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Coral Reef Research - Internship 19 | Full time

About the Employer

The Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) was established in 1989 by the owners of Anthony's Key Resort.

The primary objective of this facility is the preservation of Roatan's natural resources through education and research. Over the past twenty five years, RIMS has established itself as a dedicated teaching institution and our facility is visited year-round by colleges, universities and high schools from abroad to study tropical marine ecosystems and the bottlenose dolphins at our facility.

RIMS is ideally located for marine study on the northwest coast of Roatán where over 30 miles of fringing and barrier reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and shoreline are home to an astonishing profusion of life.

For many students, this may be the first encounter with coral reefs and the underwater world and Roatán's coral reefs provide an incomparable realm of beauty, excitement and endless opportunity for study.

A field course at RIMS also allows students to travel abroad, become immersed into a new culture, and experience the simple way of life that has existed for hundreds of years on this small Caribbean island.

Roatan is located in the Western Caribbean (16°S, 86°W) approximately 35 miles (56 km) north of mainland Honduras. Roatan is the largest and most developed of the Bay Islands with an area of 49 sq. miles. It has a 30-mile long E-W axis and a 1-2 mile wide N-S axis.

The other main islands are Guanaja (29 sq. miles) and Utila (16 sq. miles). These islands form a 75-mile (120 km) crescent along with three smaller islands of Helene, Morat, and Barbareta and 65 tiny keys; 23 of which are found off of Roatán.

Internship Description

Coral Reef Research Internship
Commencing: July 21 - August 18, 2019
Duration: 4 weeks
Location: Roatan, Honduras

****** Important Notice *********
This is a Volunteer Internship and you will be required to make a financial contribution of approx £2,750 towards the experience.

The Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences was founded in 1989 with the primary objective of preserving the island’s resources through education and research.

In almost three decades, RIMS has established itself as a dedicated teaching institution and many student groups visit our facility throughout the year to study tropical marine ecosystems. This field station is ideally located on the northwest coast of Roatan where over thirty miles of fringing and barrier reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and shoreline are home to an astounding profusion of life.

The reefs of Roatan make up the southernmost part of the Meso-American Barrier Reef. This is the 2nd largest barrier reef system in the world and is an important area of marine research and conservation. Our location offers students access to incredible biodiversity and some of the best field experiences a coral reef has to offer!

During the 4 weeks spent on Roatan, students will have the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the marine environment and enjoy the unique assemblage of marine environments that are easily accessible and awaiting exploration. Students will interact with visiting faculty, and local staff experts as they investigate the diversity on Roatan's coral reefs through site visits to seagrass habitats, mangrove communities, lagoon & patch reef environments, and coral reefs in high/low energy systems.​

Through lectures, field exercises, collaborative research activities, and independent research projects, participants will learn the flora and fauna of the local habitats and understand the different ecological processes within these communities. Students will leave the internship with diving experience and research exposure that can be carried into their future careers.

Whether a student is interested in coral reef ecosystems, or marine conservation, the summer internship provides a unique opportunity to understand the environment first hand while experiencing a new culture and island way of living.

Internship: As an intern in our Coral Reef Research Program you will...

1.Gain experience in the identifiation of Caribbean coral, fish, invertebrate and marine plants.
2.Gain valuable field experience in the practice of reef monitoring and data collection that will contribute to our long-term database.
3.Participate in scientific diving and develop and conduct independent research.
4.Have opportunities to engage and educate others about important issues in marine conservation,
5.SCUBA dive on the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world
6.Help maintain our coral nursery and gain experience in reef restoration practices
7.Participate in important invasive lionfish research, outreach and management.
8.Have opportunities to work with local non-profit educational and environmental organizations.
9.Meet and network with important figures in marine science, SCUBA diving, underwater photography, and conservation.
10.Receive college credit, (if organized through your institution)
11.Strengthen your resume for graduate school or future employment.
12.Travel abroad and immerse yourself in a new culture.
13.Live on a beautiful Caribbean island, where the coral reef is your backyard!
14.Witness stunningly beautiful sunsets.
15.Make life-long friendships with like-minded individuals.

Qualifications Required

This internship is open to undergraduate students or recent graduates with a genuine interest in coral reefs and marine conservation and is limited to 12 interns at a time. Please make sure that you meet the following eligibility requirements in order to be considered for the internship program:

•Have completed at least 2 years of college. This internship is for upper level undergraduates or recent graduates (within the 12 months).
•Be 18 years of age by the start date of the internship.
•Be majoring in a life or environmental science.
•Have at least 2 semesters of college-level ocean science, earth science, biology, or ecology.
•Have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. (Be on target for a 2.2 or better)
•Be in good academic and disciplinary standing with current college/university.
•Have a valid passport that is not due to expire within 6 months of departure.
•Be fluent in English.
•Be comfortable in outdoor environments that can be extremely hot, sunny and humid.
•Be respectful of and compatible with fellow students and staff.
•Be able to adjust to life on a quiet, remote, tropical island.
•Be open water SCUBA certified. (Arrangements can be made to complete course on site.)
•Be competent swimmers and comfortable in the water and on boats.
•Be able to stay for the duration of the program. We will not accept students who need to arrive late or leave early.
•Be willing to adhere to all RIMS policies and procedures.

Students will live and work at our facility and gain valuable research and field experience on some of the most well-developed and ecologically diverse reefs in the Caribbean.


Week 1
The objective of the first week is to provide interns with the basics of coral reef ecology. Scientific diving will be a part of the program to enhancing the understanding of reef systems while developing diving skills needed to prepare them for the following three weeks of fieldwork.​

During the first week students will make several different habitat visits to explore the different shallow marine, coastal, and coral reef habitats. Students will gain field practice in the identification of major Caribbean flora and fauna and be introduced to various reef monitoring methods currently used to assess coral cover and reef health. As students familiarize themselves with the area they may develop hypotheses that can be tested in individual projects. In depth lectures and student led article discussions will be presented on a variety of topics to provide a background for the upcoming fieldwork and research.


Week 2
During the 2nd week students will gain practical field experience in existing research projects including coral reef monitoring, reef restoration and invasive species management. Students will be organized into small groups to carry out field observations and data collection that will help guide and direct students in the development of their individual research projects. At the end of this week each student will prepare and present their research proposal.


Weeks 3 & 4
During the final two weeks students will develop and conduct a research project of their choosing. Projects may develop from the observations made during group exercises or from the research literature. Ideas will be evaluated in regards to feasibility and soundness of experimental design. In the final days of the course, data analysis will be carried out and students will present their results in an oral presentation and research poster. Field journal & dive logs will be turned in for evaluation.

Skills Required

Academic Credit:

The Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences does not offer credit for the Internship Program.

If you are interested in earning academic credit for this program, you should research this option with your home institution to ensure that the internship at RIMS meets your institute's academic requirements.

The following points may be useful in obtaining credit:

•Provide a copy of all relevant information related to this internship from the RIMS website to your department head, academic advisor, or study abroad office.
•Open up a dialogue about the unique educational benefit this program offers. Then discuss the possibility of obtaining independent studies credit or undergraduate research experience (REU) credit.
•Upon completion of the internship, the faculty and staff mentors at RIMS will provide a written evaluation and grade based on the criteria above. (See Grading & Evaluation)
•Submit all completed documentation to your academic advisor, department head, or study abroad office at your home university.
Students can contact the RIMS Education Department ([email protected]) for additional assistance.

More Information


Roatan’s geographical location gives the island a tropical climate. Temperatures remain high during the entire year and show a wide variation in annual precipitation between the wet and dry seasons. Air temperatures on Roatán hover between 77 and 88 ° F while the warm crystal clear waters surrounding Roatán range from 78 to 86 ° F with the warmest temperatures occuring in October. Rainfall exceeds 6 ft or 2,000 mm annually most of which falls during the rainy season. The rainy period on Roatan occurs between October and January. While the length of the dry season can vary, the average length of this period is 3 months. Less than 100 mm of precipitation generally occurs from February through June with the period of dry soil occurring from March through May.

The Bay Islands lie in the trade wind belt and east to southeast trade winds with 19 to 26 mph velocities are relatively constant. The almost continuous influence of trade winds helps moderate the humidity on the island. Periods of up to 5 days of dead calm are common in August, and each winter 5 to 7 North American cold fronts (“northers”) reach the islands bringing wind shifts to the north and west, overcast skies and prolonged rainfall. While Roatán lies further west than the paths of most Atlantic hurricanes, one large one is estimated every 10 years. Before Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Hurricane Fifi in 1974 was the worst in recent times: wind speeds reached over 100 miles per hour and over 20 inches of rain fell.


Roatan has a mountainous backbone; only 2% is considered level. It’s many steep peaks, some rising as high as 1,300 feet, make the island poorly suited for agriculture. While the majority of the island possesses slopes between 30 and 75%, they can attain slopes of 90% in some areas. Most level areas are swampy.​

The island vegetation has been modified over the years as agriculture and exotic species like mangos, cashews and almonds have been introduced. Despite the alteration, the warm, moist climate still supports a lush diversity of plant life. Over 50% of the island is under some type of forest cover. Several vegetative types prevail. Primary, secondary, mixed, and pine forests are found on the higher ridges. Small rainforest like growths of tall hardwoods, dense palms, lianas, orchids and ferns can be found on the lower valley slopes. A thorn-scrub association is somewhat widespread in Roatan.

There are also several areas of concentrated mangrove cover and beach vegetation around the island. The native pines and oaks that impressed Columbus into naming the Bay Islands after them still exist although they no longer cover such an extensive area. Other native species include the gumbo-limbo, cecropia, strangler fig and many different palms. The trunks and branches of each tree are home to a variety of orchids, lianas, ferns and bromeliads. Drier sites are home to acacia and mimosa with their sharp thorns.

Terrestrial Ecosystems:

The terrestrial ecosystems on Roatán support an abundance of wildlife. While many species found here are the same animals found on the mainland, the isolation of the Bay Islands has provided an opportunity for some endemic species to evolve. There are presently nine species and two sub-species of animals endemic to the Bay Islands. Some of these species are the Roatán Parrot (Amazona xantholora), the Roatán Agouti (Dasyprocta ruatanica), the Roatán Coral Snake (Micrurus ruatanica), the Marmosa (Marmosa ruatanica) (mouse opossum), and the Rosy Boa (Boa constrictor). Five of the species are mollusks described by Professor Emilio Garcia of Louisiana State University in cooperation with RIMS. Wildlife that is extinct or extirpated from the Bay Islands includes the Caribbean Monk Seal (now extinct), the West Indian Manatee, and the Brown and Red-Footed Boobies.



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