ReefDoctor Research Assistant

The ReefDoctor Research Assistant programme trains volunteers to become integral members of our marine research work and able to help us in our other marine management and conservation projects.

Research Assistants will gain professional training in scuba diving, species identification and marine habitat monitoring in order to assist ReefDoctor with its long term marine research programme. In doing so you will be directly contributing to the conservation and management of the threatened marine ecosystems in the Bay of Ranobe and the future sustainable development of the local Vezo communities.

The programme is open to anyone over the age of 18, no previous qualification or experience necessary.

To undertake our marine research surveys all research assistants must be certified to PADI Advanced open water (or equivalent). If you have never dived before we will train you from scratch and certify you to PADI Advanced open water in the first couple of weeks of your expedition.

This programme is also a great way for graduates and undergraduates to gain the essential field based work experiences needed to help further a career in conservation and marine sciences. We can also provide the opportunity for BSc and MSc students in the field of environmental sciences and conservation to undertake their own research projects for their thesis (please ask for further details on possible research projects).

Expeditions of 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 weeks are available.
Expeditions start every 6 weeks from January to December with spaces available for 4-6 people per expedition month.


What you can expect from the ReefDoctor Research Assistant Programme:

Dive training to PADI Advanced level.

For  8 weeks + expeditions, volunteers may also undertake the PADI Rescue Diver certification (includes the PADI EFR 1st aid course) for an additional fee.

Lectures in coral reef biology and ecology, marine management and conservation principles.

Training in underwater marine species identification (fish, invertebrates, benthic, coral).

Training in underwater surveying techniques.

Participate in ReefDoctors long term coral reef monitoring programme: you will become a vital member of our surveying team. The role you will play (either fish, invertebrate or benthic surveyor) will rotate as you gain experience.

Gain experience in data recording and data input protocols.

Undertake fisheries catch assessments with the local fisheries team.

Experience life living alongside a traditional Malagasy fishing community and gain insight into the unique Vezo culture.

Assist the ReefDoctor team in their other core research, management and conservation projects. (e.g. coral gardening, aquaculture – algal farming, kids club etc.,)

Enjoy exploring the local area; the popular beach resort of Mangily, the Spiny Forest, take a pirogue trip across the Bay or visit one of the local National Parks (in your free time, at your own expense).


The length of your expedition determines the level of scientific training you receive. All Research Assistants will be trained to a intermdiate level but those staying for 8 weeks or more will have the opportunity to progress to the expert level training.

The core diving and/or science training usually covers the first 4 weeks of each expedition, though training is always ongoing throughout the expedition especially for those undertaking the expert level.

The time taken to complete the core diving and science training will depend on the weather, number of other volunteers on site, progression of the individual and the occurrence of any external / one-off events that may require volunteer participation.

Volunteers undertake regular diving though this is only one aspect of the programme. Diving is conducted in the morning and afternoons with schedules by the tidal regimes in the Bay. Fun dives occur on Saturdays, whilst no diving is permitted on Sunday. PADI Night dive and deep dive courses also on offer (though at an extra cost, please ask for details).

Becoming a ReefDoctor Research Assistant means the more you put in the more you get out so we want you to use your enthusiasm, experiences and qualifications to become involved in our projects. This may include other projects outside the marine research programme such as marine management (e.g. you can help with the monitoring of local fishermen’s catches and/or participate in our coral gardening project), education (e.g. environmental education in our kids club) or community development (e.g. working with our alternative aquaculture livelihoods programme such as algal farming).
The longer you stay for the more you can achieve!


Research Assistant Expedition and Programme Fees:

N.B – £300/wk for 6 weeks, £275/wk up to 8 weeks, and only £217/wk for stays up to the full 12 week expedition so the longer you stay the cheaper each week gets!!

7, 9, 10, and 11 week expeditions are also on offer, prices can be given upon request.

 PADI Rescue diver and EFR (1st aid) certification costs £250 extra for all those wishing to do this and staying for 8+ weeks.


Special rates for joining in December (windy season):

10% discount on 6-11 week expeditions joining between June-August if your flight is over £1,200.

15% discount on 12 week expeditions joining between June-August if your flight is over £1,200.


Services included in these expedition costs:

Lodging: Interconnecting, single reed huts with bed sheets, pillows and mosquito net provided. You can upgrade to our newer bungalows for more privacy which is perfect for couples or 2 friends sharing for an additional £200 per month

First-aid medical care.
Dive equipment: Buoyancy Control Device (BCD), full regulator set, weights and tanks.

Science training: level of training will vary according to the expedition duration with all volunteers staying for 8 week or more weeks progressing to the expert survey level.

  1. Airport pick-up in Toliara and transport to the ReefDoctor site in Ifaty
  2. Arrangement of hotel in the capital city Antananarivo, if required, includes free pick up by hotel from airport.
  3. All meals, Monday-Sunday.
  4. Filtered water, coffee, tea and access to cooking stove and oven.
  5. Lodging: shared bungalows with bed sheets, pillows and mosquito net provided.
  6. First-aid medical care.
  7. Electricity for charging cell phones, laptops, etc. and limited internet connection.
  8. Dive training: Open Water and Advanced Open Water dive certification included in the costs for all expeditions.
  9. Project equipment and educational materials: dive slates, paper, pens etc., all required for your working activities.
  10. Dive equipment, including: Buoyancy Control Device (BCD), full regulator set, weights and tanks.
  11. Occasional excursions to help some of our conservation partners in the area, such as HONCO (mangrove conservation and re-plantation).
  12. Science training: level of training will vary according to the expedition duration, dive certification and progression of the individual.
  13. Pre-departure support and pre-departure guides: advice on flights, equipment, Madagascar, medicals, vaccines, insurance etc.
  14.  UK based support/communication throughout the expedition for the volunteers’s friends and family.
  15. Fuel, equipment and in-country personnel to make this all happen!

NB – You financial contribution not only goes to your living and work needs with us but also goes towards the other projects and local staff we employ to undertake the conservation work we do.

Services NOT included in the expedition costs:

  1. Round-trip airfare and visa.
  2. Diving, travel and medical insurance and cost of vaccines.
  3. ReefDoctor standard recreational dive medicals (forms provided by us to be filled in by a medical professional).
  4. PADI dive instruction manuals and PIC cards: all participants in the dive training courses MUST purchase their own manuals, as per PADI International Rulings May 2006, and bring these materials with you. PADI PIC-cards are required to process each level of all PADI courses we offer – . PADI PIC-cards are required to process each level of all PADI courses we offer – For all volunteers doing these courses PIC cards cost of £30 (33 Euros) per course and £18 (20 euros) for the EFR 1st aid, cost will be added to your expedition invoice.
  5. All volunteers must bring their own wetsuit, mask/snorkel, fins and booties, time piece and/or dive computer, weight belt.
  6. Any personal excursions (often groups of volunteers plan excursions to nearby national parks or other areas of interest).
  7. Anti-malaria drugs.
  8. Extra PADI dive courses (night dives, deep dive)


For more information about this programme, download the Research Assistant Guide:

ReefDoctor Research Assistant Programme Guide 2015

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer you can apply online now by filling out our Volunteer Questionnaire VRAQ. If you have any questions, we’ll be happy to answer on +44 (0) 7866 250 740.