Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Statia Conservation Volunteer Project, St. Eustatius, Caribbean

8-12 Weeks from

£180
18+
minimum age

  • Help to conserve local wildlife of the island, including sea turtles
  • Work alongside a team of local and international volunteers
  • Experience the scenic and relaxing nature of the Dutch Caribbean
  • Spend time snorkelling and scuba diving during your time off

About the Statia Conservation Project

Volunteers maintaining a trail on St EustatiusVolunteer in the Dutch Caribbean on the tiny island of St. Eustatius as a National Parks volunteer and join the St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation to help protect, maintain, and conserve their National and Marine Parks.

The main goal is to maintain the parks, but also to monitor the species within the parks and there are some research projects as well. At the project the team believe it is important to emphasise the interconnectivity between environments; for example, the reforestation project that is focused on terrestrial and coastal environments will mitigate the impact of erosion and run-off, which directly affects the reefs surrounding our island. Essentially, this means that all National Park Volunteers will be expected to help across both marine and terrestrial departments as required. Please note that any activities that require diving will only be undertaken by volunteers with PADI Advanced Open Water certification (or equivalent).

You will work 5 days a week. A typical working day starts at 7 am till 4 pm, with a 1-hour lunch break. Because it can get hot towards the middle of the day, the mornings in the terrestrial parks are often designated for trail maintenance or monitoring, in the botanical garden or ‘ReforeStatia’ for fencing, or planting trees. In the marine park, only the mornings are designated for diving. In the afternoons you might be working on data input or analysis or helping other interns and volunteers with projects or working on other land-based projects.

You will have the opportunity to do various conservation volunteer projects across the parks, as listed below.

National Parks

Volunteers may spend a few days a week working on the trail systems in the Quill and Boven National Park. Trail maintenance includes clearance of the paths, erosion control, and improvement of signage. It is important that you are a competent hiker, fit and healthy. A number of our trails are steep and can be slippery. As well as the general maintenance, there are some monitoring projects that run throughout the year. These include monitoring of red-billed tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) nesting activities, and population monitoring of species such as the bridled quail-dove (Geotrygon mystacae), red-bellied racer (Alsophis rufiventris), and Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima).

Conservation volunteer in botanical garden in St EustatiusBotanical Garden

Our Botanical Garden was badly affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Although it remains a very peaceful and scenic area of the island, with help from our volunteers we aim to continue developing this site to focus on preservation, conservation, education, and recreation. The Garden has basic facilities and a public pavilion for picnicking and barbeques.

ReforeStatia

The programme is also responsible for a large-scale reforestation project on the island, with four sites dedicated to producing and growing new plants. Our aim is to restore important ecosystems and to contribute to the island’s sustainable agriculture goals. You will support this project by working in our plant nursery and by helping to plant and care for new trees in different areas. There is also the possibility to support the monitoring of biodiversity and studying factors affecting plant growth and survival in areas dedicated to reforestation activities.

Marine Park

The St Eustatius Marine Park surrounds the entire island; it reaches from the high tide line to the 30-meter depth contour. Within the park, there are two reserves that are designated as no fishing or anchoring zones. 

Volunteers help the rangers with tasks in the Marine Park. With over 30 mooring lines for dive sites, a large part is to maintain (clean, repair or make) these lines. Other work done in the marine park is the monitoring of species (turtle, fish, urchin, coral, and seagrass surveys), invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans) control, and there are (short-term) projects taking place, which can be further explained when in contact with the organization. Most of this work is done underwater, which is why it is required to have your Advanced Open Water diving certificate. If you don’t have this and don’t want to get it in your time there, there are still opportunities to be trained as a captain, learn how to maintain mooring lines (knotting and splicing), or help in projects that do not include diving.

Sea turtle swimming in coral in St EustatiusSea Turtle Monitoring

On the beaches of St Eustatius, there are three species of sea turtles that nest: the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and occasionally the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). Although hawksbill nesting season peaks generally around July and August, their activities can be found all throughout the year. The leatherback activities are between April and June, although they rarely come to the island anymore, every few years a leatherback activity is recorded. The green turtle is the most common species nesting on the island. Nesting activities peak in August and September. At this time, all volunteers get the opportunity to assist in the morning and afternoon patrols where data on the different activities will be collected under the supervision of the turtle coordinator.

During the peak of the hawksbill but mainly the green season, night patrols might take place as well where there is a possibility to see the turtles nesting. Please note that our nesting population of turtles is small, and we, therefore, do not patrol the beach every night throughout the season, and it is rare to see a turtle during the night patrols. Patrols sometimes take place in inclement weather and are only cancelled if there is a thunderstorm present.  Patrols in general take place between 8pm till 2am but can take longer if a turtle has been sighted. During patrols, the beach is walked multiple times, but short breaks are taken in between. Zeelandia beach is the beach where the night patrols take place, the beach is about 1.4 km long, so we expect our volunteers to be competent hikers, fit, and healthy.

Education & Outreach

The programme gives classes about nature conservation and awareness to primary and secondary schools on the island. Other activities the Education & Outreach officer can use your help with can be with organising public beach cleanups, hikes, snorkel clubs, or events to raise more awareness. In July there is a summer club which is a week of activities for children in the summer holidays.

Family Fridays

On most Fridays, the whole team works together with interns on a particular project, such as clearing out hiking trails, installing new signposts, cleaning the turtle nesting beach, planting trees in the botanical garden, fencing areas for the restoration project or carrying out surveys.

Orientation & Free Time

At the beginning of the project, you will receive an orientation on the organisation and will be shown around the office, the locations of the national parks, the botanical garden, and the reforestation locations. The staff will ensure that you are fully orientated on all equipment and understand the tasks at hand.

During your free time, you also have the opportunity to get SCUBA certified (at your own cost), or you can spend it relaxing, diving, snorkelling, swimming down at the pier, obtaining diving certificates, bird watching, and enjoying the peace of Statia!


Project Background

Volcano on St EustatiusThe Quill, a 600-metre dormant volcano that dominates the landscape of the island of St. Eustatius, is home to many unusual and endangered species of plants and animals. The Quill National Park was pronounced the first official National Park of the Dutch Caribbean in 1998. It is characterised by eight different vegetation zones, six of which are found on the crater rim and basin, including the Elfin Forest, the dry evergreen forest, and evergreen bushland, each of which contains rich flora. The crater basin is dominated by giant Kapok and Sandbox trees, as well as mango, wild papaya, and mamee apple which share the canopy with endangered tree species, including Redwood Birds Cherry. Eighteen species of orchid are found in the Quill and on the Northern hills. In addition, many species of birds, some of them threatened, live in the Quill, including tropicbirds and hummingbirds. Several species of reptiles, which are already extinct on other Caribbean islands can be found, including the red-bellied racer snake and Antillean iguana.

The St Eustatius National Marine Park is defined as the waters surrounding Statia from the high tide line to the 30m (100ft) depth contour. Within the park, there are two reserves, which are no fishing and anchoring zones. It was designated the Statia Marine Park in 1996 through the St. Eustatius Marine Environment Ordinance, with the objective to preserve and manage Statia’s marine resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and future generations.

An ethic of environmental conservation has yet to take hold on Statia, you can help with the progress that is being made. Providing access to the island’s natural attractions, especially to the young, aids in the development of ecological consciousness on which the lasting survival of the Sint Eustatius National Parks ultimately depends.

Sea Turtle Conservation Volunteer Programme

The sea turtle conservation programme has now been running for over 18 years. Monitoring patrols for nesting turtles on Zeelandia Beach started in 2002 and increased in 2003 with a greater number of patrols due to the onset of the WorkingAbroad Volunteer programme. It was with great excitement that the first leatherback turtle was observed nesting on 17th April 2003, and a number of additional leatherbacks nested on Zeelandia during the year.

Today, the Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme Co-ordinator along with the Project Intern coordinates the monitoring patrols during the nesting season. Volunteers are expected to take part in these patrols when they are scheduled. Volunteers should also expect that many nights the beach will be patrolled without a sighting of a nesting female. Our presence on the beach should actually be seen as safeguarding. Our role is the protection of the eggs until the hatchlings make it safely to the surf.  Volunteers make the sea turtle programme possible as the programme does not have the amount of staff in order to carry out the necessary patrols.

Statia Conservation Volunteer Project, St. Eustatius, Caribbean

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