Marine Conservation and Reef Research in Queensland

Experience the beauty of Townsville and Magnetic Island in Tropical North Queensland on this 2-week, hands-on Marine Conservation program.

Program Overview

Get ready to help implement innovative solutions to environmental challenges facing tropical marine ecosystems and the people who love and depend upon them! CISaustralia has partnered with a local organisation that brings 40 years of experience at the leading edge of coral reef science, management and policy to secure a more sustainable future in coral reef regions all over the world.

United by their love of coral reefs and a belief that the decisions and actions we all take can make a meaningful difference to the future of coral reefs, this organisation works with individuals, enterprises, governments and NGOs to improve the outlook for coral reefs and communities to create a better planet for all.

Project Details:

  • Program Activities: Reef monitoring and survey techniques, reef restoration, field research, marine species identification, data processing and analysis, report writing, communication
  • Project Availability: Fixed program dates each year – see the program fees and dates tab (below) or contact CISaustralia for upcoming availability. Customised group dates may be available on request – please consult with CISaustralia
  • Project Duration: 2 weeks
  • Working Days: Monday-Friday
  • Location: Townsville, Queensland with excursion included to Magnetic Island
  • Support: 24-hour support from Project Leaders
  • A valid Police Check or Working With Children Check is required
  • Minimum Age: 18+
  • Language: English


  • Work on real solutions to environmental challenges for a more sustainable future.
  • Gain practical insight into what Marine Scientists are doing to help create a better planet.
  • Get hands-on experience with reef monitoring and restoration.
  • Visit John Brewer Reef and the world-famous Museum of Underwater Art.
  • Excursion to Magnetic Island with opportunity to snorkel.
  • Immerse in a meaningful experiential service learning experience.
  • Explore the beauty in and around Townsville with easy access to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Meet people from all over Australia and possibly the world while expanding your horizons.
  • This volunteer experience is a natural stepping stone to an overseas program that offers a range of additional diverse cultural, environmental, sociological, marine and wildlife scenarios. Students who enjoy this program will naturally progress to the Marine Conservation in the Philippines and Marine Conservation in Belize programs, or another one of our conservation focused Volunteer Abroad Programs. Contact CISaustralia for more information.

Sample Itinerary

Please note that this itinerary is a sample only and subject to change due to circumstances out of anyone’s control (most commonly the weather). The onsite team will be flexible and adaptive and deliver the program and content to the best of their ability. All activities are guided by risk assessments that determine thresholds for wind speed. Fieldwork does not proceed in winds greater than 15knots and is also dependent on the wind direction as some bays are protected and others are not. 

Note: This is not a scuba diving program. Snorkelling is included as per the itinerary.


  • Arrival and check into accommodation


  • Morning – Orientation and project induction. Introduction to Marine Science: Overview of Marine Science from a real-world perspective. What do Marine Scientists do?
  • Afternoon – Reef Monitoring: Introduction to different citizen science methods and techniques


  • Morning – Communicating Science: How to write a media release. How to make a ‘story-telling’ article or film
  • Afternoon – Reef Monitoring: Presentations + theory of reef monitoring for specific use during upcoming fieldwork


  • Excursion to Magnetic Island – Practice of reef monitoring methods and techniques; Snorkelling (weather conditions permitting)


  • Day trip to John Brewer Reef and the world-famous Museum of Underwater Art; Undertake citizen science activities while at the reef (weather dependent)


  • Morning – Data Management: Processing and entry of data to various websites/databases
  • Afternoon – Field Activity: Marine Debris Clean Up at a nearby local beach


  • Free weekend


  • Morning – Reef Restoration: Introduction to reef resilience and restoration techniques
  • Afternoon – Workshop: Practical application of a selection of reef restoration techniques, including preparing equipment for coral nurseries and practicing different active restoration techniques


  • How to Run a Workshop – Discuss successful workshop preparation and delivery; Volunteers to prepare and deliver a mock workshop


  • Excursion to Magnetic Island – Continued water practice of reef monitoring methods and techniques; Snorkelling (weather conditions permitting)


  • Morning – Communications: Write a communications piece to share your story; Collect video footage and prepare a short film
  • Afternoon – Field Activity: Trip to The Strand and the Museum of Underwater Art Installation – Ocean Siren; Discussion on climate change and solutions workshop


  • Program conclusion and feedback


  • Check out of accommodation and program departure

Note: As with any experiential service learning experience it is important to remember that things don’t always go to plan. During your placement, we ask that you remain patient, flexible and use initiative while volunteering.

The Volunteer's Role

This program has been developed and designed to give volunteers an immersive experiential service learning experience. During the program you may have the opportunity to learn about and work on the following activities:

  • Introduction to marine science, environmental sustainability and collaboration
  • Focus on: 
    • Knowledge (about people, sustainability, reef, restoration, research, risk assessment, communication)
    • Field Research
    • Communication
  • Reef Monitoring – Introduction to Reef Check Australia and Eye on the Reef monitoring programs  
  • Field based practical implementation of reef survey techniques 
  • Marine species identification and interactive learning 
  • Data entry and processing + data analysis and report writing 
  • Inspirational reef project excursion (Reef HQ; Museum of Tropical QLD; Aust. Institute of Marine Science or Museum of Underwater Art) 
  • Reef resilience and restoration techniques


An excursion to Magnetic Island is included in your program. The trip will take place during week 1 of your program and if weather permits a second visit may take place. Transport to the island is via ferry from Townsville (return) and is included in your program. The ferry takes approximately 20-35 minutes.

Magnetic Island is 8km offshore from Townsville. Palm-fringed beaches, koalas, hiking trails and snorkelling are just a few of the things you’ll find on Magnetic Island. The island is home to a thriving community of more than 2,500 people, as well as backpacker hostels, luxury resorts and quaint bed and breakfasts. Magnetic Island’s relaxed tropical lifestyle and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef make it a wonderful place to relax and unwind. Check out this Guide to Magnetic Island to assist you with preparing for the excursion.

There are many other activities, attractions and things to do in and around Townsville that volunteers can choose to do on their own (at own expense) outside of project hours. Take a look at the North Queensland Tourism website for ideas and suggestions.


This program is based in the city of Townsville on the northeastern coast of Queensland. Townsville is Australia’s largest urban centre north of the Sunshine Coast with a population of around 181,000. Considered the unofficial capital of North Queensland by locals, Townsville hosts a significant number of governmental, community and major business administrative offices for the northern half of the state. It is located in the dry tropics region of Queensland, adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef. The city is also a major industrial centre, home to one of the world’s largest zinc refineries, a nickel refinery and many other similar activities. The Port of Townsville is also being expanded to allow much larger cargo ships from Asia and the world’s largest passenger ships to visit. It is an increasingly important port due to its proximity to Asia and major trading partners such as China.


Accommodation is included for the duration of this program (13 nights) at a backpackers hostel. Students will share bunk rooms (single beds) in a safe, clean and comfortable location. Note that accommodation could be mixed gender and could be shared with others not on the program. We always try for standalone rooms for program participants, however this cannot be guaranteed.

Students are responsible for their own meals and any associated costs. A communal kitchen is available for use at the backpackers.

Program Fee & Dates

This program is available on fixed program dates for 2 weeks. There is a minimum of 4 and maximum of 15 participants for this program. Application deadline is 30 days prior to commencement. Places are limited. Please enquire for upcoming availability.
Program Fee A$ 3,199 - 4,999


Program fees include the following:
  • Volunteer placement and supervision
  • CISaustralia support services before, during and after the program
  • Academic advising
  • Financial advice
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • Pre-departure guide and session
  • On-site orientation and project induction
  • Accommodation – shared room (single bed) at backpackers hostel
  • Program activities
  • Magnetic Island excursion (including return ferry from Townsville) and equipment hire
  • On-site support – Project Leaders
  • CISaustralia Certificate of Participation (available on request)

What is not included:

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers
  • Medical insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Police or Working With Children Check
  • Meals
  • Extra travel/excursions (other than those mentioned above)

Dates are for reference only and are subject to change. Please do not book flights until you have received the dates in your acceptance paperwork and you are confirmed on the program.

CISaustralia reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to fee changes made by our partners.

Adventure Awaits

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