Research Assistants Required for 2014
The Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Foundation (SDWF) is seeking research
assistants to conduct boat- and office-based bottlenose dolphin research
June-September 2014 in Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland. For more information
about the SDWF see www.shannondolphins.ie
The SDWF is a registered charity dedicated to the conservation and research
of dolphins and wildlife in the Shannon Estuary with offices based in the
Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Centre, an interpretive centre open to the
public and used to promote educational awareness of the dolphins and
wildlife in the Shannon region. The SDWF was established by Dr Simon Berrow
in 2000 following pilot work carried out by the Irish Whale and Dolphin
Group (IWDG) from 1993. The SDWF has a strong research background and has
collaborated with a number of Irish and international research groups.
Long-term monitoring of the bottlenose dolphin population in the Shannon
has been carried out using photo-id since 1993 and static acoustics since
2001. The Shannon River estuary is presently the only candidate Special
Area of Conservation (SAC) for bottlenose dolphins in Ireland and is home
to a resident population of dolphins living year-round in the estuary.
The SDWF is seeking voluntary research assistants for the 2014 field season
to carry out dolphin research and education. Research assistants will be
required to conduct monitoring surveys from dolphin-watching tour boats,
spend a considerable amount of time on bottlenose dolphin
photo-identification and related office tasks, and assist in the management
of the dolphin centre on a daily basis. Photo-id training will be provided
on the boats and in the office.
A subset of research assistants will also assist with a PhD project on
bottlenose dolphin social and foraging behaviour on board the IWDG Muc
Mhara* when weather conditions allow for fieldwork. This research will consist of
boat-based photo-ID and behavioural observations of bottlenose dolphins in
the Shannon Estuary and presents an opportunity to gain experience in field
techniques for small cetacean research, while contributing to a project
with a strong scientific aim and a high conservation value.
There may also be opportunities for assistants to help with research
conducted on board the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's RV *Celtic Mist* and
to assist the IWDG with cetacean strandings should the opportunity arise.
These positions provide an excellent opportunity to develop skills in
cetacean research and education and to assist with one of the
longest-running bottlenose dolphin population monitoring programs in the
1 June 2014 - 28 September 2014
We are seeking skilled research assistants to commence on 1 June 2014.
Research assistants are required full-time for four months, finishing 28
September 2014. Because of the training required, preference will be given
to applicants who can commit to three or four months. However, those
available for a shorter period of time will also be considered.
Research assistants will be based in Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland, a small
town located in west Clare on the northern shore of the Shannon Estuary.
The Shannon Dolphin and Wildlife Centre is located less than 10 minutes'
walk from the town centre. West Clare is a beautiful place to work, but
applicants are asked to be aware that it is also somewhat geographically
isolated with limited facilities and variable weather patterns.
1. Conducting monitoring surveys from two dolphin-watching tour boats
operating in the Shannon Estuary, collecting photo-id data and recording
data on tour boat encounters with dolphin groups. Surveys involve one to
four daily boat trips and are weather dependent - i.e. many days in a row
if weather is good.
2. Photo-identification and database entry in the office, including fin
identification, fin-matching, photo processing, sighting data entry and
maintenance of our long-term photo-id catalogue. Research assistants should
be prepared to work long days in the office entering data and analysing and
organising photographs, including working with historic archived
photographs and related data.
3. Dolphin centre duties, including general administrative tasks, receiving
visitors to the dolphin centre, engaging with and educating members of the
public, managing merchandise, updating websites and supporting and
promoting SDWF, and raising awareness and membership participation. Also,
general maintenance of research equipment and facilities.
4. PhD research assistance
(1) Field duties include conducting surveys and focal follows of bottlenose
dolphins in the Shannon Estuary. Searching for and spotting dolphins,
taking photos, recording video, making and recording field observations,
photo-identification, driving the boat, equipment cleaning and basic
maintenance, data entry. Expect early starts, cold weather, up to 12 hours
on the water for multiple consecutive days, and up to a week between days
(2) Office duties include photo-identification and database entry, including
fin identification, fin-matching, photo processing, sighting data entry and
maintenance of our long-term photo-id catalogue. Computer programs used for
data are: FinBase, IMatch, Microsoft Access, Excel and Word.
As boat-based research is highly weather dependent, it can vary between
weekdays and weekends. Assistants need to be available full-time including
weekends and be prepared to work long, consecutive days, in the office
during bad weather and in the field during good weather. Research
assistants should be prepared to spend weeks at a time in the office when
the weather is bad and many consecutive days on the boat when the weather
All volunteers will be given training in boat-based work and office tasks
including observation and photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins,
photo processing and database entry.
- Genuine interest in marine mammal biology, the marine environment and
- Basic computer proficiency in MS Office
- Previous photo-identification experience or a strong desire to learn
- Excellent verbal and communication skills
- Enthusiastic with a positive attitude to hard work and long hours
- Sociable and team-oriented with the ability to get on well with others
in a small team (3-4 people)
- Work well both in a team and independently
- A detail-oriented work ethic with an ability to work in a meticulous
- Conscientious, reliable, hard-working, and self-motivated
- Flexible and patient as fieldwork is highly weather dependent
- Prepared to work long days in the field or office
- Comfortable working on boats
- No history of debilitating seasickness
- Good English language skills
- Must be 18 years or older
Preferred but not essential
- Enrolled in or completed a degree in Biology, Marine Biology,
Environmental Science, Animal Behaviour, Ecology, Zoology or related fields
- Previous field research experience, especially in marine mammal research
- Prior experience working on boats
- A strong interest and knowledge of bottlenose dolphins and/or Irish
- Experience in interacting with the public
- Familiarity with DSLR cameras and GPS equipment and software
- Prior experience with MS Access and IMatch
- Driving Licence (and possibility to bring your own car)
- Possibility to bring your own laptop for data entry
Research assistants will be based in Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland and will
be expected to work and live as part of a team with shared cooking and
cleaning duties. Unfortunately, there is no monetary compensation for these
positions and a contribution towards accommodation and utilities is
required. Accommodation is in a shared house within walking distance of the
dolphin centre and town of Kilrush. Research assistants are responsible for
their own food costs and travel expenses to and from Kilrush, Ireland.
To apply, please send your CV (including two relevant referees and their
contact information) and a covering letter with a brief description of
yourself and what you hope to gain from this experience, details of why you
would like to work on this specific project and any relevant experience you
have to Isabel Baker (shannondolphins at gmail.com) by 6 March 2014. Please
also specify the dates you expect to be able to join the project. Please
put "SDWF Research Assistant" in the subject line of your email.
6 March 2014
The closing date for applications is 6 March 2014. However, early
application is recommended. Shortlisted candidates will be required to
undertake a Skype interview in March
Photo ID catalogue
Conferences & Presentations