A Wilder Way to Learn

Marine Conservation Internships Abroad

Gain once-in-a-lifetime marine and coastal conservation field experience

Our oceans are vulnerable. They – and all the essential, varied and vibrant life that they support – need urgent protection. And you can help. Join one of our marine conservation internships and assist locally-led research and recovery efforts in the world’s most biodiverse waters.

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

Our programs contribute to world-class research that is leading the critical fight against biodiversity loss.
Ethical

Ethical

We pledge to do good only through meaningful, considered action that can make a proven difference in the world.
Sustainable

Sustainable

Using the UN’s SDGs as a framework, we’re committed to conservation solutions that are built to have a lasting, positive impact.

What are marine internships all about?

Overview
Types of Internships
Programs
Locations
FAQs

Imagine paddling through the warm waters of Fiji’s archipelago, taking stock of the reef’s flora and fauna. Out of the corner of your eye you spy a spot of silver. It’s the near-threatened bubble coral, or Plerogyra Sinuosa, that resides on the Caqalai Island reef. Its gleaming coral polyps are the size of grapes, and in the morning light it’s swollen up to soak in every ray within its reach. Nearby, a humpback snapper whips by, and a crown-of-thorns starfish slowly feeds on the reef. 

When you join a marine conservation internship program, you could spend your days like this – and get involved in work that adds to the preservation of a whole host of marine animals from any one of these eight countries:

  • Belize
  • Costa Rica
  • Fiji
  • Greece
  • Mexico
  • Seychelles
  • Spain
  • Thailand

Gaining this type of international experience is one of the best ways to broaden your perspective of the world, and the field of ocean conservation. It also gives you the skills you need to make your start in a career in marine ecology and conservation.

At GVI, we offer three different types of marine conservation internships: 

  • research internships
  • career internships
  • core internships

These options allow you to pick a program that takes into account where you are right now and where you want to be in the future. From deciding which career path you want to follow to gaining work experience or completing a research paper, we have an internship that aligns with wherever you are in your studies or career path.

All of our marine conservation internships contribute to work that’s aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Interns complete project work that factors into long-term conservation goals that are based on the UN’s global objectives and the specific conservation needs of each GVI location.

Marine conservation internships range from four to 24 weeks, depending on the program you select. You could join a marine conservation internship in Fiji, where you’ll assist with research in marine protected areas and contribute towards conserving Fiji’s delicate coral reefs and marine ecosystems. Or you could join our diving and marine conservation internship in Belize. You’ll train to become a professional diver and coral reef researcher before heading out to carry out underwater surveys in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We also provide professional dive training on our PADI Divemaster internships, all of which include a PADI segment unique to GVI: the PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality. You can become a professional diver while contributing towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 14: Life Below Water. 

And like all GVI internships, you’ll have opportunities to delve deeper into your program focus than you would on a volunteering program. Complete a GVI marine conservation internship abroad and gain:

  • valuable insight into the field via our online marine conservation specialisation course endorsed by the University of Richmond
  • access to the marine conservation or diving industry
  • comprehensive field training
  • experience in policy-making and conducting research for ocean conservation
  • improved diving skill and technique, and dive-shop operational experience (on specific diving programs)
  • increased knowledge on the ocean’s various ecosystems
  • leadership skills from our Leading Teams for Impact online course endorsed by the University of Richmond
  • one-on-one mentorship from a dedicated remote supervisor
  • practical experience leading a specific ocean or marine life research-based project.

What type of marine conservation internship can I do?

As a marine ecology and conservation intern, you can choose to take part in a core internship, career internship or research internship – depending on your goals.

Every GVI marine conservation internship offers online leadership training and a specialisation course in marine conservation that’ll kickstart your professional development and even land you certificates from the University of Richmond. 

You’ll also receive 360-degree support (before, during and after your internship), which makes for a much smoother internship experience. From this solid foundation, you can also customise your internship experience by picking from three different internship types.

Core internships 

If you’re keen on getting involved in marine ecology work but would prefer to keep all your options open instead of specialising in one field, you can sign up for a core internship. But, what does a core internship look like on a day-to-day basis?

Well, picture yourself getting stuck into work that’ll give you a taste of what marine conservation is about as a whole. This could mean working on beach cleanups along Fiji’s coastline, assessing the behaviour of the marine mammals swimming beneath Tenerife Island’s ocean waters, or clocking up dive time while conducting coral reef surveys of Mexico’s Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.

On a core internship, you’ll also take on additional leadership tasks and play a meaningful role in GVI’s on-site organisational operations. These may include:

  • producing content for social media and blogs
  • contributing to the planning and execution of fundraisers and GVI Charitable Programs activities
  • interacting with GVI alumni to gather testimonials
  • leading surveys, program activities or workshops. 

Career internships

If you’re looking for a more specialised career development experience, you can choose to take part in a career internship. This type of opportunity means that you’ll up your collaboration with partner organisations on marine conservation tasks – like coastal conservation, dive training, coral reef research or marine conservation education. 

If you’re clear on the position you’re headed for in marine conservation and want to boost your employability potential, then a career internship is your best bet. And since you’ll have the chance to work with local and international partners (virtually or in person) and connect with career interns in other GVI locations, conservation career internships offer ample opportunity to gain a breadth of field experience, collaborate on conservation activities, and build your professional network. 

Set off to any of our ocean conservation destinations worldwide and you’ll have the chance to gain hands-on experience in a real-life setting. While you get to know the existing structures and procedures that keep local and international organisations at the forefront of marine conservation work, you’ll be adding to work that builds on your professional skills in a real-world context.

Research internships

And, for those of you who are set on growing your scientific research capabilities, or completing your university or independent research projects while learning from the best in the field, marine conservation research internships are the perfect choice. 

Marine research internships allow you to focus lots of your time abroad on data collection, while gaining the skills and techniques needed to work as a marine ecology and conservation researcher in the field. You’ll complete your project work with other GVI interns, and advance your own research goals under the direction of a remote research internship supervisor. And you’ll have the chance to liaise with other international research interns, and tap into our existing marine conservation datasets from across the globe.

While interning, you’ll have an ocean’s worth of opportunities to get involved in research projects that focus on coral reefs, marine mammals, ocean invertebrates and fish, and even shoreline environments where land and sea ecosystems can be seen interacting. 

Any of our marine conservation internships will prepare you to begin your career as a marine conservationist or researcher in a wide variety of marine ecosystems.

What if travelling isn’t an option for you right now? We also offer a range of remote virtual internships – where you can gain real-world experience from home. Choose from a range of topics, including marine conservation, wildlife conservation, environmental and corporate sustainability, and climate crisis and clean energy. At the end of the internship you’ll receive a certificate endorsed by the University of Richmond and a recommendation from your mentor.

For high school students looking to join a GVI program, we have a range of teen volunteering programs abroad. Created for teens between the ages of 15 and 17, our under 18 programs combine volunteer work with the chance to connect with like-minded people from around the world, and learn about the history and culture of the country you’re visiting. We’ve been running teen programs since 2012, so you can be sure you’re in safe hands with us.

If you’re looking for an internship in the field of community development, head over to our People site. Here you’ll find a range of internships focused on sustainable community engagement and development. Work on initiatives ranging from gender equality and public health to construction, teaching and business.

GVI offers a range of exciting marine conservation internships to choose from. Your enrolment manager will advise you on which programs best meet your interests and goals.

Marine conservation diving internships

Diving skills are essential if you want to work in marine ecology and conservation. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to do research in the ocean.

GVI’s marine conservation diving internships offer the opportunity to achieve a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) qualification. Our PADI-certified trainers will work with you to boost your professional diving techniques and grasp of diving safety. 

In diving internships, marine conservation work is factored in as part of your training and practice. For example, you can feel the ebb and flow of the Indian Ocean while surveying corals, and getting involved in biological surveys on a PADI Divemaster internship

Ocean wildlife conservation internships

Our marine conservation destinations are well-known for their biodiversity and important marine ecology and conservation sites.

In Costa Rica, Greece and Thailand, you’ll work in some of the world’s largest turtle nesting regions, and add to the conservation of endangered green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles. In Mexico, you can contribute to preserving the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world, while in Belize you’ll carry our research on the Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the second-largest reef system in the world. 

In Spain’s Canary Islands, and in Fiji and Seychelles you can put theory into practice in waters that are home to dolphins, porpoises, sharks, stingrays and whales. 

You’ll also be diving in areas where coral reefs cascade in all directions across the ocean floor. After working on any one of these marine conservation projects abroad, you’ll have experience working with a variety of marine animals and environments. 

Marine research internships

GVI offers an exclusive PADI certification that can launch your ocean conservation career into unchartered – but oh so exciting – territories of marine conservation. Our PADI Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality qualification is offered on every marine conservation program that runs for two weeks or more. 

You’ll have ample opportunity to get out into the ocean and gain valuable skills on a daily basis. You’ll also be trained and supervised by experts in the field and collaborate with international and local marine conservation organisations.

And this speciality segment is unique to GVI. It will provide you with all the skills and training you need to conduct research and surveys of coral reefs. By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with at least three survey techniques used to monitor coral reefs, and be able to identify relevant coral reef flora and fauna. You’ll also understand the threats faced by coral reefs, and how the research you’ll be equipped to perform factors into their preservation.

In addition to the skills and techniques you’ll refine during the coral reef research training, you’ll have completed a minimum of two open water dives at diverse dive sites.

Marine conservation internships in Africa

Set off across the Indian Ocean to a small island in Seychelles that’s bursting with endemic species: from the Aldabra giant tortoise that strolls the sandy stretches and grassy plains, to sea turtles, sicklefin lemon sharks, and coral reefs that streak the sand below the water’s surface. 

If you’re pushed for time, you can dip into an ocean internship on a short-term basis, and get involved in a variety of marine conservation projects abroad. These include a diving-centred marine conservation internship, an environmental and marine conservation internship, or an ocean conservation internship focusing on sicklefin lemon shark and sea turtle research

There are also opportunities to work in marine conservation while earning your PADI Divemaster certification, or contributing towards coral reef conservation

Marine conservation internships in Asia

As an intern working with the Royal Thai Navy’s Sea Turtle Conservation Centre in Phang Nga, you’ll gain hands-on experience in marine techniques, and see first-hand the ethical approach needed to work with marine animals. Green sea turtles are the main species found in this region, but interns may also contribute towards the care of olive ridley and hawksbill turtles. 

Spend between two and 12 weeks adding to turtles’ well-being by maintaining their habitats and providing them with necessary cleaning – under close supervision by experienced staff members. Or get involved in a coastal conservation internship that brings together land and sea conservation activities. On the Thailand Coastal Conservation internship you’ll spend 24 weeks contributing towards sea turtle, tropical bird and butterfly surveys that will take you to a whole range of Thailand’s different terrains – from mountain covered jungles to kilometres of white-sand coastline. 

How about making it your business to get a daily close up of the Andaman Sea ecosystem by diving into it? Switch your sandals and shorts for flippers and diving gear, and work towards your Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Divemaster qualification while getting to grips with ocean surveying skills in Phang Nga

Marine conservation internships in Australasia

Travel to Fiji, an archipelago in the South Pacific, where you’ll be based on the main island of Viti Levu in the district of Dawasamu. Home to almost half the world’s species of coral and an abundance of marine life, you’ll be surrounded by warm waters and white sand beaches when you join a marine conservation internship in Fiji.

On our marine conservation internship in Fiji, you’ll earn your PADI Open Water qualification, conduct research on marine protected areas and contribute towards conserving Fiji’s coral reefs. 

If you’re looking to learn more about corals our coral reef ecology and conservation internship is for you. Here you’ll work on protecting the coral reef ecosystem and participate in local conservation initiatives. We work closely with the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network and other local NGOs in order to help facilitate the best ways to assist the community in achieving their sustainability goals. Participants who join this program for two weeks or longer can also receive the Coral Reef Research Diver Distinctive Speciality segment of the PADI Divemaster course. This unique offering by GVI & PADI teaches you about best practices when conducting underwater coral reef surveys. 

Marine conservation internships in Europe

We offer marine conservation internships in two countries in Europe: Greece and Spain.

Greece

Take a trip to Greece during turtle nesting season and you’re sure to see marine conservation interns traipsing up and down the beaches surrounding the village of Giannitsochori. With their eyes fixed on the sand, and hands scribbling away on clipboards, you may just think that you’ve walked into the midst of something very important. And you would have!

This region is home to one of the world’s most important loggerhead turtle nesting sites, and getting involved in marine conservation internships here means making a huge contribution to ocean conservation. 

Spain

In the Canary Islands of Spain you’ll get to focus on working with cetaceans – marine mammals – like dolphins, whales and porpoises. Work as part of a marine conservation team looking to understand the impacts that whale- and dolphin-watching operations have on these marine mammals, and be part of developing solutions to these concerns. 

Marine conservation internships in Latin America

We offer marine conservation internships in three countries in Latin America: Belize, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Belize

Home to the second-largest coral reef in the world, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, when you join a marine conservation internship in Belize, you’ll live and work in one of the top diving and marine conservation destinations in the world. Along with abundant coral, the region is also home to endangered sea turtles, parrot fish, sea horses and eagle rays. Our base is located on the island of Ambergris Caye, home to countless dive sites and spots to snorkel.

When you join our Caribbean Barrier Reef Divemaster internship you’ll gain experience as a professional dive leader and a marine conservationist. After completing your training you’ll carry out marine conservation surveys on the reef. Along with earning your PADI Divemaster qualification, you’ll also learn how you can best contribute to the conservation of reefs, oceans and other natural habitats. 

Costa Rica

Counting all the species that live in and around Costa Rica’s rainforests may be too colossal a task – there are around 500,000 of them! But contributing to the conservation of some of these species is completely doable on a GVI conservation internship. 

You could spend anywhere from two to 24 weeks moving across the different terrains of Costa Rica and contributing to the conservation of marine and terrestrial environments on programs like our conservation internship. You’ll scout out creatures in the rainforest of Cahuita National Park – hoping to spot jaguars, and all sorts of monkeys, amphibians and tropical birds while conducting wildlife surveys. 

Or, take part in a short-term conservation internship and learn the skills you need to do research in a wide variety of different ecosystems. You’ll take part in projects that start off in the rainforest before getting you involved in turtle nesting research on the coast of Cahuita. 

You could also make your stay in Costa Rica all about sea turtle and ocean conservation by joining our sea turtle research and conservation Internship.

Mexico

Warm Caribbean waters, sun-soaked beaches, sea turtles and rays, coral reefs. Mexico has it all when it comes to coastal destinations. Our base is in the town of Puerto Morelos (the oldest town on the Mexican Caribbean coast), and is situated on a stretch of the Caribbean coastline known as the Riviera Maya. From here we offer a range of marine conservation internships.

On our coral reef ecology and conservation internship you’ll learn about the ecology of the coral reef ecosystem through lectures and in field training while contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals #14 Life Below Water. You’ll gain hands-on practical knowledge while contributing to the conservation of coral reefs.

Or, start your career in ocean conservation with our marine conservation internship. After mastering the techniques needed to conduct coral reef surveys, you’ll work towards earning your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certificate, as well as the PADI Coral Reef Restoration Diver (CRRD) Distinctive Speciality segment of the PADI Divemaster course. This unique offering by GVI & PADI teaches you about best practices when conducting underwater coral reef surveys. You’ll also assist our local partners with their ongoing coral restoration project by either growing coral fragments in a laboratory or transplanting these coral fragments onto the reef.

Seasoned divers who are looking to take their qualification (and careers) to the next level can join our PADI Instructor internship – a qualification that can open up a number of career opportunities around the world. Designed to help you master the skills needed to succeed in this field, our instructor program includes a focus on marine conservation research, ensuring you are uniquely qualified to work on marine biology initiatives in protected areas. You’ll also receive the PADI Coral Reef Restoration Diver (CRRD) Distinctive Speciality segment of the PADI Divemaster course. This unique offering by GVI & PADI teaches you about best practices when conducting underwater coral reef surveys.

What do you need to know before setting off on a marine conservation internship? 

Q: What’s the difference between marine research internships and marine conservation internships?

A: Marine conservation internships or ocean internships refer to all of the internships that assist you in gaining the comprehensive skill set that every marine conservationist needs. Whereas, marine research internships focus even more on the skills and techniques needed to work as a marine ecology and conservation researcher in the field. Any of our marine conservation internships will prepare you to begin your career as a marine conservationist or researcher in a wide variety of marine ecosystems. Both of these marine internship focuses can be done as a core, research or career internship.

Q: Where’s the best destination to take part in ocean internships?

A: This all depends on the type of marine conservation internship you join, and the type of development you’re set on achieving. 

PADI Divemaster internships make it easy to enhance your diving and diving supervision skills, while marine research internships will go a long way in preparing you to conduct ocean surveys, work with important marine conservation data, and collaborate with local and international conservation partners. 

Ocean wildlife conservation internships will allow you to gain valuable skills in ethical animal interactions that’ll build on your employability, and contribute towards marine animal and ecosystem conservation in a meaningful way. 

Your enrolment manager will advise you on the destination and program that will best suit the type of internship you’re looking to complete.

Q: How do I know if marine conservation projects abroad are ethical?

A: Ocean internships should be upfront about their ethical stance and what they do to ensure that ethics is a part of all of their marine conservation projects abroad. If this isn’t clearly specified on their website, contact them via phone or email and ask them the following questions:

  • Do you have an animal interaction policy?
  • Is it based on international ethical best practice?
  • Are interns allowed to interact with animals for fun?
  • When and how do interns interact with marine animals?

Reputable organisations, like GVI, should be able to direct you to their policy on animal interaction, and explain how it takes ethics into consideration. On our programs for example, interns are not allowed to interact with animals for fun as this can be harmful to interns and the animals they interact with. All of our ocean wildlife conservation activities only allow for supervised animal interaction where it is completely necessary, and have clear guidelines as to what this interaction entails and what it doesn’t. Read more about our stance on ethical animal interactions in this policy: How to volunteer ethically with animals

Want to learn more about what makes a wildlife volunteering program ethical? Have a look at this article: Questions to ask when volunteering with animals.

Join a conservation internship and get an exclusive offer

Book by 31 October 2022
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Professional Apprenticeship
PADI Divemaster and Marine Conservation Apprenticeship in the Indian Ocean