Volunteer Academic Credit. Unit: Marine Ecology

Cambodian marine waters have 64 small islands that are rich in fringing coral reefs. These reefs provide shelter and food for numerous marine species.

In addition to their biological significance they also support fisheries and provide coastal protection. Most people living along coastal waters earn their livelihood through the resources these waters provide.

Many of Cambodia’s fringing reefs are poorly researched and understood. Some of these, located within the zone of Cambodia’s first Marine Protected Area, are also surrounding islands which are designated for extensive tourism related coastal development. With the expected increase in tourism and development on the islands, the anthropogenic effects on the already stressed reef systems are likely to increase.

The surrounding coral reefs have been destroyed or severely degraded from human activities including dynamite fishing, bottom trawling, cyanide fishing, pressure from illegal Vietnamese fishers and anchor damage.

Currently the main conservation effort is deploying reef pods to help regenerate the reef, strengthening the claim for establishing greater marine protected areas. These pods provide a hard stratum for corals, sponges and other reef-building organisms to attach and grow. The design of these pods have been altered to include; coating the pods in sand, attaching tiles for flat surfaces for structural variety, attaching live coral (non-destructively) and weeding the pods of algae and seaweed to encourage coral and sponge colonization.

Unit Description

Students will receive field experience and be introduced to the many challenges of developing a Marine Protected Area. This will include;

  • Research into Cambodian reef systems and marine waters.
  • Community engagement - including working with local communities, education programs on conservation and implementing new fishing strategies.
  • Field experience – including experiment design, data collection, analysis and presentation.
  • Compliance with government legislation.
  • Implementation and observation of conservation strategies. This can include and is not limited to surveys on; sea horse, mangroves, fishing strategies and catch analysis, artificial reef pods - methods and success, water catchment, reef and beach beautification and waste management.

This unit can only be completed whilst on the Cambodia: Scuba Diving & Community Immersion Program.

Course Requirements

This course will involve theoretical and practical components to help students better understand the complexity in developing conservation strategies and establishing a marine protected area.

Theoretical – Pre course work and one written assignment – 20% of assessment

Practical – Field placement– 80% of assessment


Enrolment can occur once you have confirmed your place on the Cambodia: Scuba Diving & Community Immersion program. Email info@rovolunteers.com for details.

Cost and Completion

The practical component is to be completed on program and the written work submitted no later than 2 weeks after program completion. Cost of each unit is $1250 / £950. Course material will be supplied prior to program commencement.