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Animal Behavior Society
Animal Behavior Society

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Shark Bay Dolphin Project Field Assistants
Field Assistants
Posted Apr 18
The Shark Bay Dolphin Project (SBDP) is seeking several dedicated research assistants for the upcoming fall field season (late July or early August through mid-December, 2019) in Monkey Mia, Shark Bay, Western Australia. The SBDP is a long-term research project run by Professor Janet Mann of Georgetown University, and is one of the longest running marine mammal research projects in the world. The SBDP has been collecting behavioral, life-history, ecological, and genetic data on Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins since the mid 1980s. This field season is part of an ongoing PhD project studying the costs of reproduction to female dolphins in the face of allied sexual harassment and coercion, as well as the behavioral strategies females use to mitigate these costs.
Field work is demanding and requires long hours both on and off the water, but spending time with the dolphins is incredibly fun and rewarding. Field assistants will gain valuable research experience and may have the opportunity to contribute to co-authored publications. We particularly encourage those interested in pursuing graduate school in behavioral ecology or marine mammalogy to apply.

~5 months

Field site:
Monkey Mia, Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Monkey Mia is approximately 900km north of Perth and is part of the largest World Heritage site in Western Australia. Our field site is beautiful, and includes incredible wildlife such as sharks, rays, turtles, dugongs, whales, and of course, resident bottlenose dolphins. Monkey Mia is remote, but we do have amenities including electricity and running water, reliable cell phone service, and limited internet. Housing will be provided, and the research team will share cooking responsibilities in a communal kitchen.

Job responsibilities:
Research assistants will help collect extensive behavioral data from the boat, including surveys and 3-hour focal follows on individual dolphins. Boat work is dependent on weather, but even on windy days we need to be ready to pack up and quickly get out on the water if the wind drops. Days on the water can be consecutive, long, and tiring in variable environmental conditions. This season, we will also be conducting opportunistic genetic biopsy sampling, and we may use drones to collect video footage of the dolphins. Days on land require extensive, and tedious, data entry and processing.
Most of your time will be spent:
-Searching for and spotting dolphins
-Photographing dolphins
-Driving the boat
-Scribing data during surveys and focals
-Entering dolphin sightings and environmental data into the computer
-Doing basic maintenance and equipment prep and cleaning

The ideal candidate will be a recent graduate with a science background and a genuine interest in marine mammal science and behavior. This position is well suited for recent graduates of marine biology, animal behavior, zoology, ecology, genetics, or similar fields looking to gain additional analytical and in-field experience. Applicants must be able to work closely with a small team (3-4 people). We not only work together, but also live, cook, and eat together, so being mature and a strong team player is critical.
The candidate must:
-Possess basic computer skills
-Be detail oriented, flexible, and patient
-Possess excellent verbal and communication skills
-Work well both independently and in a team
-Be fluent in English
-Have prior research experience (preferably fieldwork)
-Be comfortable on a boat
-Be prepared to work long, consecutive days, including weekends
The most essential qualifications are that you are flexible, conscientious, and hard-working, and are excited about the research.
This is an unpaid, volunteer position. However, all travel and living expenses (flights, visas, housing and food) will be fully covered by the project. If you have any student loans, or other moderate monthly expenses, that could prevent you from accepting this position, please apply anyway. If you are selected we may be able to use other sources of funding to cover those expenses so that you can take the job. We particularly want to encourage candidates from groups that are underrepresented in STEM fields to apply.

If interested please email Molly McEntee at with the subject line Research Assistant Last_Name. Application review will begin in early May, and candidates will be evaluated until the position is filled.

In the email, please include:
1.     A cover letter describing your research interests, the skills and strengths that you will bring to the position, and what you hope to gain from the project and apply to your career. Please list the full range of your skills, both practical (boat handling, photography, etc.) and academic (statistics, computer programming, etc.).
2.     CV
3.     A copy of your unofficial transcript
4.    Email contacts for 2 references