[MARMAM] VOLUNTEERS NEEDED for land-based bottlenose dolphin project in Scotland (UK)

Enrico Pirotta pirotts at libero.it
Tue May 8 03:36:38 PDT 2012

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED for land-based bottlenose dolphin project in Scotland (UK)


I am looking for volunteers to take part in the collection of land-based data on dolphin and boat occurrence between the end of May/beginning of June and the middle of September 2012, near Cromarty (Scotland). The visual data from land will integrate the acoustic information collected by a C-POD deployed off South Sutors (at the entrance of the Cromarty Firth) to understand how echolocation processes (regular clicking and foraging buzzes) vary with the size of dolphin schools and whether the dolphins respond to boats differently for different school sizes. This study is part of my PhD project on the assessment of the population consequences of disturbance on bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth, Scotland.


Field work description


The land-based observations will be conducted from an elevated location on the shoreline (South Sutors, Cromarty) by two observers, each doing one three-hour shift per day. The volunteers will use visual scan sampling every 15 minutes to collect presence and location of boats and dolphins. If dolphins are sighted, additional two-minute scans will be performed. During these scans, the number of dolphins present, the school’s behavioural state, the location at the time of the scan and the location of all boats will be recorded. The data collected in the field will then be entered in a dedicate spreadsheet and sent to me weekly. The volunteers are also asked to briefly report to me every week on the progress of the data collection. I will be joining the team repeatedly during the summer for periods of 1-2 weeks. Observations will be limited to Beaufort <3, i.e. there will be days with no work or half a day’s work. Volunteers are thus expected to be flexible and work according to the weather, and days off will be taken opportunistically when the weather is bad.




South Sutors is a headland located within walking distance from Cromarty, a small town (approx. 700 people) along the coast of the Inner Moray Firth (Scotland), about 20 miles from Inverness. The Lighthouse Field Station of the University of Aberdeen is located here (http://www.abdn.ac.uk/lighthouse/), and Professor Paul Thompson and his team have been carrying out long-term studies on marine mammals and birds since the ‘80s. Researchers at the Lighthouse are an incredible source of knowledge and experience, but they are also busy with the data collection during the summer season. Applicants are thus expected to be completely independent and refer to me for any issue arising throughout the season.

Despite being an extremely beautiful and peaceful place, Cromarty is also very small, geographically isolated and with limited facilities. Weather is also very unstable in Scotland. Please be aware of this before applying.

Accommodation will consist of a private room with bathroom, and shared use of kitchen in Ardyne House, Cromarty (http://www.cromartyartstrust.org.uk/ardyne-house.asp). The house offers broadband internet access.




Unfortunately this is an unpaid volunteer position and you would have to cover your own travel expenses to, from and within Scotland, your accommodation, and your living expenses during the project. The price for the room at Ardyne house is set at £90 plus VAT (= £108 in total) per week.


Work period


End of May/beginning of June - 15th of September 2012 (but applications for shorter periods are considered).




-      Collect data on bottlenose dolphin behaviour and boat occurrence

-      Enter data in ms excel spreadsheets

-      Briefly report to me weekly




-      Background in Marine Biology preferable, but not necessary

-      Possibility to bring your own laptop for data entry

-      Ability to stand long working hours

-      Working knowledge of computers and MS Excel

-      Be hard-working and with good team skills

-      Be flexible and patient as fieldwork is highly weather dependent

-      Be independent, and ready to live in a remote place

-      Good English language skills


How to apply 


Please send CV and resume. The resume should include:

-      details of your availability – applicants that can commit for longer periods will be preferred, but applications for shorter periods (not shorter than 1 month) will also be considered

-      adherence to the listed requirements

-      a brief description of yourself, including what you hope to gain from this experience


Kindly email applications to:


Enrico Pirotta (PhD Student)

E-mail: enrico.pirotta at abdn.ac.uk

Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences

University of Aberdeen

Tillydrone Avenue

Aberdeen AB24 2TZ


Mobile: +44 7547026975

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