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Coral Reef Research Internship

July 6 - August 3, 2024

(Accepting applications until April 30, 2024)

The Coral Reef Research internship is open to undergraduate students or recent graduates with a genuine interest in coral reefs and marine conservation and is limited to 12 interns. Interns will live and work at our facility and gain valuable research and field experience on some of the most well-developed and ecologically diverse reefs in the Caribbean.

During the 4 weeks spent on Roatan, interns will have the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the marine environment and enjoy the unique assemblage of marine environments that are easily accessible and awaiting exploration. Interns will interact with visiting faculty, and local staff experts as they investigate the diversity of Roatan's coral reefs through site visits to seagrass habitats, mangrove communities, lagoon & patch reef environments, and coral reefs in high/low energy systems.

Through lectures, field exercises, collaborative research activities, and independent research projects, participants will learn the flora and fauna of the local habitats and understand the different ecological processes within these communities. Interns will leave the internship with diving experience and research exposure that can be carried into their future careers.  Whether an intern is interested in coral reef ecosystems, or marine conservation, the summer internship provides a unique opportunity to understand the environment first hand while experiencing a new culture and island way of living.

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Course Structure & General Itinerary

The 4-week program is split into 3 components:


Week 1

The objective of the first week is to provide interns with the basics of coral reef ecology. Scientific diving will be a part of the program to enhancing the understanding of reef systems while developing diving skills needed to prepare them for the following three weeks of fieldwork.

During the first week interns will make several different habitat visits to explore the different shallow marine, coastal, and coral reef habitats. Interns will gain field practice in the identification of major Caribbean flora and fauna and be introduced to various reef monitoring methods currently used to assess coral cover and reef health. As interns familiarize themselves with the area they may develop hypotheses that can be tested in individual projects. In depth lectures and intern led article discussions will be presented on a variety of topics to provide a background for the upcoming fieldwork and research.


Week 2

During the 2nd week interns will gain practical field experience in existing research projects including coral reef monitoring, reef restoration and invasive species management. Interns will be organized into small groups to carry out field observations and data collection that will help guide and direct students in the development of their individual research projects. At the end of this week each intern will prepare and present their research proposal.


Weeks 3 & 4

During the final two weeks interns will develop and conduct a research project of their choosing. Projects may develop from the observations made during group exercises or from the research literature. Ideas will be evaluated in regards to feasibility and soundness of experimental design. In the final days of the course, data analysis will be carried out and interns will present their results in an oral presentation and research poster. Field journal & dive logs will be turned in for evaluation.


As an intern in our Coral Reef Research Program you will...

  1. Gain experience in the identifiation of Caribbean coral, fish, invertebrate and marine plants.

  2. Gain valuable field experience in the practice of reef monitoring and data collection that will contribute to our long-term database.

  3. Participate in scientific diving and develop and conduct independent research.

  4. Have opportunities to engage and educate others about important issues in marine conservation,

  5. SCUBA dive on the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world

  6. Help maintain our coral nursery and gain experience in reef restoration practices

  7. Participate in important invasive lionfish research, outreach and management.

  8. Have opportunities to work with local non-profit educational and environmental organizations.

  9. Meet and network with important figures in marine science, SCUBA diving, underwater photography, and conservation.

  10. Receive college credit, (if organized through your institution)

  11. Strengthen your resume for graduate school or future employment.

  12. Travel abroad and immerse yourself in a new culture.

  13. Live on a beautiful Caribbean island, where the coral reef is your backyard!

  14. Witness stunningly beautiful sunsets.

  15. Make life-long friendships with like-minded individuals.

15 Great Reasons to Apply for This Internship

Grading & Evaluation

Upon completion of this course, interns will receive a grade and written evaluation which will be based on the field ID exams, research article discussions, field journal and dive log, research proposal, data collection, oral presentation and research poster. Program participation, engagement in the classroom and the field, diving skills and safety, personal attitude, motivation and overall contribution to the course will also be noted. Interns WILL NOT receive academic credit through our facility. Any course credit must be arranged through the participant's institution.

Academic Credit

The Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences does not offer credit for the Internship Program.

If you are interested in earning academic credit for this program, you should research this option with your home institution to ensure that the internship at RIMS meets your institute's academic requirements.

The following points may be useful in obtaining credit:

  • Provide a copy of all relevant information related to this internship from the RIMS website to your department head, academic advisor, or study abroad office.

  • Open up a dialogue about the unique educational benefit this program offers. Then discuss the possibility of obtaining independent studies credit or undergraduate research experience (REU) credit.

  • Upon completion of the internship, the faculty and staff mentors at RIMS will provide a written evaluation and grade based on the criteria above. (See Grading & Evaluation)

  • Submit all completed documentation to your academic advisor, department head, or study abroad office at your home university.

Students can contact the RIMS Education Department ( for additional assistance.

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