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Volunteer field assistant opportunity during the southern right whale season in South Africa

This PhD project aims to obtain baseline information on fine-scale movement, individual behaviour and habitat use of cetaceans in the Greater Dyer Island area, Western Cape, South Africa. The main techniques used are theodolite tracking, passive acoustic monitoring and photo-id of the cetaceans. The focus species are; Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis), Indo Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis), Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), Bryde's whales (Balaenoptera brydei) and Indo Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus).

The PhD project is run under the auspices of the Mammal Research Institute (MRI) of University of Pretoria.

WHERE: Kleinbaai, Western Cape, South Africa

WHEN: During the main season of the southern right whale from the 1st of August until end of December 2013

You will primarily be part of the theodolite tracking team. Surveys are conducted using a Total station and binoculars. Surveys are conducted from observation towers along the coastline. You will assist with the data recording, scanning the area using binoculars and entering data in the evenings or during bad weather days.

As a volunteer you will also participate in sound analysis, from passive acoustic listening stations.

Fieldwork is weather dependent and can vary between weekdays and weekends. You need to be available full-time, including weekends and be prepared to work long hours with early starts. On theodolite tracking days the team will leave before sunrise and return after sunset - spending the whole day tracking.

Fieldwork is intense and demanding, but very rewarding. You will obtain hands-on field experience and knowledge in environmental and behavioural data collection of cetaceans, as well as photo-identification techniques.

Max. 3 volunteers will be accepted at the time.

EXPECTATIONS, volunteers are expected to:
  • Be reliable, adaptable, hard working and patient as fieldwork is highly weather dependent. This means office-based work during bad weather and long consecutive days in the field when weather permits.
  • NOT be afraid of heights. Some of the tracking will be done from the top of a water tower and getting there involves secured climbing on high open ladders.
  • Physically in good shape.
  • Have excellent eyesight.
  • Be prepared to work long days with start before sunrise and after sunset.
  • Be sociable, enthusiastic and have a positive attitude.
  • Participate for minimum 1 month.
  • Upper level undergrads and graduate students who have interest and background in Biology, Marine Biology, Ecology, Zoology or related field - is preferred.
  • Basic computer proficiency in Microsoft Office (especially Excel and Access).
  • Previous experience in survey techniques, sound analysis - especially in marine mammal research is preferred but not required.
  • Participants must be able to live and work well within a team for extended periods of time.
Due to the training required, applicants should be available for a minimum of 1 month.

Volunteers are expected to cover their own living expenses, including flight costs. Help will be provided to find accommodation in Kleinbaai. Expected accommodation cost is between ZAR 3000 per month. Food and other personal expenses can be kept between ZAR 2000-3000 a month. Pick-up and drop-off from Cape Town can be arranged for ZAR 175 per trip.

Interested volunteers should email the following before the 1st of July 2013.
  • Letter of interest outlining relevant experience and motivation for participation
  • CV
  • Duration of stay (expected start and end date)

Click here to apply to: Katja Vinding Petersen (PhD student)

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