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 38 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. This internship is primarily office-based and focuses on photo-identification cataloging. Interns assist research staff with processing and analyzing data collected for mysticete (humpback whale) and odontocete (toothed whale and dolphin) studies and related projects.

In the office you will learn: how to input and organize data, how to quality control data, how to photographically identify dolphins and whales, how to use database software, and learn about the general biology and ecology of Hawaii’s marine wildlife.

In the field you will learn: how to scan for and identify whales and dolphins, how to collect photo-ID data, how to collect underwater footage, and how to make behavioral observations of wild animals. Field days can range from 8-12 hours in length and occur approximately 1-2 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 and carrying heavy loads of equipment.

  • Apply For a Research Internship in Hawaii

    REQUIREMENTS

    • 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

    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 PROCESS

    • Applicants must be authorized to work in Australia or authorized to legally remain in Australia if they are not an Australian citizen. Preference is given to candidates that currently reside in Australia. International applicants will be considered, but it is the responsibility of the applicant to acquire necessary visas and documentation. The date range and application deadline for the internship is:
    • July 1 to September 30 (deadline April 1)
    • Please add the following line: All applications will be reviewed after the closing date. If the applicant is required by their institution to find a volunteer position prior to the closing date, please indicate this in your cover letter.
  • Apply For a Research Internship in Australia

    DESCRIPTION

    We seek performance-driven, dedicated individuals for seasonal internships based in Hervey Bay, Queensland, on the coast of East Australia. Interns must be available on a full-time basis, including weekends. This internship is fieldwork-based and focuses on photo-identification and data collection. Interns assist research staff with long-term monitoring and quantifying potential human impacts on humpback whales.

    In the field, you will learn: how to scan for and identify whales and dolphins, how to collect photo-ID data, and how to make behavioral observations of wild animals. Interns must be able to spend many hours on the water in sometimes extreme weather conditions.

    REQUIREMENTS

    • Possess a university degree or be an advanced undergraduate in biology, zoology, marine biology, ecology, or related field
    • Available on an unpaid full-time basis for the entire internship period
    • Available for all fieldwork
    • Have a mature attitude towards research
    • 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
    • Be comfortable on boats
    • Able to speak, read and write English fluently

    COMPENSATION

    There is no financial compensation for internship positions and no housing is provided. Interns are responsible for their own travel and living expenses.

    APPLICATION PROCESS

    • Applicants must be authorized to work in Australia or authorized to legally remain in Australia if they are not an Australian citizen. Preference is given to candidates that currently reside in Australia. International applicants will be considered, but it is the responsibility of the applicant to acquire necessary visas and documentation. The date range and application deadline for the internship is:
    • July 1 to September 30 (deadline April 1)
    • All applications will be reviewed after the closing date. If the applicant is required by their institution to find a volunteer position prior to the closing date, please indicate this in your cover letter.
  • Apply For a Research Internship in Ecuador

    DESCRIPTION
    We seek performance-driven, dedicated individuals for volunteer opportunities in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador. Volunteers must be available on a full-time basis, including weekends. Volunteer opportunities are primarily field-based and focus on photo-identification and data collection.

    In the field, you will learn: how to scan for and identify whales and dolphins, how to collect photo-ID data, and how to make behavioral observations of wild animals. Volunteers must be able to spend many hours on the water in sometimes extreme weather conditions.

    REQUIREMENTS

    • Available on an unpaid basis
    • Available for all fieldwork
    • Have a mature attitude towards research
    • 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;
    • Be comfortable on boats
    • Able to speak, read and write Spanish fluently

    COST

    Volunteers have the option to stay onsite for a cost of $500/week, which includes all costs except groceries. Interns are responsible for their own travel to Puerto Lopez.

    APPLICATION PROCESS

    Applicants must be authorized to work in Ecuador or authorized to legally remain in Ecuador if they are not a citizen. International applicants will be considered, but it is the responsibility of the applicant to acquire necessary visas and documentation. The date range for the field work is July – September, and the application deadline is April 1. If you would like to volunteer in the office to assist with data management, please contact us anytime.

    Interested candidates should submit an application with the following:

    • Cover letter (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 to [email protected] with “PWF Volunteer Application” in the subject line.

  • Intern Feedback

    Nicole van Daalen | January – April 2019

    Interning with the Pacific Whale Foundation was an unforgettable experience! Every member of the research team was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and helped to ensure I took away as much as I could from this opportunity. This was truly a great way to gain insight into marine mammal research as a career as well as valuable photo ID and field research skills.

    Barbara Nainiger | May – August 2018

    Thank you for this wonderful experience! I’ve learned so much in the past few months thanks to everyone’s help. Being around people like you who have such a passion for the ocean and science is so inspiring and hopefully I’m able to take some of your passion and spread it around the world! Thank you so much for this opportunity!

    Jacyln Doody | May – August 2018

    Thank you all so much for allowing me to join the team this summer! It has been great getting to know all of you and a lot of fun working here! I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to work at such a great organization, and I’m even more grateful for all of your instruction, guidance and patience in the field and lab. You all were awesome teachers and made it fun to be there, so thank you for that and everything you’ve done to make this an amazing experience. I can’t wait to volunteer in the fall!!

    Dylan Laicher | September – December 2016

    Thank you for the amazing opportunity to intern with the Pacific Whale Foundation Research Team. It has been such a fulfilling and learning experience and has expanded my skillset in many ways.

    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.

YOU CAN HELP

COVID-19 UPDATE

Our thoughts go out to all that are being impacted by COVID-19. With a team dedicated to our response to this pandemic, we are meeting regularly to ensure the continuation of programs and services that allow our mission work to continue.

Pacific Whale Foundation’s leadership team is closely monitoring updates from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization regarding COVID-19. We will continue to seek guidance from these agencies, public health officials and government agencies on an ongoing basis.

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