There is a surprising number of volunteer opportunities on Utila  with local research centers dedicated to the local flora and fauna. All are flexible with schedules to enable you to take diving courses  or Spanish lessons  during your stay as well.
One- to three-month stays as research assistants or environmental educators are available with the Bay Island Conservation Society (tel. 504/425-3260, www.bicautila.org , 8 a.m.–noon and 2–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri.). The visitors center, a 15-minute walk out of town, up Cola de Mico Road heading toward the airport, has pamphlets, maps, and books on Utila and the Bay Islands . The center is also the office of the Turtle Harbour Wildlife Refuge and Marine Reserve. A one-month program is $350, including accommodation, electricity, Internet, water, and laundry.
The Whale Shark & Oceanic Research Centre (tel. 504/425-3760, www.wsorc.com ) conducts whale shark monitoring and research year-round, and works to raise public awareness about marine conservation. They offer four-hour whale shark encounter trips for US$44 that include the snorkel equipment, reef tax, and a short lecture on whale shark ecology. There are also a number of one-day PADI specialty courses such as Whale Shark Awareness and Underwater Naturalist available. For those interested in getting more involved, research volunteers are welcome, as are those interested in fundraising or public education.
The Iguana Research and Breeding Station (www.utila-iguana.de , 2–5 p.m. Mon., Wed., and Fri., US$2) makes for an interesting expedition to watch the prehistoric-looking and surprisingly large iguanas feed and wander around. The station has several species of swamp iguana, Ctemosaura baberi, found only in the mangrove swamps of Utila  and in danger of extinction due to overhunting and the cutting of the mangroves. The volunteers are extremely knowledgeable. They offer a few guided tours on the island, such as an “iron-bound tour” through tropical forest to volcanic-rock formations on north shore, US$8 per person. Call or email in advance to arrange a tour.
The Utila Centre for Marine Ecology (tel. 504/425-3026, www.utilaecology.org ) has six principle areas of research: megafauna (dolphins, orcas, and whale sharks), reef fisheries, coral reef ecology, mangrove systems, seagrass ecology, and island ecology. UCME frequently works with students completing research for undergraduate and post-grad theses. Volunteer stays start at US$1,025 for two weeks and go up to US$3,250 for eight weeks. Volunteers must have PADI Advanced Open Water certification, but specialty research diver training is included in the volunteer program.