[MARMAM] Internship Announcement - Please Post

Danielle Storz danni at graywhalescount.org
Tue Oct 1 15:27:51 PDT 2013

RESEARCH ASSISTANT POSITION AVAILABLE - seeking volunteer Research Assistants for research on Gray whales migrating northbound through the nearshore of the Santa Barbara Channel.

Gray Whales Count (GWC) is seeking two Research Assistants (RA) to assist in the annual survey, conducted from shore at the Coal Oil Point Reserve, Goleta, California, adjacent to the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The 2014 survey begins February 10 and continues every day through May 18, from 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Sunday. We are looking for interested individuals who would be available to begin at the start of the survey and commit the entire length, fourteen weeks, of the 2014 Count.

GWC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for research and education. The primary goal of research is to estimate the number of Gray whales and Gray whale calves migrating northbound through our corridor and to share our data to complement similar sampling-studies along the California coast. A secondary goal is to document the variety and quantity of other marine mammals in the ocean area around our site, which is now a Marine Protected Area. We are able to monitor human activity, including interactions with marine mammals, including Gray whales.

Goals of education are to teach the process of scientific research to Counters and to give them the opportunity to conduct a meaningful study, to experience marine mammals in their natural environment, and to share this process and their enthusiasm with publics through direct interchange, outreach, and various media.

The Research Assistants will be trained by the Project Coordinator and, in-turn, share the responsibility of conducting research and education. Applicable skills learned and achieved include:

1.   Process, concepts, and protocols of the survey

2.   Ability to identify a multitude of marine mammal species from a distance, including but not limited to: Gray whales, Humpback whales, Bottlenose dolphins, Common dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Harbor seals, California Sea lions, Sea otters, etc.

3.   Identify behaviors of these marine mammals

4.   Distinguish calves from juveniles and adults  

5.   Identify vessels and vessel operations

6.  Detailed data entry

7.  Learn about marine mammals in their natural environment and the forces that affect them, both natural and anthropogenic

8.  Personnel (volunteer and staff) interaction

Because of the training required, applicants must be willing to commit full-time to the project for the time period involved (minimum of 14 weeks, which can be extended if the applicant desires to be involved with data entry and analysis). This will entail up to 8 - 9 hours of work a day for at least 5 days a week. The Count is 7 days per week and the RA may commit more time to the Count as desired. The more time you can put in, the more you will get out of your experience.

Priority will be given to those candidates with associative career goals and are able to participate for an extended period of time.

This is a unique opportunity to gain extensive experience in scientific fieldwork in an environment rich with diverse populations of marine mammals. You will work with equally diverse individuals who are caring, attentive, and curious. Gray whales are a sentinel species traveling from temperate lagoons in Mexico, along the dynamic California Current at the eastern edge of the North Pacific Ocean to the Arctic waters of northern Alaska in one of the longest marine mammal migrations. There are boundless avenues of exploration, and Gray Whales Count can begin your journey.


1.    Even though this is situated in Southern California, you must be able to withstand harsh weather conditions. Fieldwork can be physically and mentally demanding at times

2.     Willingness to work long hours.

3.     Experience with a camera and digital asset management a plus.

4.     Commit for a minimum of fourteen weeks, full time (minimum five days per week).

5.     Enrolled in or completed a degree in biology, marine science, zoology, environmental science, animal behavior or a related field.

6.    Previous field experience with marine wildlife and observation is highly recommended but not required to apply.

7.    Ability to work in a team environment. Cannot stress this enough. You will be trained to be a leader of an operation with people of differing experience and dedication.

8.   Be enthusiastic and possess a positive attitude and a desire to learn.

9.   Be adaptable and patient. The migration is characterized by pulses rather than a steady stream; and weather is the unknown factor: wind, rain, and fog can shut us down.

10.   We strive for a perfection that cannot be attained. We are forgiving and learn from experience. 

This is a volunteer position. The selected RAs will be responsible for his or her own transportation to and from Santa Barbara/Goleta, California. Recognizing that living costs are high in this area, Gray Whales Count will award a $500 stipend to assist with expenses upon successful completion of the RA position. The RAs will be responsible all for living expenses while volunteering for Gray Whales Count.

To apply: Please send a cover letter and resume to the Project Coordinator, Michael Smith at michael at graywhalescount.org.

We strongly recommend you look over our website: graywhalescount.org to familiarize yourself with our operation. In the cover letter, please address why you wish to participate with Gray Whales Count and what you hope to achieve in your experience.

There is no deadline to apply. The position will remain open until it is filled. Please consider applying early in order to arrange travel plans and to secure room and board.

Danielle Scott
Operations Manager

Gray Whales Count
nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation 
for research and education
1 Fellowship Circle   
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

(805)  698-9462   mobile            
danni at GrayWhalesCount.org

project-collaborators include: 
Cascadia Research Collective, Olympia, Washington
Journey North, Norwich, VT
NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla
Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab, SIO / UCSD, La Jolla
UCSB's Coal Oil Point Reserve, Goleta

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