Program: Marine Scientist Training
Location: Costa Rica, Quepos
Duration: 10 weeks
If you have a deep passion for the underwater world, like to explore this environment and want to get active in conserving it for the future, Gapforce Marine Scientist Training is the right program for you. No matter if you just do it because you are curious to join or if you are thinking about working in this field afterwards, it is the perfect start to get some very valuable insights and skills! Located in the beautiful beach town of Quepos, you will instantly recognize the exceptional biodiversity this land has to offer – whether it be underwater or on land. Our highly qualified team will not only provide a comprehensive and first-class dive training, but also train you in important marine conservation topics. In short, this program provides an opportunity for you to participate in real marine conservation research efforts amongst a number of projects on site, like with the University of Panama or Queensland for example.
So, whether you are a first-time traveller or a seasoned explorer, you will have questions about what to expect from this program. In this article, a Gapforce expedition leader answers participants’ 7 most common questions.
7. How much diving will there be during the program?
You will be active in the program, 6 days a week with one day off, which is usually a Sunday, and you can use it to explore the local area. During your 10-week participation, you can expect to complete between 90-115 dives, so be prepared to spend a lot of time in and under water in different and stunning dive locations.
6. How does it work if I join with dive experience already – what will I do when the others are learning towards the qualification I already have?
For everyone who joins with pre-experience in diving we have tailored an alternative program for the first week to make sure you make the most of your time in Costa Rica, and are prepared for Marine Conservation work. Depending on your experience, a sample itinerary of your first week might be:
If you join with PADI Open Water certificate
Start on day one with some scuba review academics and a refresher pool session. The second day is reserved for fun dives in this beautiful environment to get a first look around and get astonished on what you will be focusing on in the following days of your marine conservation program. Day three will be a Buoyancy workshop so you will have a Buoyancy class. The following day then you will extend this knowledge within in our Advanced Buoyancy class and afterwards get your certification for completing this, an essential skill for a Marine Scientist. The other two remaining days you will need to train towards your PADI Advanced Open Water certification.
If you join with PADI Open Water and PADI Advanced Open Water certificate
You do the same as the participants joining with PADI Open Water – except on day five and six you will time to do two more days of fun diving. After the first week everyone will have been trained up to PADI Open Water and PADI Advanced Open Water so your time as a team in active Marine Conservation can start.
5. What kind of dive equipment do I need to bring?
Here’s the essential kit list you don’t want to travel without:
- Mask and snorkel
- Fins: open foot fins (if you get those purchase them together with wetsuit boots) or full foot but must be strong for scuba diving
- Basic dive computer or diving watch – The shop carries aqualung i100, i200 and i300 models.
- Spare straps for mask and fins
- Large (A4-UK) dive slate (or 8”x11”-US) If can’t find specific size, purchase the largest slate you can
- Underwater pencil
- Rash Vest
- Mask Cleaner Solution – Antifog solution
- Safety Sausage
And here’s a few extras which are recommended though not mandatory:
- Wetsuit – 3mm long
- BCD and regulator
4. How is the program structured – when do we do what?
Your active program days begin early in the morning after you had breakfast with you guest family. During the day, you will be busy with dive training, workshops, classes and project work underwater. Expect to cover many different topics, e.g. coral nurseries, clean ups or data collection in a variety of marine aspects. In the evening, you return home to a home-cooked meal with your guest family again. As a reminder, this program has active days 6 per week.
What happens in weeks one to five?
In the first half of the course you will acquire a lot of skills – you work towards your qualification as a leisure diver – containing the PADI Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Response and Rescue certifications. With these completed you can practically take part in underwater surveys and do all the work that is needed in the projects. Alongside this, you will learn about selected marine conservation related topics, like PADI Marine Conservation Speciality, PADI Nudibranch Awareness and PADI Aware Shark speciality, so you additionally have all the theory as a background for your studies to become a real expert. During the entire experience, you will apply your classwork knowledge practically through conducting surveys in a variety of projects and reef studies, which ultimately help support marine conservation efforts worldwide.
What happens in week five to ten?
The second half of your training is where you really switch gears from a leisure diver to a professional one. At the end of this course, you will be a certified PADI Divemaster. With this internationally recognized training, you are able to train others in diving and use your skills professionally – an absolute “Must have” if you consider to study and / or work in this field afterwards. Alongside this, you will gain two additional certifications to deepen your knowledge in the field of Marine Conservation: Sponge Ecology and Juvenile Fish Ecology. This is also a time to continue your mastery of research techniques and practices all the way up until the end of the course.
For those looking to work with Coral
You can join an optional 6 week substitute in Coral Rehabilitation work. How does this work? For those participating, week 6 activities-Marine Scientist Specialties of the Sponge Ecology and Juvenile Fish Ecology work- will be integrated into your final 4 weeks of programming instead. You will then additionally gain your PADI Distinctive Coral Rescue Certification during week 6. To participate, just add-on at the time of self-booking.
3. Can you explain more about the Optional Coral Rehabilitation Project?
This week-long project work offers the opportunity to combat the threatening deterioration of coral’s. Actually living marine invertebrates, rapid deterioration of these creatures are threatening the eco-systems of Costa Rican waters. Recent local research in Costa Rica has shown that 50% of coral diversity is already lost, 50% have been bleached, and only 34% of corals are still living. If you are passionate, like we are, about this issue, we would love to have you come help!
You will put your conservation skills learned over the previous 5 weeks to the ultimate test this week, through aiding in the recovery and restoration efforts of a non-profit organization, completing your PADI Distinctive Coral Rescue Certification through hands-on coral nursery work. You will take-part in activates such as:
- Coral nursery maintenance
- Coral nursery maintenance
- Coral sample and data surveys
- Coral nursery measurements
- Coral planting
2. What are the typical age range and nationalities?
The average age demographic for this program is usually 18 to 35 years – nevertheless it is open for everyone, 18+, who is interested and has a passion to join. If you are travelling alone, with friends, as a couple etc. it is quite easy to accommodate your needs. Just keep in mind, the accommodation space is within a guest house, which have rules and guidelines to be followed. Our participants come from all over the world with the main areas being Europe, USA and Canada.
1. What do I need to organize to take part in this program?
Here’s a useful checklist with everything that you need to have ready before departure:
- Flight tickets to San Jose (airport transfers to/from the camp in Quepos are included)
- Medical health insurance (please make sure it covers dives up to 40 metres and optional activities you might plan on the weekend)
- Dive equipment as described above – a complete kit list will be available on your online account once you have signed up for the program: bear in mind that some parts can also be rented or bought locally, for more details just ask your advisor.
- See your doctor to get recommendation about vaccinations and don’t forget to ask him to sign or stamp the two documents you will be given – a PADI medical form as well as Gapforce declaration stating you are fit to travel.
Also recommended though not compulsory:
- Travel cancellation insurance