Sarasota Dolphin Research Program
The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP), a partnership led by the Chicago Zoological Society and based at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, conducts the world’s longest-running study of a dolphin population. The program’s primary goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the structure and dynamics of populations of small cetaceans, as well as the natural and anthropogenic factors that impact them. The SDRP uses an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach in conducting studies of bottlenose dolphins within Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, and the Gulf of Mexico coastal waters. For more information about the SDRP, please visit: www.sarasotadolphin.org.
The SDRP is in the process of selecting volunteer interns for our Summer 2013 internship program (a minimum of 10 weeks of participation during 13 May – 27 September, with applications due by March 15th). Typically, we select 2-6 interns per session. We receive many more applications that we have openings – the selection process is competitive. The successful candidates will participate in at least two of the following research projects:
1) Dolphin population monitoring project: This study will continue to monitor the resident bottlenose dolphin community in Sarasota Bay. Duties in the field will include assisting with boat-based photographic identification surveys for dolphin groups one to two weeks per month. Behavioral, location, individual, and environmental data will be recorded for each dolphin group. While in the lab (at least 2 wks per month), work will generally involve photo-identification of dolphins, computer data entry, video logging, dolphin dorsal fin identification catalog maintenance, equipment maintenance and other duties.
2) Dolphin prey and habitat use project: This study will use the Sarasota dolphin community and fish populations to study relationships between distributions of dolphins and their prey and factors that affect fish community ecology, such as red tide. While in the field, work will involve sampling of fish communities through purse seining techniques, collection of prey fish for energetic and stable isotope analysis, and collection of other environmental data. Interns generally participate in this project 2-3 days per month.
3) Acoustic methods of abundance estimation and effects of noise: In addition to the long term projects described above, a subset of interns will spend time primarily working on a graduate student field and lab project examining acoustic applications to marine mammal conservation. Other SDRP interns will rotate into this project as needed. This project involves the use of bottom-mounted acoustic recorders for two primary purposes: 1) to evaluate multiple methods of cetacean abundance estimation using recorded bottlenose dolphin whistles, and 2) to examine the effects of noise on dolphin whistles. Interns will assist with the deployment and retrieval of the recorders, playback experiments, focal follows of dolphins near recorders, acoustic analyses, data entry, and photo-ID.
**If you are interested in working primarily on the acoustics project, please indicate this in your application by selecting "Sarasota Dolphin Research Program: Acoustics Project" as your first choice program. Note that this project has its own schedule and will either take place from 13 May – mid July or from mid-June – 15 Aug.**
4) Factors contributing to human-dolphin interactions: (TENTATIVE) Interns may participate in focal dolphin behavioral observations aimed at investigating human-dolphin interactions contributing to unnatural foraging behaviors within the resident dolphin community in Sarasota Bay to update our understanding of factors contributing to human interactions and social dynamics of these behaviors.
Interns should expect to spend about 20% of their time in the field, and about 80% of their time in the lab working with data, or performing equipment maintenance. There is no compensation for these internship positions, and successful applicants will be responsible for their own living and transportation expenses during the time of the internship. Shared housing opportunities near Mote Marine Laboratory may be available (cost: $85/week). A few scholarships are available from Mote Marine Laboratory through a competitive application process (US citizens only).
Applicants would ideally have the following qualifications:
- Minimum of 18 years of age and engaged in or recently completed undergraduate studies;
- A background or degree in Biology, Marine Biology, Ecology, Zoology or a related field;
- Basic computer proficiency in Microsoft Office programs (especially Excel and Access);
- Some field research experience preferred but not required;
- Must be able to swim;
- Enthusiasm and desire to learn a variety of field and lab based research methods;
- A willingness to spend a minimum of 10-12 weeks working full time as a volunteer with our program.
To apply for a Sarasota Dolphin Research Program internship, interested persons should:
1) Fill out an application form at Mote Marine Laboratory’s website (www.mote.org/interns). Be sure to select “Sarasota Dolphin Research Program” as your first choice;
2) Complete and provide to Mote’s intern office all other application materials including: a statement of interest, current college transcript, letter of recommendation, and curriculum vitae;
3) Send an email to SDRP Intern Coordinator (Katie McHugh, email@example.com) stating your name, contact information, exact dates and duration of availability, where you learned about the internship opportunity (e.g. Mote, SDRP, Brookfield Zoo website, MARMAM, etc.), and that you have provided all application materials to the Mote intern office, as detailed above.
All applications will be reviewed; those received by the application deadline of March 15th will be given first priority. We are seeking 4-6 interns for the summer, depending on scheduling. These are competitive positions - we typically receive many more applications than we can accept. Applicants may contact Katie McHugh (941-388-4441 ext. 450, firstname.lastname@example.org) in the SDRP with any questions.
Applicants applying because of an interest in possibly being involved in graduate studies with the SDRP should discuss their interests with Program Director Randall Wells upon acceptance into the program.
Apply now for a Mote internship!