[MARMAM] Seeking interns for dolphin field-work and quantitative analyses

Robert Rankin robertw.rankin at gmail.com
Sun Dec 4 19:05:46 PST 2016

Hello World!

We are excited to announce a mixed quantitative and field-based research
assistant position to study bottlenose dolphins in with Mandurah Dolphin
Research Project in Western Australia (WA). The position is open Jan
9th-Feb 28th 2017 and/or March 3rd-July 31st 2017.

The Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU) commenced a research
project in January 2016 aimed at gaining a solid understanding of the
bottlenose dolphins using the Peel-Harvey Estuary (part of Ramsar Wetlands)
and adjacent coastal waters. The overall aims of the project are to
characterize population size and structure, habitat use and genetic
connectivity of dolphins using the estuarine and coastal areas.

We seek a dedicated and independent research assistant (volunteer) to run
capture-recapture computer simulations and statistical analyses. The topics
are focused on practical problems of estimating abundance and demographic
processes from photo-ID data, modelled after the ongoing field studies
conducted by the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project. The simulations are
expected to inform the survey design and analytical methodology of the
overall Project, and may contribute to scientific publications. In addition
to quantitative work, the assistant is expected to participate in
boat-based dolphin surveys with a team of biologists and field assistants.
The position would suit either a statistics/computer science student
wanting to gain more field-based experience, or a natural science student
with strong coding skills.

The main duties include:
- Simulations: write computer scripts to simulate dolphin movement patterns
and capture-recapture data collection;
- Batch analyses: write R scripts to analyze simulation datasets;
- Data collection: spot dolphins, drive the boat, take photographs for
photo-identification, record data;
- Data processing: upload data, enter data, match fins, map sightings;
- Literature: read and review capture-recapture literature to inform
simulations and analyses;
- General: maintain the boat and car, clean equipment.

Applicants are expected to have the following traits and qualifications:
- can work independently;
- intermediate or advanced proficiency in R (or another scientific
computing language);
- have prior experience debugging complicated computer code;
- have the mathematical acumen to read, learn, discuss and implement basic
statistical analyses.
- have the mental and physical stamina to endure long days on a boat under
intense sunlight while collecting complex data according to a rigorous
- have a mixed background in biology, ecology, statistics, and computer
programming, including some combination of formal tertiary education
(B.Sc.) and relevant internships/jobs;
- additional preferred skills include boat handling, first aid, experience
in photo-ID, experience in population ecology analyses (but not necessary).

The position would suit a student who is interested in a career in
quantitative ecology. Supervision will be by two PhD students specializing
in different aspects of capture-recapture. Ambitious and competent
candidates may have the opportunity to pursue their own research interests,
e.g. for academic research credit, such as a B.Sc. Honours project.

 Data collection (photo-identification and biopsy sampling) will be
conducted in inland waters to up to 12nm offshore. Data collection is
weather dependent and research assistants are expected to be available full
time during day light hours throughout the time they commit to the project.

This is an unpaid position and assistants need to organise their own travel
to and from Mandurah, which is approximately 1 hr south of Perth in WA. The
office space will be in a research house where assistants are required to
rent a room for a cost of 150 AUD/week (inclusive of internet and bills) in
shared accommodation. And for your free time Mandurah has everything you
can think of a holiday town to offer (shops, cafes, bars, cinema, nature,
hikes, camping, surfing, diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking,
wildlife spotting, skydiving etc.) and cosmopolitan Perth is only an hour

To apply for this position please send me a cover sheet specifying why you
would like to assist in this project, how you meet the qualifications, the
time you are applying for, your CV and names and contact details of two
references to R.rankin at murdoch.edu.au.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Robert W Rankin & Krista Nicholson
PhD Candidates
Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit
Perth, Western Australia
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