Biosphere Expeditions uses two main standard research methodologies, one for terrestrial expedition (developed by Biosphere Expeditions) and one for diving expeditions (developed by Reef Check).

On some terrestrial expeditions, we use a standard cell-based methodology, developed by Biosphere Expeditions specifically for short-term volunteer expeditions. The methodology is explained in the manual below, alongside some explanatory videos. 

If this methodology is used on your expedition, it will say so in your expedition dossier. The more reading and understanding of the methodology you can do before your departure, the easier you will find it on expedition, so do please do some swotting up before you arrive.

pdf Methodology manual 1.22 Mb with full details of the methodology, its rationale and background information.

More videos on methods and equipment

Field guides/manuals and maps

pdf Field guide Malawi 9.57 Mb
Please print a copy for yourself and bring this on the expedition with you.

pdf General field guide Tien Shan 3.63 Mb
Please print a copy for yourself and bring this on the expedition with you.

pdf Butterfly field guide Tien Shan 4.08 Mb
pdf Plant field guide Tien Shan 6.17 Mb
It is optional for you to print and bring these two guides with you; they are for information only.

Maps Tien Shan
These are for your information, but you are welcome to print copies too if you are interested in having your own map. (Larger scale) maps for you to navigate with will be at base camp.


Reef Check is the methodology we will be using on the diving expeditions. Reef Check certification includes an intensive course for the first couple of days of the expedition with lessons on fish, invertebrate and substrate identification and exams at the end to make sure you can identify the various indicator species correctly. Reef Check’s rules are that you can only collect data once you have gone through the certification process. The more swotting up you can do beforehand, the easier you will find the course and exams. We therefore strongly recommend that you do some study before arriving on the expedition, so here are lots of course materials.


Reef Check teaching materials

Reef Check EcoDiver video with an introduction to the basic methodology and background information


pdf Reef Check Instruction Manual (version 2016) 5.70 Mb with full details of the Reef Check methodology the expedition will be following, its rationale and background information.

pdf Fish ID presentation 6.05 Mb

pdf Invertebrate ID presentation 5.05 Mb

pdf Substrate ID presentation 18.90 Mb


Supplementary teaching materials (by Biosphere Expeditions and others)

pdf Indo-Pacific fish indicator species 32.41 Mb  

pdf Indo-Pacific invertebrate indicator species, coral diseases, trash & impacts 23.65 Mb

pdf Indo-Pacific substrate 5.66 Mb

pdf Indo-Pacific indicator videos 100.83 Kb

Videos of Indo-Pacific Reef Check indicator species are provided by Biosphere Expeditions on a dedicated YouTube playlist as a teaching, training and self-check tool. If you have any comments or would like to add your own videos (both of which would be appreciated), please contact Biosphere Expeditions at [email protected]. Download the file above for a list with what the videos show and tips on how to record the species shown on your Reef Check survey. 


Indicator species virtual survey (useful online game)


Whale shark presentation I (for Maldives expedition)

Whale shark presentation II (for Maldives expedition)


Background information on coral reefs