Marine Resources Researcher

founded in 2013
People and the Sea
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Coordinator | Ian
Coordinator | Ian
Book with Flex Option! Choose new departure dates or change to a different volunteer program at no extra costs.
The reefs of Malapascua are beautiful...but under pressure. Learn the methods and techniques used to assess and quantify their health and contribute to their protection. This volunteer program is especially suitable for:
Age 18+

The Philippines has long been recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot. Numerous authors have pointed to incredible species biodiversity that is found here. However, it is also under increasing pressure in a variety of forms such as overfishing, destructive fishing, unregulated development and climatic events. In recognition of this, efforts are being made to adopt sustainable management of marine and coastal resources so that these amazing ecosystems can be preserved. 

Our 'Marine Resources Researcher’ volunteer programme has been established with the primary goal of collecting data about the marine environment around the island of Malapascua and also the wider Municipality of Daanbantayan. This information is essential for the local government bodies and other stakeholders who are working towards conserving one of the Philippines’ main asset. 

Our Expedition Ethos

We understand that taking the decision to join an expedition is a big one, and that there are a large number of projects to choose from. We truly value the contribution that our volunteers make to the continuation of our work, and in doing so, continue to support the people of the Philippines in working for a better future. 

Our volunteers do not join us to work alongside our team on site. Rather, we want them to be part of that team. We run small expeditions - we have a maximum of eight volunteers at any one time. With so much to be achieved together, we all work hard to foster an environment in which they can learn, contribute, have fun, and most importantly, feel fulfilled. It is very important to us that our volunteers understand the contribution they make. All volunteers receive our 'Project Presentation' upon arrival which serves to set the scene, and help them to understand the 'bigger picture' with regards to conservation efforts in the region. We feel that the most rewarding expedition outcome will be one where volunteers see and understand the difference they have made. 

Dive Training

Even if you have never been SCUBA diving before, you are still able to be part of our expeditions. If you have never been underwater before, our full-time professional instructor on site can take you through the necessary training, as we do require that all participants in our marine survey work are qualified as PADI Advanced Open Water Divers (or equivalent).

All the courses we offer are from the world renowned Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). We run all our courses (and diving operations) with the safety of all involved as the top priority. 

In addition to this, we will ensure a comfortable learning environment for you to make sure that your time underwater is both fun and stress free - as it should be! 

Please note that the time required to complete any dive training will mean that the minimum expedition length is longer in order to use your new skills in surveys. All diving courses do also involve a 'theory' element -  time spent reading some materials and watching videos. You will be able to learn the theory online prior to joining us to maximize your time in the water.

Science Training

Having completed the dive training (if needed), you will start the Science training. This is truly the focus of the expedition. Here you will learn about the wonders of the underwater world. One of the most consistent feedbacks we have received from previous volunteers, even the ones who have been divers for a long time, is how amazing it is to learn about all that you see on a dive. Not just fish, but the myriad of living creatures you find under the water! It can add a whole new dimension to SCUBA diving that you hadn't ?? experienced before. 

It is no problem if you don't have any relevant background knowledge in marine biology and underwater surveying. All the training you need is provided by our Science Officer on site. Furthermore, we do make every effort to get you prepared in advance by sending you some learning materials that you can study at home before you join us. 

We have a 'core' survey programme that will be the priority for all arriving volunteers. We currently have over twenty monitoring sites that are periodically visited and this initial training gets you ready to conduct real surveys at one of these locations. Topics covered at this time include:

  • Basic Definitions
  • Coral Reefs - Intro and Value
  • Coral Biology
  • Benthic Categories and Survey
  • Invertebrate species and Survey
  • Assessing Impacts
  • Fish Biology and Survey (minimum four week stay required)
  • Coral Recruits
  • Data coding and recording
  • Environmental Parameters
  • Survey Methods & Dive planning

For those of you who want to have a longer stay with us, there may be additional elements to your training that can include:

  • Rapid Assessment Survey techniques
  • Survey site selection, evaluation, marking and mapping.
  • Mangrove planting, rehabilitation and monitoring
  • Seagrass habitats: importance and threats
  • Seagrass ID and surveying
  • Crown of Thorn Starfish study: species collection and biometrics logging.

All of the data you are involved in collecting will add to the existing database of information we have gathered. During the course of your expedition, we will take time to explain and show you the contribution that this work is making, either in supporting locally based decision making processes, or in the continuation of our ongoing research projects. 

Community Programmes 

You can learn more about our commitment to the local community on our 'Social Project' page. We consider that the engagement of local community is essentials in all the work we do, and for any marine conservation work to be ultimately successful. Positive results are most likely to be achieved when they directly involve the people who are most affected by the change. 

We have established a variety of community engagement programmes that run in conjunction with our marine survey work and form part of your expedition work. All of these are 'ongoing' projects meaning that it is difficult to predict exactly what project you may be involved in during your stay - but we know you will be busy! To give an idea, these are some of the initiatives we currently have running:

  • Establishing a Homestay Association - an alternative livelihood programme
  • Solid Waste Management - a variety of projects under this category.
  • Education: Environmental Summer Internship Programme for students of the local high school
  • Education: Marine Summer Camps for elementary school children
  • Mangrove Planting - key for the protection of these vulnerable coastal communities, mangrove planting is part of our science programme also. However, the planting sessions always involve the motivation and involvement of the local community so they can better understand the benefits of this ecosystem.

Typical day

A Typical Day

First off, it is important to say that rarely are any two days the same - a typical day is in fact quite hard to describe. But they do follow a fairly consistent rhythm that looks a little like this:

  • 0700 hrs - Breakfast
  • 0730 hrs - Diving kit preparation and briefing
  • 0800 hrs - Boat leaves - 2 dives each day (e.g. dive training, science training, survey dives & data collection)
  • 1230 hrs - Lunch
  • 1300 hrs - Break - time to relax and see out the hottest part of the day
  • 1430 hrs - Activities start. The afternoons can involve a wide variety of activities and are harder to predict. They Include any of the following, depending on the nature of your expedition and current project demands:
    • Dive Training theory sessions and exams
    • Science Training - lectures, tests and 'dry' survey runs under the supervision of our Lead Science Officer
    • ID sessions - self study to identify any species from the mornings dives
    • Data entry - logging all information collected from the morning dives into the correct database
    • Revision sessions for continued species lists learning
    • Community engagement projects (mentioned above)
  • 1730 hrs - Sunset beach clean
  • 1800 hrs - Evening dinner
    •   including briefing for following days activities.

Free-time activities

Malapascua is a small island. The prime activity on the island is that of scuba diving, with some other water sports being possible.

Our expeditions (usually) follow the following pattern:

  • Monday - Friday - diving days
  • Saturday - expedition day - but a 'dry' day... no diving
  • Sunday - day off!

On Sunday, the site office is closed. Please note that this is the one day of the week where your meals are not included in your expedition fee. However, there are a number of bars/restaurants nearby that offer a variety of choices.

While in our experience most people take advantage of the day off to relax, you are of course welcome to head out an explore the island. Despite its size, there is plenty to discover! Our site staff will be happy to give you information on what you can do.

Water Sports


In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s) or if your are accompanied by your parents.
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Required Documents
PADI RSTC Medical Certificate (or other declaration stating fitness for SCUBA diving), People and the Sea Charity Membership Registration Form, Site Code of Conduct, Registration Form and People and the Sea Medical Questionnaire
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
No previous experience is required to participate in this programme.

We also strongly value skills and expertise that volunteers can bring. We like to hear about the background of all participants so we can help them apply their knowledge in ways that prove beneficial for the local community and that are fulfilling for the volunteers themselves.
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 07:30 - 18:00

What's Included

Services by People and the Sea

Fees include all of the following:

  • Homestay accommodation in a local community household (individual accommodation in bungalow/resort is possible at extra cost)
  • Three meals per day, unlimited water, tea, coffee. Excludes the one day off each week
  • All scientific training and required materials/equipment
  • Comprehensive logistical support
  • 4/5 diving days per week, weather permitting!  At least 2 dives per day
  • All dive costs (training and research dives) including instructor/dive guides, boat costs, air fills
  • Hire of scuba diving equipment: BCD, regulators, cylinders, weights
  • All required Marine Park Fees / Government diving taxes
  • Full support and guidance (from our locally employed team) as you work closely with the local community on a variety of on going initiatives
  • Your own People and the Sea t-shirt!

Fees DO NOT include:

  • Return travel costs to the island of Malapascua, Cebu, Philippines
  • Personal travel and dive insurance (mandatory)
  • Any PADI course materials and certification fees
  • Personal dive equipment items (mask, fins & boots, snorkel, wetsuit, dive computer)
    • PLEASE NOTE: Dive computers are mandatory for all divers. We do have dive computers available for the duration of your expedition for 700 Philippine Pesos per week (approximately EUR 12.5 per week)
  • Any required Philippines VISA costs (only applicable if you intend to join us for more than 30 days)
  • Membership fee to join our charity/association (15 Euros)

Airport Pickup at Mactan-Cebu International Airport

You expedition with us start once you arrive at the People and the Sea expedition site (affectionately known as 'Pepsea'!) on Malapascua. Likewise, the expedition is considered complete once you depart from the island. The Philippines is a very easy and safe place to travel. Many people will speak English. 

Airport pickup is not included in the normal expedition fee. We do provide all volunteers with comprehensive information and guidance about their arrival in the Philippines and how to make their way to the People and the Sea expedition site on Malapascua. 

However, we can easily arrange a private transfer or for someone to pick you up at the airport. This option will incur a surcharge.


One of our core project is to support the creation of a Homestay Association. The goals of this project are to engage one of the Filipino’s greatest skills, their hospitality, to bring an additional income and to support the adoption of an environmental code of conduct. Moreover, it’s also an opportunity for volunteers to have an intimate insight into the life of a Filipino family. 

Our homestay programme gives visitors the opportunity to stay with a local family, interact and experience the daily life of their hosts and learn the culture and way of life of the community. A homestay cannot be classified as a lodging facility, it focuses more on lifestyle and experience. 

The Malapascua Homestay Programme aims to benefit not just the host families themselves, but also the wider community. To achieve this, part of the accommodation fees you contribute are paid into a ‘seed fund’ that will allow other families to improve their homes, both for their own comfort and to meet the standards required to join the programme themselves. 

We have a 'Malapascua Homestay Programme' brochure available that will give you more information. Please ask us to send you a copy. 

However, we do understand that a homestay option is not for everyone. In the event that you would prefer something different, there is a wide range of alternative accommodation options on offer. We can discuss those with you in more detail when you enquire. Please be aware that this option is likely to incur a surcharge.

Guest Family
Food & Beverages

All of our meals are cooked on site by our local chef. We have established a healthy menu that gives a balance between local Filipino cuisine and more familiar 'western' meals.

Breakfast, usually at 7am, is different each day. In addition to bread and fresh fruits, it can be anything from bacon & eggs, to pancakes, to cereals.

For lunch and dinner, rice will always feature quite highly! On top of this, you can expect both pork and chicken dishes (both common in Filipino diets). While a staple of the local diet, we eat fish only rarely, as we prefer to see them in the sea! All meals will include a vegetarian dish also.

Naturally we are able to cater to specific dietary requirements. Please let us know in advance and we can make arrangements.

Water, tea and coffee are at your disposal at all times. Other soft drinks/alcoholic drinks are on personal expenses.

Internet Access
Good access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.
Flight Tickets
The nearest airport is Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) in Cebu City. We assist you to find cheap flights to Philippines.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Philippines provides security and is a plus to have.
If you are intending to volunteer in Philippines you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Philippines.

Dates & Fees


Details on arrival

Our volunteer programmes run throughout the year.

We have expeditions starting on the first Friday of every month, however, we can definitely offer a degree of flexibility in our expedition start dates. Your starting date will partly depend on your current level of dive qualification (if any) and your diving experience beyond that. 

We encourage anyone interested to get in touch with us and we can offer potential start dates to you. 

This program is paused due to COVID-19

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
3 - 50 weeks

Program fees

Costs: Prices in USD
3 weeks (min. stay)
4 weeks
6 weeks
8 weeks
10 weeks
12 weeks
24 weeks
50 weeks (max. stay)
Average fees
$411 /week

Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated. People and the Sea will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with People and the Sea during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Why book with Volunteer World

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We refund your fees if People and the Sea cancels your trip
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Our services are free of charge!
All program fees are charged directly by People and the Sea.

What are people saying about Volunteer World?

Marine Resources Researcher

The reefs of Malapascua are beautiful...but under pressure. Learn the methods and techniques used to assess and quantify their health and contribute to their protection.


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