There are many armchair marine conservation and marine biologists out there; folks who cruise the Internet or read books to gain knowledge but don't have the time, inclination, or finances to get a formal degree. And that can be a fine approach - one shouldn't complain too much about enlightenment, whether it's formal or self-acquired - but, as "self-schooled," one could be subject to interpretation and misconception. A little structure can go a long way, particularly for young students impressionable and open for knowledge.
In Southeast Asia, the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre (TRACC) offers an interesting opportunity to get a structured introduction to marine conservation while at the same time enjoying the dive destinations of places like Borneo, Sipadan, and Malaysia. TRACC works with local resorts in putting together study & dive packages ranging from a concentrated 6-day course to a more lengthy 12-week course of study.
As a non-profit organization, TRACC is involved in coral reef and shark conservation and engages divers in volunteering to help support their research projects. The tie-in with dive resorts surely provides the group with some financial benefit while at the same time offering a method to alert divers to the issues threatening the biodiversity of these tropical regions.
However, I was a bit concerned as to the validity of the course, so I dug a bit deeper. The six-day diver course is TRACC's own invention and, while not formally accredited by any major educational institution, it is a clever value-added bonus to any diver seeking to get the most out of their dive experience.
The 12-week course is based on a curriculum offered through Cambridge University. TRACC's Marine Science A Level program, as it is called, follows a specific Cambridge syllabus and final examinations are offered by Cambridge to receive your full recognition for completing the course. The study course was designed primarily for young, college-level students and many colleges offer school credit for having completed the course. But it also offers benefits for older inquisitive minds or those contemplating a career in marine industries.
"TRACC is offering an internationally recognised marine science advanced (“A”) level from Cambridge Examination Board as a way to gain a useful qualification during a gap year or a volunteer programme (shorter alternatives are the 6 day courses). The advanced level Marine Science Course is for mature students who want to learn more, for students who want to study Marine Biology or Environmental Science at a university, or students who want to follow a career in shipping, fisheries, tourism or aquaculture," TRACC's website explains.
There are other marine conservation organizations that offer volunteer research opportunities that can provide a terrific learning experience. By coupling with a major educational institution like Cambridge University, TRACC is offering a more formal course of study that will hopefully educate Malaysian divers and students to the importance of preserving their natural resources and biodiversity while also providing a rewarding experience and point of personal recognition to international travelers as well.
You can learn more at the TRACC website.
Source: Cambridge University