[MARMAM] LAND BASED MINKE WHALE TRACKING IN ICELAND - VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

Fredrik Christiansen f.christiansen at live.se
Thu Apr 4 03:04:12 PDT 2013



LAND BASED MINKE WHALE
TRACKING IN ICELAND - VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

 

I am looking for five volunteers to collect land
based data on minke whale movement and diving behaviour in Iceland between the end
of May (26th) and the end of August (31st) 2013. The
project is part of a larger study looking at the effects of whalewatching on
Minke whales in Iceland and the land based data constitutes the control (or
natural) behaviour data of this project. A land based station, a 27m high lighthouse, will be used as a platform
from which Minke whale movement and diving behaviour will be collected in the
absence of tourist boats, by using a theodolite and computer. 

 

FIELD WORK DESCRIPTION

Continuous focal
follows of individual Minke whales will be conducted from land. One person will
use a theodolite to measure the position of the Minke whale every time it
surfaces, as well as the orientation of the animal and any conspicuous surface
behaviours (e.g. feeding). A second person with binoculars will assist the
theodolite tracker and make sure that no surfacing is missed or that no other
Minke whales enter the study area which might confuse the theodolite tracker. A
third person will enter all the data into a computer in real time, together
with environmental data etc. Volunteers will rotate between these positions,
but if a person is really skilled with theodolite tracking they might be given
priority for tracking when weather conditions are particularly favourable. The work schedule for the lighthouse
will be between 06:00 and 18:00 (depending on the weather) and volunteers will
rotate on a two hours basis, rotating between theodolite tracking, binocular
tracking, computer entry and being off duty. Tourist will regularly come up to
the lighthouse and ask what you are working with, during which time you have to
be polite and informative. The major of Garður is keen on advertising our work
to locals and tourists, and you should assist him with this task as much as possible.
As in any cetacean work, there will be days when work will be very intense due
to favourable weather conditions, when you will be expected to work up to 10h
in the field. Other days will have bad weather and no work, or half a day’s
work or less, so you have to be flexible and work according to the weather.
When you are not working in the field there will be data entry work to do, as
well as everyday equipment cleaning work etc. You also need to help out with
everyday tasks of cooking, cleaning etc. 

 

LOCATION

The lighthouse and accommodation is located in Garður,
about 30km west of Reykjavik, north of Keflavik, and overlooks the southern
part of Faxaflói Bay. It’s a small town consisting of about 1400 people and
facilities are limited. There is a supermarket, swimming hall and a cafe. A few
times per day there is a free shuttle bus between Garður and Keflavik, which is
a slightly bigger city (8000 people). Accommodation will consist of a shared
house in Garður with bathroom and kitchen, provided by the municipality of
Garður. Volunteers need to live and cook together. The house will most likely
have internet connection. 

 

COSTS

Regarding costs, unfortunately this is an
unpaid volunteer position and you would have to cover your own travel expenses
to and from Iceland, your travel insurance (required!), as well as your food
expenses during the project. Accommodation will be provided for free by the
project.

 

QUALIFICATION

As theodolite tracking of Minke whales is
difficult and takes a long time to learn, priority will be given to people with
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE IN THEODOLITE TRACKING. If you have this sort of
experience, please specify in your application when and where you worked with
this, what species you were studying and what sort of data you collected (did
you collect positional data for every surfacing or just one fix per surfacing
bout?). How many hours of theodolite tracking (actively working with the theodolite)
do you have roughly? As the feasibility of this project is relying strongly on
assistants, the successful candidate will need to be able to STAY FOR THE
ENTIRE DURATION OF THE PROJECT. A departure in the middle of the project would
be very difficult to accommodate for, and therefore I wish you to really
consider your availability for this summer before you decide to apply for this
position.

 

Apart from setting up the project for the first
week, I will personally not be stationed in Garður or Iceland this summer due
to other commitments. For this reason, the successful candidates would have to
be GOOD AT WORKING INDEPENDENTLY and taking their own initiatives. My Icelandic
supervisor will be available in Iceland, but up in Húsavik, meaning that
smaller logistical tasks would have to be sorted out by the research team themselves.
Of course, any costs related to the research project would be paid by me.

 

The successful applicant will need to both work
and live together with people from different countries and backgrounds and
therefore needs to be a very tolerant and flexible person. During time periods
of bad weather, or periods when whales are not seen for a long time, you might
become very frustrated, but it’s important to remain polite and respectful in
all situations.

 

EXPECTATIONS

As I mentioned, when the weather is bad there won’t
be any field work, so those days can also be used to relax. As the field season
is relatively short (3 months) and bad weather will prevent work for roughly
half of these days, days off will not be scheduled, but rather taken
opportunistically during days when the weather is bad. Therefore you will need
to be stationed in Garður throughout these three months, so any plans to travel
around Iceland should be done prior to or after this project. As Garður is
small and geographically isolated, there isn’t much to do when you are not
working, so if you are a person that needs a lot of stimulation then this
project isn’t for you. There is a lot of beautiful nature around Garður to
where you can walk, and many species of birds for bird lovers or photographers.
Apart from Minke whales you can also sometimes see white beaked dolphins,
harbour porpoises, basking sharks and seals from the coast. But for time
periods when the weather is bad (sometimes for weeks) and there is no data
processing to be done, I recommend that you bring along books, movies etc or
whatever you like doing at your spare time basically. You should expect that
the weather will be bad roughly half of the time you are in Iceland and prevent
you from working. There will also be periods (sometimes weeks) when few or no
Minke whales are sighted. For those periods it is important not to give up, and
to keep working from the lighthouse, as the animals can return at any time.
This is a rather difficult project, but to observing this species without
disturbing it, and to see its natural behaviours is very rewarding. And even
though being difficult, we managed to get a lot of data from last three seasons,
showing that this project has great potential to be even better for 2013.

 

I hope this project description hasn’t scared
you off already, but I wanted to emphasize what the difficulties with this
project are and that I am looking for people that can handle this sort of work
and living conditions. This project will give you a great chance to work with an
amazing species in an amazing place, and you will be able to learn some skills
that are frequently practised in cetacean research and therefore really useful
to know for anyone that wants to pursue a career in this field. Also you will
have the opportunity to work with other like minded people from different
countries and local Icelanders.

 

WORK PERIOD:

The tracking project is planned between the 26th
of May and the 31st of August 2013. 

 

DAILY DUTIES:

-     
collect
Minke whale track data from land with theodolite

-     
enter
track data into computer in real time

-     
data
entry and processing

-     
equipment
cleaning and maintenance

-     
talk
and inform tourists and locals about the Minke whales and our work

 

QUALIFICATIONS: 

-     
background
in Marine biology/Oceanography preferable, but not necessary

-     
previous
wildlife field experience and ability to stand long working days

-     
previous
theodolite tracking skills

-     
working
knowledge of computers and MS Excel. Possibility to bring your own Laptop is
much preferred 

-     
be
hard-working, team oriented, able to share small living space

-     
be
adaptable, flexible and patient as fieldwork is highly weather dependent 

-     
good
English language skills

 

HOW TO APPLY: 

Send CV and resume. The resume should include
the following:

-     
details
of your availability (ONLY APPLICANTS THAT CAN COMMIT FOR THE ENTIRE DURATION
OF THE PROJECT WILL BE CONSIDERED)

-     
contact
details of two referees (no letters of recommendation needed)

-     
a
brief description of yourself including your interest in biology and what you
hope to gain from this experience

-     
any
previous experience in theodolite tracking

-     
any
dietary requirements (i.e. vegetarian, vegan, etc.)

 

Send applications to:

 

Fredrik Christiansen (PhD Student)

University of Aberdeen

Institute of Biological Sciences

Tillydrone Ave

Aberdeen AB24 2TZ

United Kingdom

E-mail:
f.christiansen at live.se

Mobile: +44 78 18725081

 		 	   		  
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