatial areas or the repitition of surveys over time, or cleanup activities
- a meaningful contribution of the volunteer towards the funding of the project. DiVo helps to structure a business and pricing model which will channel the tourist dollar towards the research objective
Here are a sample of activities which have engaged volunteer involvement:
Compiling biodiversity inventories: That’s a fish ID survey, in layman’s language. You can find out more about what fish surveys are here.
Reef survey: This involves surveying coral substrates (types of coral), invertebrates (non-coral organisms such as sea urchins, nudibranchs) and human impacts on the reefs (anchor damage, litter, nets, that sort of thing). Find out more about reef surveys here.
Manta rays, whale shark research: Wow, how do I get to do THAT?! Find out more about who does manta and whale shark research.
Shark and turtle tagging: Best left to the experts, but you can find out more (and even see up close) how marine scientists do shark and turtle tagging here.
Marine research station volunteering: Enjoy a desert island holiday for free... how good is that? Find out more about which marine research stations in Australia take in volunteers.
Marine debris survey, clean-up and marine park maintenance: Community action can make a difference. You can learn here how you can participate in marine debris surveys, clean-ups and maintenance through community action groups.
DiVo hopes to bring these activities to the recreational diver by:
- identifying and packaging activities for a scuba diver-tourist. Frequently the activities organised by volunteer or marine conservation groups do not cater for logistics of getting the diver to and from the project site, or involve periods which are either too long for the average recreational diver or not worth the while to travel to. DiVo works with the marine conservation/research organisation to develop an itinerary that will be feasible and fun for the visiting voluntourist. DiVo also facilitates logistics involved such as organising dive medicals where necessary and ensuring that the necessary paperwork and insurances are in place;
- introducing the lay diver to volunteer groups or organisations that involve volunteers. While these groups may have a website for their membership base comprising mainly community or conservationist groups, DiVo targets activities that may be of interest to the recreational scuba diver and which otherwise may not come to the attention of the tourist diving market.