Wilderness Experience Marine Conservation in Florida

Shark research in the Florida Keys

Educational course in the US

As a student in this Wilderness Experience course you gather hands-on experience in a wide variety of field research skills and learn how to study and work with fascinating shark species while living aboard a research vessel exploring the Northern part of the Florida Keys. During this seven-day educational course you deepen your knowledge about the ecology and biology of sharks living in the Florida Keys and apply your newly acquired theoretical skills in various practical units. You will learn how to capture different shark species of various sizes, how to collect morphological measurements and how to fish in different environments. At the end of the course you’ll be equipped with hands-on experience in working with a range of elasmobranch species. The research collected as part of the course contributes to a variety of ongoing conservation and research projects at our partner’s as well as universities in Florida and South Carolina.

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago of around 200 coral islands, located off the Southern tip of Florida. Their total length amounts to almost 300 km. The Keys are home to numerous distinctive animal and plant species, many of which cannot be found in any other region of the United States. The third largest coral barrier reef system in the world and the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States unfolds under the water’s surface around the Florida Keys. Especially divers experience a breathtaking scenario of different colours and animals – and by joining this educational adventure course you can discover this amazing underwater world as well!

Service Our services at a glance


  • Placement in the course
  • Accommodation during the course
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • All meals during the course
  • Assistance with selecting travel insurance
  • On-site orientation and project training
  • Assistance with booking flights
  • English speaking support by long-term experienced staff
  • Pre-departure information pack
  • 24/7 support throughout the course

Not included

  • Flights
  • Airport pick up and drop off
  • Travel insurance
  • One dinner out
  • ESTA fee/visa fee
  • Personal expenses and optional excursions


Start DateDurationCostNATUCATE-ID W.US-003
7 Days 2.200 €


As a participant in this course you must be at least 18 years old and have good English skills. Specific expertise is not required –the course is designed for students, though, who are interested in pursuing undergraduate or master's field research. Being interested in nature and marine life is very important, just like the motivation to actively participate in the course. As you will be living and working on a boat with frequent exposure to the sun and occasional snorkeling activities, you also need to be physically fit and a good swimmer. Therefore, we ask you to pass a doctor’s certificate on to us which confirms that you are healthy and fit. Last but not least, you must get travel insurance before departing to Florida.

Details Shark Research in Florida


Wilderness Experience in the USA

After your arrival at Miami International Airport you need to get to one of the city’s marinas via Uber or public transportation where you will find our partner’s research vessel, your home and work place for the next few days. After your arrival you will be provided with lunch and introduced to the course programme. Afterwards you’ll receive a comprehensive safety briefing and learn how to work safely on a research vessel.

For the following five days, course work starts after breakfast at around 8:30 am. Each day will be filled with a mix of theoretical and practical activities. During lectures you are taught essential knowledge about shark ecology and biology, field research skills and experimental design. Hands-on training includes in-depth instruction on shark handling and workup procedures as well as practicing numerous fishing methods such as longlining, gillnetting, and the use of drumlines. Furthermore, you will learn how to fish in estuarine, inshore and offshore environments, how to safely restrain sharks of various sizes and species and how to apply techniques for minimizing shark capture stress. The mix of theoretical and practical lectures offers students the chance to become familiar with a wide breadth of different topics in the fields of shark ecology and biology, marine conservation and field research methods. The course also includes an optional but highly recommended workshop on communicating with the public about the research you conduct. Especially for those who are studying animals that are dangerously misunderstood this is an issue of great importance.


Specific course activities:

You will master fundamentals of following topics:

  • Field skills
  • Boat safety
  • Shark handling and shark biology
  • Ecology/biology lectures
  • Shark fishing using longlines
  • Longlining for sharks plus night baiting
  • Offshore block rig/drumline fishing for large sharks
  • Offshore fishing for large pelagic sharks and tagging techniques
  • Final workshop on field skills and science communication

We realise that some of the people on our projects in Florida want to see as many animals as possible in their natural environment. However, this is dependent on a number of factors. Please note that NATUCATE makes no guarantee that you will see a variety of animals as nature doesn’t always give us what we want. To make such a guarantee would be unprofessional and against our corporate philosophy.



During this research course in Southern Florida you and other course participants are accommodated aboard a mordern and well-equipped working research vessel, which will take you around the Northern part of the Florida Keys to dedicate yourself to different research and conservation activities. The boat provides seven student cabins as well as four heads (bathrooms), each with a hot water shower. Each student cabin can fit two participants. There are further shower facilities (but not laundry facilites, though) available ashore when the vessel is docked. The boat is air-conditioned and participants have access to electricity both for light and to charge their devices. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily.

In order to stay in touch with family and friends you should buy a US American SIM Card when arriving in the States. This way, you can make calls or send text messages. Depending on your calling plan you may also be able to use the internet.


Even though accommodation in this course is definitely of Western standard, everybody interested in a Wilderness Experience abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.

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