Internship

The last of the ancient mariners

Sea Turtle Conservation Internship in Mexico

Learn sea turtle survey monitoring techniques and enhance your scientific knowledge.

GVI Hub: a home-from-home
Durations: 2 - 12 weeks

Program information

This program involves monitoring and recording turtle nesting behaviour along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, patrolling beaches at night and early morning for nesting turtles and collecting nest data. During the day, you’ll study sea turtle feeding behaviour in seagrass meadows, collaborate on environmental education projects, and even lead independent research.

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Travel flexibility. Transfer for free up to 45 days before travel. Because life happens. Terms and conditions apply.
Overview
Dates & Prices
Itinerary
What's Included
Life On Base
Experiences
New
Free time
Cultural Immersion
Speak to alumni
MEET THE TEAM
Parent Info
Arrivals
Flights
Your Impact
Our Ethics
Program ethics
Qualifications & Training Options
Careers
Support & Safety

Program overview

Our research station in Puerto Morelos sits within the natural habitat of three sea turtle species: the hawksbill, green sea turtle, and loggerhead sea turtle.

These turtles face many existential threats, including: 

  • Destruction of habitat due to coastal development.
  • Illegal poaching of eggs.
  • Climate change  and pollution.

In order to protect and conserve the local population, we use habitat protection, public education, community outreach, networking and advocacy as basic tools for implementing conservation action. 

Depending on the time of year, our specific conservation activities include:

  • Surveying nesting activities, monitoring behaviour and recording morphological information about nesting turtles.
  • Assessing nesting behaviour and actively protecting nests in order to increase the hatchling success. 
  • Recording hatching events and monitoring baby turtles as they make their way to the ocean. 
  • Collecting data of tagged sea turtles as well as tagging new organisms.

All conservation activities are carried out in collaboration with locally-led partner organisations to ensure long-term, sustainable success. Our program partners in Mexico include: 

  • CRIP Centro Regional de Investigacion Pesquera, which is a federal branch of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Institute (INAPESCA).
  • CONANP, the government agency in charge of the management of the natural protected areas in Mexico.
  • Healthy Reefs for Healthy People
  • Coral Watch
  • Saving our Sharks
  • Ocean Conservancy
  • Centro Ecologico Akumal
  • Amigos de Sian Ka’an
  • Takata Experience
  • Tolok Divers

Highlights

Support UN SDG: 14

Participate in a range of impactful marine conservation initiatives that are guided by UN SDG 14: Life Below Water.

Lead data collecting surveys

Get hands-on turtle conservation experience working with two of the region’s most beautiful creatures – green and loggerhead sea turtles.

Get hands-on experience

Get broad exposure to a variety of conservation fieldwork projects and training opportunities to grow your skills.

Contribute to vital research

Support a team of scientists and academics with ongoing, cutting-edge research that gets published and makes an impact.

Work for real partners

Work on a real project for a conservation partner to address critical environmental issues in the area.

Stand out from the crowd

Participate in practical training sessions to develop your leadership skills and receive guidance from experienced mentors.

Advance your career

Gain international experience, receive four recognised qualifications and get a LinkedIn reference to boost your CV.

Live in remote habitats

Travel off the beaten track to live and work on a research station in the wild. Get exclusive access to protected species and unique ecosystems.

Is this program for me?

This internship is specifically useful for someone who has or is actively studying the below subject areas at school, university or college, or has an interest in these subject areas.

  • Ecology
  • Population biology
  • Epidemiology
  • Biology
  • Environmental science
  • Wildlife management
  • Zoology
  • Animal husbandry
  • Botany
  • Ecology and evolution
  • Geology
  • Wildlife biology and conservation
  • Marine science
  • Marine biology
  • Environment management
  • Marine conservation

Activities

Some of the example typical activities you could participate in on this program.

Fieldwork training

Identify different species of sea turtles. Collect data to build a comprehensive database of sea turtle nesting sites and populations in the area.

Conservation surveys

Assist with both sea turtle nesting and hatching surveys, collecting data on the success of the nesting season and the number of hatchlings monitored.

Conservation project work

Assist with additional research activities such as coral restoration, seagrass monitoring, beach cleanups and community conservation outreach.

Leadership training

Learn how to plan and set team goals, create supportive team environments, and reflect on your own leadership style.

Leadership responsibilities

Take on responsibilities like leading field teams, entering data, writing reports and summaries, and updating species lists and fieldwork checklists.

Personal project

Work on an individual project that aligns with your personal interests.

Mentorship

Meet weekly in a small group with other interns and an experienced mentor to receive project guidance and feedback on your leadership style.

PADI Emergency First Response

Learn primary and secondary care theory. Practise these 8 skills to improve your first aid skills and prepare you for an emergency.

Skills

  • Data entry
  • EFR training
  • Leadership
  • Marine conservation
  • Species identification
  • Survey research

Partners

Some of the partners we work with on base.

CRIP
CONANP

Program details

Dates and prices

Select a start date:

Hot summer savings.

Book in April to get up to 15% off selected programs!

Secure your spot before spaces fill up.
Payment plans. Flexible payment plans allow you to pay in instalments.

What happens next?

Once you apply, a personal Enrollment Manager will be assigned to walk you through the rest of the process.

Itinerary

The following itinerary is an example of the activities and project work that participants might get involved in on this program. More specific details of the program are finalised several months before each start date.

06:30

Take in the views and fresh sea air with breakfast – and say hi to our curious local coati (racoon-like critter).

07:00

Lend a hand with base duties and help to get everyone’s gear ready for the day’s activities!

10:00

Learn more about diving, the coral reef system and the most critical marine conservation challenges in this area.

12:00

Sample and savour delicious (mostly vegetarian) Mexican dishes prepared by a local cook.

14:00

Enjoy an afternoon of diving to conduct coral reef surveys that will help our local partners with their initiatives.

17:30:30

Dinner is enjoyed as a group. It’s a great time to share news, achievements and plan the next day's activity details.

18:00

After dinner, it’s time to relax! Head to the town square to grab a coffee, go shopping, or just soak up the Mexican Caribbean vibes.

What’s included?

What's included
General
Food
Safe and basic accommodation (usually shared)
Airport pick up (unless stated)
All project equipment
24-hour in-country support from local staff
24-hour emergency desk
GVI Experiences
Activities
Sustainable project work
Data collection and research
Leadership responsibilities
Personal project
Mentorship
Weekly group sessions
Internship supervisor guidance
Pre-program training
Pre-departure webinar
Pre-departure training (online)
University of Richmond endorsed specialisation course
University of Richmond endorsed leadership course
Welcome training
GVI welcome presentation
Health & safety
Local culture & environment
UN SDGs
Impact & ethics
Child protection
Advanced leadership training
Personal development record
Project planning and management
Career services
University of Richmond careers course
Career coaching sessions (x2)
Career guarantee
LinkedIn reference – upon request
Job portal
Certificates
Program certificate
University certificate – specialisation (University of Richmond)
University certificate – leadership (University of Richmond)
University certificate – careers (University of Richmond)
What's excluded
Not included
Flights
International and domestic airport taxes
Medical and travel insurance
Visa costs
Police or background check
Personal items and toiletries
Additional drinks and gratuities

Life On Base

Our Puerto Morelos research station – where you’ll take part in project work – is located 80 metres from the beach. Your accommodation – where you’ll hang out, sleep and eat – is located 15 minutes by car, 45 minutes by bike or 90 minutes on foot from the beach. One of the best-kept secrets in the Yucatan, the small town of Puerto Morelos is incredibly safe and has a laid-back vibe with a friendly and welcoming local community. There are no big resorts or casinos here.

Mexico, while culturally diverse, is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

From mariachi bands to Mayan temples, Mexico is best known for being the birthplace of the iconic taco. Puerto Morelos is the oldest port community in the Mexican Caribbean. Home to the northernmost tip of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (the second largest barrier reef in the world), Puerto Morelos is a spectacular diving location. You’ll spot sea turtles and various rays – from the famous Caribbean stingray to the spotted eagle ray. If mammals are more your thing, West Indian manatees have been seen and a pod of bottlenose dolphins are frequent visitors. The mangroves offer the chance to see a variety of animals and waterbirds, including protected species like the American crocodile.

Your typical day includes diving, lab work, training on base, beach cleanups and community work. Rounded off with evening debriefs followed by dinner and time to relax – taking in a beautiful sunset, and sharing stories with your fellow team members.

On weekends, participants enjoy free time until Sunday dinner at the base. Local fun includes games, movies, beach time and beach volleyball. The base has kayaks and SUPs that participants can use in their free time under the supervision of a staff member. There are also 5 bicycles that participants can use. Getting around is easy with affordable public options, taxis, or bike rentals (30 – 100 USD/month).

Accommodation

You will live in shared dorm-style accommodation, with four beds per room, giving you the perfect opportunity to connect. The accommodation featu...

Transportation

We provide transportation to and from the airport up to three days prior to your arrival and three days after the end of your program – only from...

Communication

There’s limited access to long-distance communication when you’re on base, so make sure your friends and family know how often they can expect to...

Meals

You’ll get the opportunity to prepare breakfast in groups from our choice of cereals, pancakes, eggs and

Climate

Puerto Morelos is on the Riviera Maya, which is known for its tropical climate. The temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year – roughly 26°C ( 80°F).
Thi...

Smoking and vaping regulations

Since January 2023, smoking in public areas is prohibited, with fines up to £150 for violations. Owning or using vaping devices and solutions is ...

GVI experiences included in your program, at no extra cost.

Offered once a month, expand your adventure with GVI Experiences. These are just some of the activities offered on your program!

We want you to make the most of the chance to live in – and contribute towards –  the most diverse and unique wildernesses and communities on earth. Introducing GVI Experiences – immersive adventure, cultural and wellness activities exclusive to GVI that have been specially designed in collaboration with our local partners to support and stimulate sustainable economic development. 

Enhance your impact. Expand your adventure. Explore your world.

Learn to cook traditional Yucatan food
Tastes of Mexico
Visit a Mayan ruin
Ancient empire
Take a beach yoga class
Sunset flow
Dive through the cenotes
An underwater world
Stand-up paddleboard at sunrise
Cruise the coastline
Climb rock formations in the jungle
Boulder hopping
Learn the unique geography of the Yucatan Peninsula
Last of the dinosaurs
Explore the ancient city of Coba
The road less travelled

Free time

Joining a GVI program not only allows you to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems – but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer over weekends.

Field staff are a great source of advice and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. You can choose to travel before or after your experience with GVI (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships you’ve established on the program. Please note that the below options are not included in the program fee, and would be up to you to arrange at your own expense.

Weekend Trips

Snorkelling with whale sharks

On the northern coast of Quintana Roo, where the crystal-clear water of the Caribbean sea meets the nutrient-rich water of the Gulf of Mexico, an oceanographic phenomena of upwe...

Bull shark diving

From November to March, on their annual migration to give birth, female bull sharks congregate off the coast of Quintana Roo. With the opportunity to get up close to these magni...

Mayan ruins

Many Mayan ruins are scattered throughout the Riviera Maya, and the province in which Puerto Morelos is located, Quintana Roo, is no exception. One of the most popular sites is ...

Eco adventure parks

A top destination for those visiting the Riviera Maya are the eco-adventure parks, like Xcaret and Xel-ha. These are beautiful, biodiverse areas featuring Mayan ruins that have ...

Cenotes

The Yucatan Peninsula is a large karst system with the world´s long...

Diving and snorkelling

Experience the stunning diversity of underwater life within the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the seco...

Further Travels

Other Latin American countries

Mexico is the perfect destination from which to travel to other Central and South American countries. Head to the jungles and volcanoes of Costa Rica and then further down to Pe...

Mexican culture

Mexico City is the home of many iconic cultural sites, including the Frida Kahlo Museum (also known as The Blue House) and the Palace of Fine Arts, where the work of her husband...

Hiking and rock climbing

There are plenty of excellent hiking, trekking, and mountain climbing destinations in Mexico. Pico de Orizaba is Mexico’s highest peak, followed by the active volcano Popocatépe...

Whale spotting

On the west coast of Mexico, Baja California is a peninsula bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Sea of Cortez to the east. One of the main reasons to visit this lo...

Cultural Immersion

Engaging intimately with a new context teaches global awareness, adaptability and critical thinking – skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and will also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many different activities that you can get involved in during your free time, or before and after your program.

On our community programs, the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore topics like local cuisine and religion, or how sustainable development challenges are affecting local contexts.

Festivals

  • January: Christmas continues until the sixth of January in Mexico. On this day every year, the predominantly Catholic population celebrates el Dí...

Music

The most easily identifiable Mexican style of music is the mariachi band, featuring guitars, violins and trumpets. This form of music is unique to a specific region of Mexico, G...

Dances

The Jarabe Tapatío is the most well-known of all Mexican dances and is considered the country’s unofficial national dance. A male and female perf...

Cuisine

Possibly one of the most popular reasons to travel to Mexico is to experience authentic Mexican cuisine. Many of the world’s most widely used ing...

Religion and local customs

The legacy of colonialism means that most of Mexico’s population are Catholic. However, much of Mexican Catholicism is influenced by customs unique to the indigenous cultures th...

Languages

As a result of colonialism, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language throughout Mexico. As the second-most widely spoken language globally, v...

Speak to alumni

If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.

We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.

Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.

Get a first-hand perspective

Meet us

Meet the team

Get acquainted with the GVI Latin America, Mexico, Puerto Morelos family

Miguel Angel Lozano

Program Manager

Miguel Angel is GVI’s Program Manager for the Marine Conservation Programs at GVI’s base in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. He has a backgr ...

Claudia Frederici

Dive Officer

This is Claudia, she is our Dive Officer at the GVI Puerto Morelos base in Mexico. Claudia is originally from Spain and helps out with everything from scientific research to fie ...

Kayla Moore

Science Officer

Meet Kayla, the Science Officer for GVI’s base in Puerto Morelos, Mexico. She is originally from Canada where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Marine an ...

Parent Info

‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.

We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.

GVI is a proud member of the Gap Year Association.

Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’

Parent Info Pack

Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:

Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office.
Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios.
Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page.
Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.

Arrivals

When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.

As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals.

We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile.

This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.

Your Impact

All of our programs have short-, mid- and long-term objectives that align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.

Prior to your arrival on base, you will be educated about the UN SDGs. Then once you arrive on base, you’ll learn about the specific goals we have in this particular location, our various objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these.

Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to be an active global citizen after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.

Puerto Morelos is the oldest port city in the Mexican Caribbean. Used as a port since the Mayan empire, its history as a modern port dates back to 1898. It was built to enable the exportation of gum from gum trees and wood from dye trees. Together with fishing, these were the main productive activities in the area.

There is a unique diversity of ecosystems – including low evergreen and swamp jungles, savannahs, coastal dunes, mangroves, cenotes, beaches, marine grass and coral reefs. The reef of Puerto Morelos is part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System – home to thousands of marine species.

Today, Puerto Morelos is part of the 120-kilometre-long tourist corridor located between Cancun and Tulum. Tourism is the main economic activity of Puerto Morelos and continues to grow due to the development of large hotels and holiday accommodation along its coast. Local tour operators offer scuba-diving, snorkelling and free-diving tours in the Caribbean Sea, as well as reef lagoon, sportfishing tours, and tours to (and diving in) cenotes close to the town.

Fishing is the second most common commercial activity after tourism. Small skiffs are used to collect lobster and many species of commercial Caribbean fish. Local fishing organisations are aware that unsustainable fishing leads to the destruction of the reef, loss of fishing resources, and harm to ecotourism activities. GVI assists our partners in Puerto Morelos by collecting and collating data which helps decision-makers in coastal zone management. 

Fish and coral surveys

We have several monitoring sites that we survey each year. The data we gather helps us determine the abundance and size of the fish, and understand the changes in the fish community dynamics. The information on coral, and other benthic organisms like sponges and macro algae is used to understand the reef’s coral coverage and overall health. The surveys are simpler for 4-week short-term interns as we aim to gather high-quality data by focusing the learning on fish species while touching on other topics such as coral species. The aim of this is to collect biomass data and information on coral illnesses and bleaching.

We also assist our partners in a coral reef restoration project. Through cloning (coral fragmentation) and assisted fertilisation of coral gametes, we assist in incrementing the biomass and genetic diversity of the hard coral population. We collaborate on coral nursery maintenance (inland and in water). And finally, we assist with transplanting coral colonies back into the reef to regenerate degraded sections of the reef in the ocean.

The Caribbean King Crab project rears juveniles to sufficient sizes and numbers to be used during coral restoration work, which increases the survival of transplanted fragments or recruits by actively counteracting macroalgae proliferation. You can play a part in the regeneration of degraded sections of the reef and rebuilding the ecosystem.

Turtle monitoring

The National Park of Puerto Morelos is abundant in seagrass, one of the favourite meals of green sea turtles. GVI participants assist with monitoring sea turtle populations by taking pictures of them while snorkelling and diving. This helps with identifying new and returning sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season is from May to October.

Invasive lionfish monitoring and education

Lionfish are an invasive species in the Mexican Caribbean. We carry out lionfish data collection during our dive activities – registering size, quantities, location and depth, as well as taking photos of the specimens. We turn this information over to local authorities who keep track of the lionfish population dynamics. At times they request our assistance in removing this invasive species from the sites.

Incidental sightings of megafauna

Every time we dive, we look for megafauna species such as sharks, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, eels and rays. We input sightings of these species into our database. The presence of these species can be an indicator of the health of the reef and general biodiversity.

Plastic pollution cleanup

We have weekly beach cleanups where we collect the rubbish that washes up on our beach. We classify it and count or weigh it into different categories, depending on their source. This information is recorded and sent to our partners in Ocean Conservancy. After adding it to their worldwide data bank, they analyse the information – looking for trends on sites and classification of rubbish.

Environmental education

By joining a GVI marine conservation program in Mexico, you’ll get involved in vital project work that directly impacts our partner organisations’ ability to promote their initiatives and carry out their mandate. This includes things like the creation of marine reserves, zonation schemes, and management policies. In turn, you are helping to protect Mexico’s precious marine life and the ecosystem.

You will be able to work closely with our local partners – collecting and collating data that is used to aid decision-makers in the coastal zone and resource management in Mexico.

You’ll also assist the community by conducting environmental education programs. Once a fishing village, the town of Puerto Morelos is now part of one of the largest marine parks in Mexico. Fish is still an important food source in the community, and fishing provides a daily source of income. Sustainable fishing methods and other means of protecting the natural environment are vital to maintaining the marine abundance that makes fishing and international tourism profitable. We work to support the local community’s efforts to learn about and protect their marine resources and the health of the reef off the coast of Puerto Morelos.

These initiatives allow us to support the conservation work, the community, and our local partners. They also address two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), namely Goal 4: Quality Education and Goal 14: Life Below Water.

Project objectives

 

GVI Puerto Morelos Marine Long-term Objectives:

1. Provide data to our partners on the overall health of the reef, to be used for coastal management within the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park, and collaborate in the coral restoration project.

2. Raise environmental awareness with the community in Puerto Morelos.

3. Minimise the environmental impact that visitors and other people have within the national park.

4. Increase in-country capacity within our partners and community members in the coral reefs of Puerto Morelos National Park.

 

Our Ethics

Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.

 

We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.

Our 10 ethical commitments

01

Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects

We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.

02

Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes

We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.

03

Impact Reporting

We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.

04

Working Against Dependency

We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.

05

Responsible Exit Strategies

For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.

06

Clear Roles & Specialized Training

We aim to ensure that every participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.

07

Respect for all

In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.

08

Local Ownership

We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.

09

Transitioning from the Orphanage Model

We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.