ReefDoctor Research Assistant

The Reef Doctor 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 biology, ecology, zoology, environmental sciences, conservation etc., 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.

For 12 week expeditions, volunteers who are looking to gain more diving certifications and experience who join us already PADI Advanced open water certified could undertake the PADI DivMaster certification on a tailored program. Please see below and ask us for details

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. If you’re a fast learner you can progress to the expert level in a 6-7 week expedition.

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 dates:














Research Assistant Expedition and Programme Fees:

RA Timetable 2016 2






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.

PADI DiveMaster certification in a 12 week RA program is done under a tailored program incorporating the main training in a normal RA program. However please note due to the amount of course skills to cover and course diving the volunteer will be concentrating more of their time to the PADI dive course compared to research diving. Spaces are limited per expedition so this option is based on a first asks first served basis.
Due to manuals required for this course, volunteers would need to book this program before departure.

Total 12 week tailored RA PADI DM program is £3,000. This fee does includes the PADI rescue and EFR course and PIC certification cards.

NB DOES NOT include the cost of the PADI DiveMaster manual (£120 avg.) and the Rescue and EFR manuals and PADI DiveMaster certification PIC and membership (£100) Costs for manuals and PIC/membership fees does differ by country.

Volunteers must be already PADI advanced open water certified before joining this tailored program.


Special rates for joining in January through February (windy season):

RA Timetable rainy season fees 2






10% discount on 6-11 week expeditions joining between June-July if your International flight only (does not include domestic flight cost) is £1,200 or over.
15% discount on 12 week expeditions joining between June-July if your International flight only (does not include domestic flight cost) is £1,200 or over.


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

ReefDoctor Research Assistant Programme Guide 2016


If you are interested in becoming a volunteer you can apply online now by filling out our Volunteer Questionnaire VRAQ

Upon receing your completed questionnaire we will send you further information into the program training schedules and guides to help you look into flights, vaccines, to what to take to what to expect upon arrival to our project site.
If you would like to speak to someone we are always happy to speak with you just call us on +44 (0) 7866 250 740
See our contacts page for more contacting details