Marine conversation trip in Cuba

For two weeks over the summer I was lucky enough to spend time in Cuba learning to dive and conducting research into marine biology, thanks to a bursary from OUS Cornwall.

I was working with international conservation organisation Operation Wallacea and spent most of the trip on Isla de la Juventud (the ‘Isle of Youth), off Cuba’s south coast. The research involved collecting and analysing data on benthic communities as well as looking at the ecology of lionfish - a problematic invasive species in the Caribbean.

The most enjoyable part of my trip was spending a few days aboard the Felipe Poey – living on board a boat, diving during the day and sleeping on deck at night was a surreal experience.

I also learnt how to dive and completed a week-long reef ecology course. It was nice to actually see what I’d learnt about the previous evening the next day whilst out diving.

Learning to dive was amazing as the water was unbelievably warm. However it was also the most challenging aspect of my trip as it’s a very weird experience when you first breathe underwater. It was also difficult to deal with the stifling heat.

The trip also gave me a chance to brush up on my Spanish – I had done it at GSCE but not a lot since, so my level was fairly poor. I did try to improve before I left but would definitely like to become more fluent in the future.

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Havana at either end of my expedition and experienced the pre-embargo cars and time capsule sense that the city has.

I found the whole experience interesting and immensely enjoyable and it further cemented my ambition to go into marine biology in the future.

I would like to thank OUS Cornwall for making this possible by awarding me a bursary which greatly helped fund my expedition.

Shamus Birch - 2nd year Biological Sciences student