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.



    • 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.


    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.


    Applicants 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 1)
    • May 1 to August 31 (deadline February 1)
    • September 1 to December 31 (deadline June 1)

    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!

  • Chevron down INTERN FEEDBACK
  • 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.