Volunteer in Spain and Support Research Scientists with Dolphin, Whale and Porpoise Monitoring along the Galician Coast

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Located in the town of O Grove, volunteers and interns will have the opportunity to contribute to bottlenose dolphin, whale & porpoise conservation whilst gaining hands on field and laboratory experience. You will gain an insight into dolphin research, learn about different research instruments and techniques, learn about bottlenose dolphins and gain awareness about their conservation.

We have places for Volunteers and Interns to join for 1 or more weeks all year round. 

Individuals, groups and students doing research all welcome.

Cost including lodging in volunteer apartment, training by researchers, internet access, boat fuel starts from £650

Volunteers will help to locate and keep track of dolphin groups Volunteers conducting research from the shore Volunteers aboard the research boat Volunteers will learn about different research instruments and techniques You will obtain knowledge about bottlenose dolphins and their conservation Bottlenose dolphins swimming beneath the waves Volunteers and interns at the research centre Volunteers collecting data on board Volunteers can spend free time relaxing on the beaches of O Grove The research vessel Volunteer surveying the coast of O Grove Local community event in O Grove Volunteers and interns will assist with collecting environmental data Volunteers record data on a deceased beached dolphin A bottlenose dolphin swimming ahead of a ship Volunteers looking for dolphins at sea

The Project

Located in the coastal town of O Grove in Galica, Spain, volunteers and interns will have the opportunity to contribute to bottlenose dolphin, whale & porpoise conservation whilst gaining hands on field and laboratory experience. 

Volunteering

Bottlenose dolphin jumping above the waterDolphin research volunteers in Spain will assist with data collection while on board the research boat, help to locate and keep track of dolphin groups and collect environmental information. Back in the lab, volunteers will assist with restocking field supplies and transcribing data sheets. Boat cleaning and maintenance will also sometimes be required. Volunteers can join for a minimum of 1 week.

Whilst volunteering in Spain you will:

  • Get an insight in dolphin research 
  • Gain fieldwork experience
  • Learn about different research instruments: GPS, Hydrophone, Secchi disk, sonar, camcorder, anemometer, etc.
  • Learn about bottlenose dolphins, their behaviour and interaction with human activities
  • Gain awareness about bottlenose dolphins and their conservation

Internships

Interns collecting dataDolphin research Interns will work alongside the chief biologist and other experienced researchers in order to collect bottlenose dolphin data. Working with a mentor, interns will gain field and laboratory experience using various scientific methods. Whilst in the lab, interns will assist with the transcription of collected data, perform photo-identification analysis, use various software, maintain the vessel and more. Internships can be used for academic or vocational purposes and require a minimum stay of 30 days.

Benefits of a bottlenose dolphin research internship:

  • Develop valuable skills beyond that of a typical internship
  • Gain experience in fieldwork and lab work, obtain general knowledge about bottlenose dolphins, their conservation and the marine environment
  • Learn about different research instruments and techniques
  • Take responsibility for your work and become a part of a research project
  • Meet, work and live with people from all over the world
  • Enjoy the outdoors of beautiful Galicia, Spain

Daily Schedule for Volunteers and Interns

Bottlenose dolphinThere will be no 'typical' day whilst in the field, activities often change due to weather, location and activity of the dolphins. Despite this volunteers usually wake up between 5:00 am (summer season) and 8:30 am depending on the activities scheduled, and spend long days out on the boat. There might also be some night observations on the boat looking at bottlenose dolphins’ nocturnal behaviour.

Free Time

There are many activities in O Grove such as walking along the Arousa inlet, looking at the sea through glass compartments in boats and watching varied fauna. Back on land you can visit the aquarium and enjoy the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park. O Grove also offers great nightlife and some superb restaurants serving a wide variety of seafood. Another option is to learn to surf in the Lanzada beach with one of the best surfing schools of Galicia, with the guidance of professionals that will  teach you how to ride the waves. You can also enjoy other sports like cycling, kayaking and sailing.

Project Background

Volunteers learning from researchersOriginally established in Italy in 1999, the project has grown to study a wider area and a more diverse range of issues. In 2014 the project moved to it current location in Western Spain. Researchers are engaged in the long term study of the ecology and behaviour of bottlenose dolphin populations, as well as collecting detailed information about their environment. Because of their behavioural and social flexibility it is essential to understand factors affecting local dolphins, if their populations are to be managed and conserved. The main purpose of this programme is to contribute towards a more detailed understanding of the relationships between bottlenose dolphins and human activities.

Volunteers aboard the boat

Dates and Costs

You can join this project as a dolphin research volunteer for 1 week or longer, and as an intern for 30 days or longer, with no maximum stay. The project runs all year round, except for in January & December due to weather conditions. Below are the next available start dates, but please note you can also join on dates outside those below & we can be flexible. If you have any questions about dates please email us.

6th February to 12th February 2017
13th February to 19th February 2017
20th February to 26th February 2017

27th February to 5th March 2017
6th March to 12th March 2017
13th March to 19th March 2017
20th March to 26th March 2017
27th March to 2nd April 2017
3rd April to 9th April 2017
10th April to 16th April 2017
17th April to 23rd April 2017
24th April to 30th April 2017

View from the research vessel1st May to 7th May 2017
8th May to 14th May 2017
15th May to 21st May 2017
22nd May to 28th May 2017
29th May to 4th June 2017
5th June to 11th June 2017
12th June to 18th June 2017
19th June to 25th June 2017
26th June to 2nd July 2017
3rd July to 9th July 2017
10th July to 16th July 2017
17th July to 23rd July 2017
24th July to 30th July 2017
31st July to 6th August 2017
7th August to 13th August 2017
14th August to 20th August 2017
21st August to 27th August 2017
28th August to 3rd September 2017
4th September to 10th September 2017
11th September to 17th September 2017
18th September to 24th September 2017
25th September to 1st October 2017
2nd October to 8th October 2017
9th October to 15th October 2017
16th October to 22nd October 2017
23rd October to 29th October 2017
30th October to 5th November 2017
6th November to 12th November 2017
13th November to 19th November 2017
20th November to 26th November 2017

Costs

Volunteers looking over O Grove coastlineThe costs to join this dolphin research project vary depending on the time of year you want to join, and how long you would like to stay.

For volunteers, the total cost for a 1-week stay ranges from £650 to £780 GB pounds (Estimated price based on Euro to GBP conversion). For interns, the cost for 30 days ranges from £1450 to £1700 GB pounds (Estimated price).

These costs include a £180 GB pounds payment payable with your application, and a balance payment to be paid to our programme research partner, payable in Euros. Please see the list below for a breakdown of prices, and for any questions or to get a quote for a longer term stay please email the volunteer coordinator.

Volunteering Costs
Winter Season (January to March) - £650 for 1 week (£180 application payment, balance of 560 Euros)
Spring Season (April to June) - £710 for 1 week (£180 application payment, balance of 630 Euros)
Summer Season (July to September) - £780 for 1 week (£180 application payment, balance of 700 Euros)
Autumn Season (October to November) - £650 per week (£180 application payment, balance of 560 Euros)

O Grove, SpainInternship Costs
Winter Season (January to March) - £1450 for 30 days (£180 application payment, balance of 1500 Euros)
Spring Season (April to June) - £1580 for 30 days (£180 application payment, balance of 1650 Euros)
Summer Season (July to September) - £1700 for 30 days (£180 application payment, balance of 1800 Euros)
Autumn Season (October to November) - £1450 for 30 days (£180 application payment, balance of 1500 Euros)

The costs above include your accommodation in the shared apartment in O Grove, Galicia (see Lodging & Travel tab for more info), dolphin research activities, information & training, certificate of attendance, printed material and all associated field and laboratory costs during your stay.

What's not included are your flights and transportation to and from the research centre in O Grove, Spain, your meals whilst staying at the project, your travel insurance and visa (if required).

Lodging, Food & Travel

Accommodation

Volunteer Accommodation

Dolphin research Volunteers and interns will stay in a shared apartment in the coastal town of O Grove. The apartment is located close to the research centre and harbour as well as to supermarkets, beaches, bank and the post office. The accommodation includes three rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room. Depending on the number of participants you will share a room with a maximum of three other volunteers of the same gender. 

The apartment has satellite television and a reliable supply of electricity with a standard European plug so recharging digital cameras, telephones and video camera batteries is not a problem. There is WIFI in the research base and international calls can be made using an international phone card in the public telephone boxes.

During your stay you will be responsible for your own food preparation and cleaning. The apartment has a full kitchen (gas and electricity included) and a full set of cooking utensils. Foods of all kinds are available at the local supermarkets within walking distance at your own expense. Several supermarkets and local restaurants and bars are available in O Grove offering seafood, fast food, roast dinners and vegetarian foods. You can also find Galician specialties and other fresh groceries in many small delicacy shops. 

Requirements

Volunteers collecting data aboard the boat

No specific experience is required to participate as a volunteer, but volunteers should be at least 18 years of age and have a strong interest in dolphin/marine research. Interns should be currently studying or hold a degree in biology or a similar field. Enthusiasm is essential as well an open-mindedness to work, live and communicate with other volunteers of mixed nationality and background. You should be reasonably physically fit and comfortable with being on a boat for up to 10 hours while looking for dolphins through binoculars and recording data.

A volunteering or internship period can be used for academic or vocational purposes, but students are solely responsible for making all arrangements for receiving relevant credits.

Weather

The area in which O Grove is located has an oceanic climate. The daily average lies around 9.5 °C (49.1 °F) in January and 25 °C (68.9°F) in July. Autumn and winter can have periods of rain while summer generally is dry, with the odd heavy rainfall now and then.

Boardwalk running along the shoreInsurance

It is compulsory for all volunteers and interns to obtain health insurance valid in the EU for their time on the project. You are also advised to take out personal property insurance for the duration of your stay. 

Travel

The nearest international airports are Santiago de Compostela (80 km) and Vigo (65 km). From the airport In Santiago or Vigo you will need to take a bus or a taxi to the bus-station (estación de autobuses) or to the railway-station (estación de RENFE). From here you will be able to travel to meet us at the project in O Grove, which is within walking distance of the bus station.

Background

About the Study Area

View along the coast of O Grove

The region has a relatively narrow continental shelf with the Galician continental shelf and the Galician rias sitting at the northern edge of one of the major upwelling areas in the world. The frequent upwelling of cold and dense North Atlantic Central Water results in nutrient enrichment of the area and this area is among the most productive oceanic regions of the world. It is the main fishing region of Spain and one of the most important in the world, with 87 fishing ports used by more than 6000 fishing boats along 1195 km of coastline. At least 16 cetacean species have been recorded from Galician waters. Some of these are: bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, common dolphins, harbour porpoises, Risso's dolphins, pilot whales, fin whales, minke whales, sperm whales, and two beaked whales: the Northern bottlenose whale and the Cuvier's beaked whale.

Volunteer Testimonials

Volunteer watching dolphins in SpainMatthew Garrett, from the UK, joined the project as an Intern in September 2016:

My month-long internship in Spain with the was amazing, really enjoyed it! I'm so glad I decided to go and do this, it was well worth the experience despite the financial outlay associated with it. Although I was nervous before travelling to Spain and unsure on the first couple days of the internship if I had made the right decision, I grew comfortable there and loved the research we were doing. In fact after I had left, I immediately missed it and wanted to go back!

Having the opportunity to go out on the research boat and survey wild dolphins in the water around us was an incredible experience I'll never forget. The sea-based component of the internship was certainly my favourite part, although I also enjoyed working in the lab with the data we collected and assisting in the entire process, learning to analyse the data and how it is used.

Dolphin Research volunteers on the boatThe work was made accessible to people from all backgrounds. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have gained a little more general knowledge about cetaceans and the reasons for their behaviour as well, as the internship was primarily focused on the methods of data collection rather than explaining the reasons behind the work we were doing. Including a presentation as part of the internship was a great idea as this filled in some gaps in our knowledge of cetacean physiology, locomotion and behaviour, as well as enlightening us of important research in cetacean ecology.

Something I didn't expect to get out of this internship at all was my positive experience with the other interns. As we all had to share one apartment we got to know each other much better, and somehow we all got on really well and became friends. Although I was weary of sharing a room at first, I settled in really well and was sad when my internship came to an end.


Dolphin research volunteers on the boatLiam Fleming, from the UK, joined the project as an Intern in August 2016:

My Internship was amazing. Bruno and Severine were very good and patient at training us in how the data collection on the boat/during land surveys works and how to correctly review the data. I learnt how to professionally collect data from first-hand experience and it is something that will come in hand throughout my entire life. I loved all the work we did out there. The other interns were all really nice and we all got along extremely well.
 


Dolphins swimmingLisa H, from Germany describes her time on the Project in 2015:

In the lab, the jobs for volunteers and interns are pretty similar, including identifying the dolphins from the photographs taken and mapping the route driven with the boat. Additionally interns transcribe data and log it into a database. 

Since Bruno is the director and chief biologist of the project, support and communication between the volunteers/interns is great since you see him every single day. Bruno is excellent when it comes to helping any problems you may have locally for example with the post office, buying items, recommendations for restaurants, etc.

Coastal view of O Grove, Spain

The project site is easy to access after arrival from the airport however it does take some time. The accommodation is amazing - it's a newly built apartment with lots of light and new appliances. Though it may appear as a little small and it can get tight with the full 8 occupancies are full, I didn't mind it at all - it only made the place cosier. The apartment has heating in all rooms which is very necessary as it does get cold in the winter/early spring months.

I would without a doubt recommend this programme. I'm already looking forward to the next chance I will get to go. I had such a fantastic three months in O Grove last year that I really yearn to go back.

How to Apply

Bottlenose dolphins breaking through the waves

If you are interested in joining this project in Spain as a dolphin research volunteer, you will need to fill out the online application form. To secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your application payment of £180. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we would reimburse this fully. However for those who are accepted, you will be required to pay 20% of the balance amount within 10 days of acceptance, with the remaining 80% due 1 month before arrival. This will have to be paid in Euros to our programme research partner in the field. Once we have confirmed your place, you will receive a detailed information package on the programme background and scientific objectives, your role as a volunteer, the work you will do, amenities at the house, suggested items to bring, how to travel there etc. Following this, our research partner will send you documents on volunteer liability that will need to be completed after you are booked on the programme.

 

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