Intern Opportunity at The Center for Whale Research, San Juan Island, Washington

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

The Center for Whale Research (CWR), a small, non-profit organization, is pleased to announce our internship program for 2011.

(Photo by Katie Jones)

Who We Are:
The mission of the Center for Whale Research is to develop, promote, and conduct benign studies of free-swimming Cetaceans (Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises) for the purpose of conserving their populations and informing governments and the public of their ecosystem needs. Our emphasis is on non-invasive research methodologies such as passive acoustic monitoring and photo-identification.

What We Do:

Graduate Student Emma Foster Video Recorded the Orcas as They Swam Past the Center for Whale Research

Although the Center for Whale Research is involved with various research projects, our central project is the Orca Survey, now in its 35th year. Orca Survey is a photo-identification study of the killer whales (Orcinus orca) that reside in the inland marine waters of Washington state and southern British Columbia. The focus of the project is a group known as the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Both the U.S. and Canada have now designated this population as endangered, and our primary objective is to determine population size and trends each year. However, our long-term studies have also provided the bulk of the natural history information on killer whales – including growth rates, social organization, spatial distribution, and prey preference. Orca Survey is a model study that illustrates the depth of information that can be learned through patient observation, and we hope that our work will continue for many more years to come.

Why Intern?
Our internship is a great way for interested students to discover what a life of marine mammal research is really about. This field is highly competitive and an experience like this is essential for future career opportunities. However, marine mammal work is not as glamorous as many believe it is. Candidates need to be realistic about ALL aspects of this field and be willing to work hard and live in a rustic, communal setting. An internship at CWR is a great way to gain needed experience, as well as to meet and network with people in this profession that come from a variety of backgrounds.

The Internship:
Interns will be expected to participate in all aspects of the Orca Survey project, as well as the day-to day operations of the Center. This includes, but is not limited to: data entry, fund-raising efforts, standing early morning watches, gardening, meal-preparation, basic housekeeping, and other office tasks. Also, a significant component of the internship will be to help create and implement community outreach and education projects. There will be opportunities to strengthen your skills in the areas of photography, photo-identification, and a variety of computer software applications, but these are just pieces of what we do at CWR.

Visiting Student Basil von Ah

The best part of this internship will, undoubtedly, be the opportunity to observe and experience wild killer whales. As an intern, you will occasionally be able to accompany our staff out on the water in order to conduct photographic surveys. During these encounters, you will be tasked with making behavioral observations and recording accurate field data. It will not be possible for interns to participate in every encounter due to vessel capacity restrictions, but given weather, and other restrictions, we will accommodate interns as best we can. We want to emphasize, however, that the majority of the work to be done will not directly involve killer whales. Applicants should see this internship as an opportunity to learn about what CWR does and gain experience in all aspects of both fieldwork and operating a non-profit. You will have some time off to recreate and enjoy the beautiful San Juan Islands but keep in mind that an internship with CWR is not intended to be a vacation.

Internship positions will be offered in monthly sessions from May-September 2011. The beginning and end dates for each session will tentatively coincide with the start and end of each month. There is availability for two interns each month and the fee for the program is $900/month. This includes accommodations and all meals, and contributes to the requisite staffing needs, utilities, fuel costs, and other incidentals involved with your stay. Applicants are welcome to apply for any month, or combination of months within the internship period, but may only be selected for a portion of their proposed stay. One month minimum is required.

The Center for Whale Research (Courtesy OrcaHome

As mentioned already, living at the Center means being willing to live in shared, rustic accommodations and participate in a communal environment. Amenities like toilets, shower, laundry, electricity, and kitchen facilities are available at the Center for everyone’s use, but interns may or may not have some or all of these conveniences where they sleep.

Applicants must be 18 years of age and have a strong desire to work with killer whales or other cetaceans. You must be physically fit (able to lift 50lbs), able to swim, and not easily susceptible to seasickness. Be prepared to spend time aboard a small (19-25ft.) vessel in unpredictable weather and sea conditions.

Preferred candidates will have earned an undergraduate degree in a relevant field of study, with greater preference being given to those students already involved in a graduate program. However, current undergraduates that show exceptional dedication to their studies will certainly be considered.

Daylight lasts quite long in the San Juan Islands during the summer months and, consequently, work can begin very early (05:00) and continue well into the evening (23:00). Interns must be willing to work hard, keep up their energy, and maintain a positive attitude throughout. Successful applicants will be able to tolerate a constantly changing schedule, as life at the Center revolves around the whales, and possess superior “people skills.” Interns will be required to engage the public and work well with the different ethnicities and personalities that the Center attracts. A sense of humor is mandatory.

The Center’s Location (Courtesy Orca Home

International applicants are responsible for obtaining their own travel visas and all candidates must be willing to sign a waiver of liability and disclose pertinent medical histories.

How to Apply:
Please send cover letter, resume/CV, contact information for three references, and unofficial transcripts to Your cover letter should explain both your interest in the program, and the qualities that set you apart from other candidates. Also be sure to include what month(s) you prefer, how long you can stay, and if there are alternate months you would consider. While not required, letter(s) of reference would be highly desirable. When emailing application materials, enter “2011 CWR Internship” as the subject heading. Applications without this subject heading may be lost or overlooked. We look forward to hearing from you.

Application Deadline: February 14, 2011 (we will aim to have decisions made by March 1, 2011)

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share

Leave a Reply