Marine research and whale shark conservation

Maria Petzsch

By: Maria Petzsch | Posted on: 06 May 2019


During a two week visit to the marine research centre in Tofo, Mozambique, I joined Katie Reeve-Arnold and her team in collecting and processing data on local marine megafauna. The research centre monitors: whale sharks, turtles, dolphins, rays (including small eyed sting rays), and humpback whales. To monitor the health of the local reefs, cleaning stations, and marine life, the research centre also records data on 60 species of reef fish.


Having only completed my Open Water PADI certification in January 2018, I found the scuba diving fairly challenging. This was particularly so as the currents and drifts were strong at times. However, through completing a refresher course on arrival and then diving almost every day, I improved my diving and felt increasingly confident under the water. By the end of the two weeks I was comfortably able to collect fish ID data, swim short distances with the megafauna (on snorkel), and identify and record their characteristics, behaviour, and general health state.


We attended lectures in the first week to learn about whale shark, manta ray, sting ray, and turtle conservation in the local area. This was eye opening in terms of understanding how these species survive and what threats they face. After attending the lectures I felt better able to monitor and record these megafauna’s behaviour on encounters.

I successfully completed the fish ID test with 100%, and carried out fish ID exercises while on scuba. This meant we could then add data collected to the marine research centre’s global wildlife databases at the end of each day.

In terms of dive skills, I also successfully completed my PADI deep dive certification (30m).


It was a pleasure to spend so much time under the water observing the local marine life, and to contribute to the valuable work of the marine research centre. As a result I have developed a much better understanding of marine research and marine life conservation, and a greater appreciation for the importance of promoting and supporting conservation work (on both a local and global scale).


These two weeks in Tofo have certainly made me feel better equipped to move into the environmental/conservation sector in my career. I am very grateful to have been a part of the project.


Marine Research & Whale Shark Conservation Project in Mozambique




Reforestation project in Lobitos

Camilla on the reforestation project in Ecuador

By: Camila Parra Hoyos | Posted on: 28 Apr 2019

“Today is my last day as part of the Environmental Conservation Project in Perú. I have learned a lot about reforestation and bio-diversity, I have had the opportunity to work with the community of Piedritas (a town nearby) and I have learned tips to live a more sustainable life as they do here in Peru.

This experience started when I saw on LinkedIn a post from Global Nomadic for this project. For a while, I had been thinking of having an environmental volunteer experience in another country, so I saw the post as an opportunity that I had to explore. I was thrilled when I was accepted to the programme. Then I started planning. As I have a full time job in Colombia, the first step was to get to an agreement on how long I would be out of my job.  After that, I booked my flights, bought the travel insurance, packed my bags and I was ready to go. I was expecting to learn a lot about sustainability, specially reforestation, and really get hand on experience about it, it is one of my passions in life.

When I arrived to Talara, someone was waiting for me in order to take me to Lobitos, where the project is. As I arrived to the house, the staff member and all the other volunteers received me very well. Another volunteer had arrived the same day so the staff members gave us a tour to the house and gave us an explanation of all the projects they worked in. Moreover, they showed me my accomodation: I was sharing room with 2 volunteers, they showed me the bathrooms and most importantly, the dry toilet that they use as a way of having a more sustainable house. Finally, they taught me how the food worked: we always rotate between who is making the food and who is cleaning.

On my second day, one of the directors explained to me the projects in which I would me working. There are 4:
1. The forest: we are growing a forest and it needs to be taken care of. I have to water the trees and also take care of the seedlings.

2. Reforestation project in Lobitos: this project started in 2015. Every year a monitoring has been taken place. I had to analyze the data from the 2018 monitoring.

3. Reforestation project in Piedritas: it is the replication of the Lobitos one. It started in 2018. I had to do some monitoring. For that, we went to Piedritas and made questionnaires to the community.

4. General activities: lastly I participated in the activities that all volunteers do. This meant helping to get interesting content for the social media, help cleaning the dry toilet, and working on planting day that was when we did maintenance to the forest and the trees of the house.

After the orientation, I started working.
But also there was time for other activities. The other volunteers are very friendly and we always eat together, talk and do other activities together. We went surfing, fishing and hiking. Furthermore I found out that Perú’s culture is very similar to Colombia’s one so it was easy for me to adapt.

Now that I have been here for two weeks I have a much broader understanding of the importance of the project for Lobitos and for reforestation. The main reason for this is that we involve the community in the projects, so they learn about the importance of taking care of the trees. Every family involved in the project plants and take care of their trees. In the process, the community learns about the different species and its benefits. Also, they learn techniques to grow them at zero cost and using only reused water, organic waste or inorganic waste. For the time I was here, it became obvious that the community is very satisfied with the project. Finally, that the trees that had been planted are growing and the CO2 sequestration is being measured.

The way in which I was able to participate in the projects was very nice too. I was involved in several stages of the projects so I was able to understand the whole context. Moreover, I was given very specific goals for the time I would be here. That meant that I knew what I had to do everyday, the expected results and then the impact that my job was going to have. I was glad that even though I was only going to be here for two weeks, I was given important and relevant tasks for the different projects. For example, the data analysis that I was doing for the Lobitos Verde project is an necessary step to have a results report of the programme to show them to the municipality and potential donators.

The principal challenge that I faced was that I was only staying for two weeks. This meant that I had to really organize my time in order to complete the tasks. I am proud that I was able to complete them and that I felt that I made a difference to the project by applying my knowledge.

To conclude, I really enjoyed the experience and would definitely recommend it to a friend.”


Environmental Conservation Project in Peru


Unique Experience

Costa Rica: Environmental Research Internship report

By: Alex B | Posted on: 26 Apr 2019

“Immersed in the middle of Costa Rica nearby a small village called San Miguel, I got to experience first hand with biodiversity data collection, permaculture and reforestation. Contrary to other places in Costa Rica where, for quite a high price, I was only offered to interact with animals kept in refuges’ enclosures, I encountered real wildlife at their door step: sloths, armadillos, kinkajous, coatis, toucans, oropendolas, tayras, one caïman and so many other multicoloured birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and insects! At this farm, where we were all staying, activities included: setting camera traps on the wild trail; learning about and helping on the permaculture garden; biodiversity plot counts; sustainability and environmental work; tropical plant research and drawing; normal gardening (also encompassing clearing paths and redirecting rain water); walking the two adorable dogs; evening’s cards, games or films on the newly installed flat screen and sometimes going to the local bar! Once to twice a week, depending on people’s projects, we also went to the reserve. There, in the middle of the jungle, we were checking on the newly planted trees’ health and collected data on fauna accompanied by either Hanneke or Maarten (who run the project) and Tapa (a local guide) as safety always came first. During the weekends, at our own cost, some of us travel in smaller groups to Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Turrialba where we enjoy beaches, national parks and obviously bigger bars!

All of this comprised a bed in a sturdy wooden bungalow type of room shared with two others (max of 4 per rooms) and three Costa Rican meals a day made by two women from the village. Although having no biology background, I was surrounded by knowledgeable students who took their time to explain everything in English. I was the sole non-Dutch speaker and, without requesting it, all students surprised me by doing their final presentation in English!

I sincerely recommend going there. To my knowledge, you won’t experience anything like this in Costa Rica where you can really see and help wildlife in their natural habitat surrounded by knowledgeable people.

A special thanks to all the students who made me feel very welcomed for over a month and of course to Maarten and Hanneke who always took the time to explain everything properly and answer all my questions. It was definitely a new engaging and enjoyable learning experience!”


Environmental Research Internship in Costa Rica


Evaluation of an agroforestry internship

By: Kateřina Milerová | Posted on: 16 Apr 2019

“My 2-month internship with Los Aliados has been a great journey of learning about myself, the environment, different cultures and learning to stay “tranquila” in all possible situations that life can bring.

Katerina on her internship in EcuadorBefore my arrival to Ecuador I did not speak much Spanish and I did not have any practical knowledge of working in agroforestry. During my first two weeks I felt like I couldn´t possibly bring any contribution to the foundation, as I did not know the local environment and I couldn´t speak with the locals very well. However, I had a great supervisor and colleagues around me who introduced me to all the ongoing projects and let me be part of all the meetings. Halfway through my internship I felt like I was getting more responsibilities and I could actually create something new that could improve some of the projects.

My Spanish got a bit better and I started to be able to have a conversation with people around me on a basic but mostly Katerina on her internship in Ecuadorsufficient level. Besides taking Spanish classes twice a week I was trying to learn a lot by myself and use Spanish in my everyday life as much as I could. During my last two weeks I was working with a Reforestation and Biodiversity monitoring which kept my quite busy and I learned a lot from it. Firstly, I participated in all the planning that is necessary to be done before the actual field visit.

Then I went to one community to monitor 4 plantations together with 2 of my colleagues and collected all the necessary data. After 2 days I returned to the office and I spent almost 3 full days on processing all the data and reviewing the methodology for further monitoring in other communities. This was my biggest responsibility during my internship besides having smaller but interesting tasks, such as working in a plant nursery or helping with a medicinal plant research.

The whole internship has broadened my knowledge and view on life in many ways and will always be a very unforgettable memory for me.”


Environmental Development & Agroforestry Internships in Ecuador


Environmental Research Internship

By: Hannah Elzinga | Posted on: 16 Feb 2019

“Being an Environmental Research Intern for two months was truly a life-changing and eye-opening experience. I found this internship because I was looking to do something good for the planet while traveling and advancing my career in conservation biology. This experience was the perfect combination of all three. I chose work with nature because Marteen (the primary biologist and co-founder of the foundation) let me design my own research project. Because I already had some experience with field biology and doing biological research I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to design and execute my own project. I ended up establishing a system for monitoring biodiversity levels in different types of rainforest and reforested areas. This was truly a valuable collaborative effort between myself, Marteen and Hanneke and ended up being a very successful project.

In addition to working on my research project, the other students and I helped out around the farm, picking fruits, planting and weeding as well as helped out in the village with community projects such as picking up trash, painting the village health center and teaching English to local students. The work I did with Work With Nature was rewarding in more ways than one.

In addition to Hanneke and Marteen being amazing hosts, the other students that were living on the farm became really close friends. We all shared a common love and interest in biology and conservation and being able to explore Costa Rica together lead us to all become very close. In addition Tapa, our awesome field guide and good friend, was our connection to the local community and culture. A local from the village, cooked us amazing traditional Costa Rican dishes throughout the week and we were always excited to see her walking down the path towards our kitchen. On the weekends, my friends and I would often take a bus to one of the nearby towns to explore Costa Rica a little more. I ended up traveling around Costa Rica and Panama for a month after my stay and being so immersed in the culture by living on the farm for two months was a great introduction to the country. This was my first time traveling alone internationally so I was a little nervous, but that feeling quickly went away and I always felt very safe on the farm and everywhere I traveled within Costa Rica.

If these weren’t reasons enough already to volunteer for this internship, the mission might be. WWN uses the money from volunteers and donations to buy up hectares of land in order to preserve and reforest areas that have been deforested or are in danger of being deforested. You may even get to plant some trees that will contribute to much needed rainforest in the future!

After my experience in Costa Rica, I had a better sense of the career I wanted to pursue and the kind of life I wanted to live when I got back home. There is no better way to get to know the amazing rainforests and culture of Costa Rica than being so immersed and being surrounded by amazing people from all over the world.

Thank you!”

Environmental Research Internship in Costa Rica


Very proud to be associated with this organisation!

Terry Knight at Computer in cambodia

By: Terry Knight | Posted on: 15 Feb 2019

“This organization is one of the best I have ever worked/volunteered with. They are actively involved in and with the communities they serve in and around Siem Reap, Cambodia. They provide clean water through the provision of wells, latrines and hygiene and social entrepreneurship programs among many others that can be found on their website.

Our role as volunteers is to assist and actively contribute to the success of the organization and its dedicated local, full-time staff. The staff work on a host of initiatives from teaching in the local schools to running the social entrepreneurship programs. They were certainly invaluable guides and friends who helped me navigate the language and cultural aspects of living and working Cambodia.

One of the most important aspects of their work, in my opinion is that while they do some independent work, most of the programs are done in conjunction with those in the communities they serve. For example, they run a breakfast program for the 1,000 kids that attend the schools where they operate. However, many of the families of the children that are beneficiaries of the program grow and serve the food at breakfast. This, along with their social enterprise programs enable the local community to develop a sense of independence and really follow the mantra of offering a hand up, not a hand out. Overall, if you are flexible and willing to listen and learn while also offering your voice and experience, a volunteer experience with this organisation will be an incredibly rewarding experience.

The volunteer experience offered me an opportunity to learn a lot about NGO Management but more importantly, how plans actually work in practice on the ground and also how they impact the affected communities. I really can’t recommend this program strongly enough to anyone who wants to learn more about NGO Management/Community Development, who has a passion to better people’s lives, and is eager to learn.

If you looking for a reputable organization to volunteer with and are eager to have an immediate and direct impact in people’s lives, volunteering with them will be an incredible experience and you will be very proud to be associated with this organisation.”

NGO Management Internship in Cambodia


I scored with this organization!

Margot B at desk

By: Margot Beauchamp | Posted on: 14 Feb 2019

“I missed doing a gap year after university so decided to do one after retiring at 65.  I checked the Global Nomadic website and was lucky to be matched up with Cambodian Community Dream Organization in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  From January to March 2018 I volunteered with them, writing grants and helping to seek funds for their incredible community programs.  I scored with this organization!

There are many Non-Government organizations in Cambodia that come and go but this is one of the good ones that gas lasted for over 10 years and continues to do excellent work!  The CEO Jenni Lipa and Executive Director, Leangseng Hoy are amazing, friendly, supportive people who will make your stay a rewarding and memorable one. You will love the Cambodian staff and all the amazing families and individuals they support!  I highly recommend them!”

NGO Management Internship in Cambodia


First week!

Joelle on the project in Cambodia

By: Joelle Millery | Posted on: 13 Feb 2019

“I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia in the early morning after a stopover in Bangkok. The first impression was just fantastic. Right from the beginning, I could smell the fragrance of the Frangipani flowers I had read about, but, never experienced!

The guesthouse I’m staying at had organized the Tuk-tuk pick-up which was waiting patiently for me to process my visa.

First of all, driving away from an airport in a tuk-tuk sets the mood already to both something close to an evanescent time and romance. As few Europeans were arriving with me, I also exchanged glances with other young volunteers, backpackers and parents like typical Angkor tourists.

A day of wonder started. I met with Luisa Gentile, the person in charge of the organisation in the afternoon. We did the necessary errands; buying a SIM card, establishing a Cambodian mobile phone number, even installing the “PassApp”- a newly created Application that facilitates ordering a tuk-tuk from anywhere to everywhere and with no surprising costs upon arrival! Some say. they missed the haggling, but in my case, I soon discovered how practical it is!

Luisa even let me in on the best vegetable’ dealers at the market, where I started to buy my first tomatoes and cucumbers!!! Coming from snowed up Germany, it felt rather strange to buy these summer staples here in Cambodia.

My first day at work was a bit of a whirlwind of information, which is normal, but amid this overwhelming feeling, I also had the joy to discover that the association had readied a very nice blue bike for me. I suddenly felt very welcomed and blessed by their generosity. Indeed, the previous day, I had tried biking with one of the guest house’s bicycle- let’s just say my commute would have been much more difficult!

While information filled my head, even Keisha JWOC Fundraising and Communications Manager recognized she had: “never Joelle on the project in Cambodiatalked that much, in a long time!”. I must not have paid enough attention to all the street names, because the morning after, when it was time to head toward work, I started mixing up all the streets, the architectural landmarks and ended up on unpaved roads! I met lovely Cambodians who clearly thought I was lost and kept trying to help me find back my way to the association!!! I didn’t mind so much being lost (I discovered some nice back roads for later days and took some pictures!). However, being late at work on the second/third and fourth day was becoming a concern for me. Well, Kea whom I voiced my concerns to, saved me: “after the 3rd stop light, turn right”, and it worked!!!

What was hard for me the first few nights/days, was the heat!!! I was not used to it anymore, even from last summer! My body had to adjust and get acclimated again to the 30/35 degrees Celsius. The silver lining of this heat is of course the discovery of all the fruits, vegetables even taro ice cream, which makes it OK to sweat a bit too much. You just need to drink more!!

Right from the start, JWOC staff was very welcoming and included me in all their gatherings, lunches, and outings. After week one, I was on a nice track and felt very happy I decided to come volunteer.

My work, so far is related to a change in the organization’s strategy and I will use my previous background in fundraising for Higher Education institutions. I will also help analyzed, proposed new metrics and streamlined some of the mediums used by JWOC to improve their overall communication.

The magic is to be continued.”


Business Analyst in Cambodia