Protecting Peru's Giant Manta Rays
Peru’s iconic giant manta rays face a variety of threats, such as fishery interactions and global climate change. To protect this vulnerable species, help researchers find answers to critical questions about their population dynamics and behavior.
The giant manta ray is the largest ray and one of the largest fishes in the world—it can grow up to 23 feet wingtip-to-wingtip and weigh up to 3,000 pounds. But little is known about the population dynamics of these rays in the waters off the Peruvian coast. Scientists need to observe manta rays in order to better understand what they need for survival. What are these mantas doing in Peruvian waters? Where are they feeding? Which habitats are critical for their survival? The answers to these questions will help to develop further protections for this species. And that’s where Earthwatch volunteers come in.
Join scientists and venture off the sandy beaches of Peru’s northern coast as you monitor this highly vulnerable species. Volunteers will have the chance to snorkel alongside these beautiful behemoths as they photograph individual mantas, document markers such as scars, take measurements, and assist scientists in collecting genetic samples. This information will help researchers to learn where and how manta rays migrate in order to better understand the connectivity that may exist between populations.
While at sea, volunteers will also document seabirds and marine megafauna—whale sharks, dolphins, humpback whales, and sea turtles—that can help to give scientists a more complete picture of the larger ecosystem that these giants are a part of. With your help, researchers will be able to develop recommendations to help reduce bycatch and to help fishermen promote low-impact, community-based tourism centered on manta ray watching.
A Typical Itinerary
- Day 1 Meet, travel to field site
- Days 2-6 Snorkel and monitor manta rays, collect plankton and genetic samples, survey marine megafauna, community engagement
- Day 7 Departure
HOW YOU WILL HELP
Snorkel and monitor manta rays
report sightings from a boat and swim alongside giant mantas while collecting underwater videos and photographs as well as identifying individual rays by assessing their unique markings.
Collect plankton and genetic samples
Set nets for plankton sampling, conduct plankton hauls, and help collect tissue samples from manta rays at sea.
Survey marine megafauna
While out at sea, collect sightings of other marine megafauna, including whale sharks, dolphins, whales, and sea turtles—sightings that will help scientists gain a more full picture of these marine ecosystems.
This project is strongly supported by our work with the local community, so volunteers will also participate in community activities, such as visiting local artisans and schools.
Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.
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