Wilderness Experience FAQ Marine Conservation in Florida

Tropical Marine Ecology and Biology in the Florida Keys

Prior to arrival

Do I need specific requirements or abilities to apply for this course?

Participants of this course must be at least 18 old and need to speak English well enough to follow lectures and obey safety instructions effectively. Furthermore, it is important for them to be good swimmers and in reasonably good health – this means, they need to be comfortable spending their course on a boat, (often in the sun/at high temperatures) and doing some taxing physical activities including snorkeling. Therefore, we ask you to hand in a certificate from your doctor confirming your state of health. You should be a team-player, open-minded, flexible and motivated to be part of a dedicated marine conservation project. To cover risks of injury during your trip or disruption of travel plans, it is obligatory to get travel insurance before departing to Florida.

Which services does the price include?

When you register for the project we will safe a spot for you. We will support you with planning your journey and help you with getting travel insurance and booking flights. The programme price also includes accommodation on a research vessel, daily meals including water and snacks, instruction and supervision by experienced, English-speaking coaches as well as various excursions. In case of questions or problems, you can contact us or our partner’s team on site any time. Flights, travel insurance, potential visas, airport transfers, one dinner out and personal expenses are not covered by the price of the programme.

Do I need certain medical precautions or requirements?

Before departing to Florida, you should see your doctor to get advice on useful health measures and travel vaccinations. We recommend getting vaccinations against measles-mumps-rubella, tetanus diphtheria, pertussis, influenza and pneumococcus. You should also consider having vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, typhus and rabies. Moreover, you should pack enough sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from sun damage. It is also advised to bring along long light clothing and a suitable mosquito repellent to protect yourself from mosquito bites. In case you must regularly take certain medication, you should make sure that you have enough medicine for your whole stay in the US. In general, we recommend packing a small first aid-kit for any kind of journey: this kit should include patches, anti-diarrhoeal agents, electrolytes, painkillers, broad-spectrum antibiotics, antiseptic lotion, anti-histamines and vitamin pills. Up-to-date information about specific travel alerts and safety information can always be checked at your foreign office. Don’t forget to get travel insurance before departing to the US – this is, under all circumstances, obligatory.

What kind of equipment should I take with me?

Please pack functional swim wear, a rashguard/wetsuit, shorts/pants, shirts (short- and long-sleeved), a windbreaker/rain jacket, a pair of sandals and a pair of close-toed rubber-soled shoes. Don’t forget any personal medication, hygiene products, towels, enough sunscreen, a sun hat, sun glasses and a refillable 2-litre-water bottle. Moreover, you should pack a daypack, a headlamp, earplugs and recreational items. If you have not opted to rent from our partner, you will also need to bring along snorkel, mask and fins.

Arrival

How do I arrive at my destination? Do I have to organize it myself?

You should arrive at Miami International Airport on the day your project starts. After your arrival you need to make your own way from the airport to the marina where the research vessel is docked – it is a relatively easy trip using Uber or public transit, and you are provided with detailed instructions to make it as simple as possible.

What happens after I have arrived?

On the first day of any course, students usually arrive between 10:00 am and noon. At that point the team has lunch, introductions, and begins the course with a comprehensive safety briefing on the boat and a short class in working safely on a research vessel, which includes things such as instruction in knot tying and line handling.

During the course

What is my main function? What’s the courses’ procedure?

After an introduction and learning about important safety information, the actual course work starts. You will spend the course living and working on our partner’s research vessel – each day you will roam the waters of the Florida Keys, home to various fascinating sea dwellers, and help conduct various research tasks. You will be supervised by experienced researchers and work in an international team with participants from all over the world in order to participate in marine life research and renaturation measures. Our Florida courses were created to help prepare students to conduct their own field research and teach them the skills that they would need to do that safely and effectively. That’s why, as a participant of this course, you will get to know different species and habitats and familiarise yourself with various research methods, monitoring/restoration techniques and theoretical aspects of conservation and elasmobranch biology. The research conducted helps to support different marine conservation projects of our partner as well as universities across the US.

How big is the group?

In general, the team consists of ten to twelve students.

Life on site

What is the accommodation like?

Participants are accommodated aboard a working research vessel. The boat has seven student cabins, most of which are double occupancy, and four heads (bathrooms) on board, each with a hot water shower. Students have access to electricity both for light and to charge their own devices, and the boat is air-conditioned. There are further shower (but not laundry) facilities available at dock when the vessel is docked.

Is it possible to share rooms with a partner?

We are happy to put friends or partners in the same cabin. You should contact us as soon as possible, so we are able to consider your wish. Please be aware that we cannot guarantee that you will actually share cabins with your partner.

How is the food provided?

You’ll receive three meals per day. Food is cooked by our partner’s staff. Our partner has a carefully selected menu ranging from BBQ to curries. Snacks are available throughout the day.

Is it possible to receive vegetarian meals?

Our partner is able to accommodate food allergies within reason, as well as vegetarians and vegans. We ask you, though, to inform us of any specific dietary requirements some time in advance. You might think about taking specific supplements, small snacks and/or multivitamin pills with you.

How can I spend my free time?

Since our Florida courses are designed to be intensive, your leisure time will actually be limited. Most students use their free time to reach out to friends and family or to catch up on sleep. When the team is at dock, there is a nearby bar and restaurant students can also visit (we expect you to behave responsibly, though – in the US you must be 21 or older to order alcohol).

Do I have a contact person on site?

There will be staff members onboard all the time and you can contact NATUCATE at any time if there are any questions or problems.

What expenses do I have to expect during the course? Can I withdraw cash on side and do I have to pay in local currency?

The currency of the United States is the US dollar. A few weeks prior to departure to Florida you can get a certain amount of dollars from your local bank. There are also foreign exchange places at the airport. We recommend taking a credit/debit card with you to withdraw cash at an ATM at the airport or in the city. You should contact your local bank to make sure you can use your card in the United States. Keep in mind that most ATMs charge you a transaction fee of around $5.

Other than going out to dinner one night as part of the course (meals usually no more than $20-30 USD) and the cost of travelling to and from the airport, any other expenses would be entirely voluntary – for example, when deciding to go out for a drink with classmates. That’s why there shouldn’t be much need for a large amount of US cash. If you plan on participating in activities outside of the programme or if you want to travel before or after the course, you will need to budget accordingly.

How can I contact family and friend at home?

Participants can contact friends and family when purchasing a US-American SIM card and when having a cell phone that works in the US. They can expect to have mobile reception for most of the course. There is no internet on the vessel, but students often manage to get online when the team is at dock.

What’s the climate/weather like?

In summer, South Florida is quite hot with intense sun and frequent rain showers. Students should be prepared for that with sunscreen, hats and long-sleeved light shirts. They also always have access to the air-conditioned salon inside the vessel if they feel overheated.

Are there any specific rules or restrictions?

Drinking alcohol is prohibited aboard the research vessel, although students are allowed to drink at the nearby bar when we are at dock as long as they demonstrate they can do so responsibly. Similarly, there is a zero-tolerance policy for drugs. We expect a high level of behaviour from our students, including treating one another and the staff with respect.

During field work with sharks, students are asked to wear the shirts given to them by our partner and to wear close-toed rubber soled shoes.

Your question is not mentioned?

Feel free to contact us under +49 241-91994357 or email us to info@natucate.com.

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