Internship Program

Pacific Whale Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting whales and other marine wildlife through research, education and conservation. Our researchers have studied whales and dolphins throughout the Pacific for over 35 years and currently conduct or support projects in Hawaii, Australia, Ecuador and Chile. A research internship with Pacific Whale Foundation is an excellent opportunity to gain experience in marine mammal research.

Commitment & Responsibilities

We seek performance-driven, dedicated individuals for long-term internships based in Maui, Hawaii. Interns must be available on a full-time basis, including weekends as needed. Interns assist research staff with processing and analyzing data collected for mysticete (humpback whale) and odontocete (toothed whale and dolphin) studies and related projects.

Primary responsibilities are office-based and may include:

  • Photo-identification matching of humpback whale flukes and/or dolphin dorsal fins
  • Data entry and archival tasks
  • Data processing and analysis
  • General operational and administrative duties
  • Participation in outreach events and other tasks as needed

Additional responsibilities include field work: vessel surveys (year-round) for odontocetes and marine debris, and land-based surveys (during winter) for humpback whales using a theodolite.

Field days can exceed eight hours and occur approximately 1-3 times per week. Interns must be able to spend many hours on the water and on shore in sometimes extreme weather conditions, including high temperatures, hiking into remote areas, and carrying heavy loads of equipment.

      • Possess a university degree or be advanced undergraduates in biology, zoology, marine biology, ecology, or related field;
      • Available on an unpaid full-time basis for the entire internship period;
      • Available for all field work;
      • Have a mature attitude towards research;
      • Proficient with computers and data entry; specifically using PCs and Microsoft Office;
      • Willing to spend long hours in front of a computer doing repetitive tasks;
      • Have a strong work ethic and superior organizational skills;
      • Be independent, adaptable, and a fast-learner;
      • Able to collect and process data in a detail-oriented manner;
      • Have boating experience;
      • Able to speak, read and write English fluently.
    • COMPENSATION (Non Available)
      • There is no financial compensation for internship positions and no housing is provided. Interns are responsible for their own travel and living expenses. There is public transportation available on the island.
    • APPLICATION PROCESSApplicants must be authorized to work in the U.S. or authorized to legally remain in Hawaii if they are not U.S. citizens. International applicants will be considered, but it is the responsibility of the applicant to acquire necessary visas and documentation. The date ranges and deadlines for our internships are:
      • January 1 to April 30 (deadline September 30)
      • May 1 to August 31 (deadline February 28)
      • September 1 to December 31 (deadline June 30)

      Interested candidates should submit an application with the following:

      • Cover letter including your availability and preferred internship period (1 page max)
      • Resume or C.V. describing training, experience and relevant skills (2 pages max)
      • Names and contact information of three references

      Send the above items as email attachments (PDF preferred) to [email protected] with “Internship Application” in subject line. Please: NO phone calls or drop-in visits!

  • Current Research Interns

    Kaleigh Carlson

    Lindsey Ellett

    Jennifer Goetsch

    Katie Morrison

    Theresa-Anne Tatom-Naecker

    Katie Welsh

    Former Research Interns

    Bryson Albrecht Jack Allum Laura Behm Rheanne Berg
    Christopher Bolte Amandine Bordin Jessica Bornstein Hailey Brosnan
    Chelsea Brown Olivia Capeillere Sarah Cesler Simona Clausnitzer
    David Clifton Emma Decloe Reagan Dutton Shannon Easterly
    Jackie Ellis Christiana Ferro Melissa Freese Davy Frey
    Fabricio Furni Javier Tizoc Garcia Helen Gowans Kaitlin Greenfield
    Christina Gwilliam Lauren Himmelreich Patrice Hostetter Lynne Johnson
    Anthony Kaulfuss Dylan Laicher Kendra Lane Gabriella Lattari
    Jacqueline Loevenich Gabrille Lopez Ryan Mathews Leslie Mettlach
    Eilidh Milligan Barclay Mitchell Sarah Mousel Martin Narvaez
    Jessica Nathenson Rachael Nidiffer Megan O’Hara Mike Olinits
    Felipe de Oliveira Carla Patulny Morgan Piczak Cristina Ramasco
    Corey Sanders Holly Self Todd Sigley Vanessa Simons
    Rachael Tancock Michelle Trifari Jason Varee Chelsea Whiting
    Jill Wirt  Kaitlin Yehle
  • Rachael Nidiffer | July – October 2016 and December – April 2015

    I was a research intern for Pacific Whale Foundation on Maui in 2015 and Hervey Bay, Australia in 2016. I was able to develop certain skill sets through basic boating practice and gain experience in behavioral observation that have led me to become a more confident and independent researcher. Both experiences were able to provide me with a good sense of office based research as well as data collection in the field. I have learned how to identify different mysticetes (whales) and odontocetes (dolphins) via photo-identification as well as how to take professional pictures for future photo-ID (e.g., lighting, angle). Days in the office are put to good use with matching individuals to photos from years past, as well as participating in multiple other projects that are going on throughout the research department, such as marine debris. Starting off as an intern and growing within the foundation has reassured me that hard work and long hours (while not all glamorous) do pay off. The opportunities the foundation has given me over the past couple years have left me with not only science/research experience, but also helped me to make science connections with people from around the world.

    Holly Self | January – April 2016

    The internship with the PWF is a great opportunity to really be involved in current research in all its stages from collection to data handling. Interns get to learn and practice a variety of in-the-field and office based skills, and are involved in the ‘nitty gritty’ of real research. The length of the internship really gives the opportunity to become experienced in the tasks involved, rather than just being trained.

    It is an excellent opportunity for those wanting to gain experience in order to pursue a career in research, as you’re genuinely taking part in the variety of research projects carried out at the PWF for the whole period- there’s really not much more you could ask for from such a program.

    Martin Narváez | December – April 2015

    My overall experience of this opportunity was beyond [what was] expected. I consider that the field experience gained on the boat working on transect lines was a great tool to take advantage of for people pursuing a marine research career. Field work experience is a fundamental aspect for graduate biologists or biology students. The various research projects help interns gather a lot of different skills at the office as well as the field.

    In my personal life, this experience helped me develop my undergraduate dissertation work. I’m currently working on population dynamics of humpbacks whales in the Ecuadorian coast with the use of photo-identification.