CETACEAN RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY IN ICELAND: CONSERVATION BIOLOGY OF WHALES AND DOLPHINS IN FAXAFLOI AND SKJALFANDI BAYS

WHAT:

Volunteers and assistants in Iceland are needed for the year 2012 to assist in Ph.D. dissertation research focusing on common minke whales and white-beaked dolphins occurring off Reykjavik and Husavik.

This is a research project being conducted along the southwest (Reykjavik area) and northeast (Husavik area) coasts of Iceland in collaboration with the Faxafloi Cetacean Research project (www.faxa-cetacean.org), Elding whale-watching (www.elding.is), North Sailing (www.northsailing.is) and the University of Iceland (www.hi.is):

Reykjavik area:

One research assistant and two volunteers (per research period*) are requested to partake in a project aiming to investigate abundance, patterns of residency, social structure, health status and behavioural budget of whales and dolphins occurring in the coastal waters of Faxafloi Bay, southwest Iceland. An intensive photo-identification study will be used to estimate number of individual whales/dolphins and their site fidelity (seasonal and annual) in the coastal waters of Faxafloi Bay during spring, summer and autumn months. Data on common minke whales and humpback whales have been collected since 2007, since 2002 on white-beaked dolphins. The existing ID-Catalogue already counts over 400 common minke whales, 300 white-beaked dolphins, 50 humpback whales and 8 orcas.

Most frequently sighted species: common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), white-beaked dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) and harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

Other species: humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae), orcas (Orcinus orca), fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus)

Husavik area:

Two volunteers (per research period*) are needed for a project aiming to investigate abundance, patterns of residency, social structure, health status and behavioural budget of whales and dolphins occurring in the coastal waters of Skjalfandi Bay, northeast Iceland. An intensive photo-identification study will be used to estimate number of individual whales/dolphins and their site fidelity (seasonal and annual) in the coastal waters of Skjalfandi Bay during spring, summer and autumn months. Data on common minke whales, white-beaked dolphins and humpback whales have been collected since 2001; since 2010 on fin whales. The existing ID-Catalogue already counts over 70 common minke whales, 200 white-beaked dolphins, 200 humpback whales and 5 fin whales.

Most frequently sighted species: humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae), common minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), white-beaked dolphins (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) and harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

Other species: blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus), fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), orcas (Orcinus orca), sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis), bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus)

WHERE:

Faxafloi Bay is a bay facing Reykjavik city where both whale-watching and whaling are currently taking place.  Daily whale-watching tours are arranged from Reykjavik to spot feeding common minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, humpback whales, harbour porpoises and orcas. Elding whale-watching has been running whale-watching trips since 1998, with special interest in all whales visiting the bay. The company is member of Green Globe 21 and tries to fulfil environmental standards as well as certain whale-watching guidelines.

Skjalfandi Bay is a bay facing Husavik city where daily whale-watching tours are arranged to spot feeding humpback and minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, fin and blue whales and harbour porpoises. North Sailing is one of the two whale-watching companies running tours since 1995.

Since 2007, Elding and North Sailing have been collaborating with the Faxafloi Cetacean Research project aiming to:

-   determine the abundance of common minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, humpback whales, harbour porpoises and orcas in the coastal waters of Faxafloi Bay

-   examining patters of residency using multiple photo-identification efforts

-   establishing sex ratio estimates via biological sampling

-   analyse the feeding behaviour of common minke whales, white-beaked dolphins and humpback whales and data collected on associated bird species

-   determining population structure of the resident population of white-beaked dolphins occurring in the coastal waters of Faxafloi Bay

-   assess cutaneous disorders on common minke whales and white-beaked dolphins during photo-identification surveys

WHEN:

Reykjavik area research period*:

1st April to 30th May 2012

1st June to 30th July 2012

1st August to 30th September 2012

1st October to 30th November 2012

1st December to 30th January 2013

1st February to 30th March 2013

Husavik area research period*:

7th April to 30th May 2012

1st June to 30th July 2012

1st August to 30th September 2012

CONDITIONS:

In both Reykjavik and Husavik, several whale-watching motor vessels will be used as research platform, for boat based work. In Reykjavik, living space for the boat based people is located on a former fishing boat in the old harbour, with 3 single rooms, bathroom, kitchen, living room and internet access (25 square metres); 10 min walking distance to the city centre. In Husavik, living space is located in an apartment 5 minutes walk from the harbour and the centre with rooms for 6 people, bathroom, kitchen and living room; internet access is also provided.

Because of the training required, applicants must be willing to commit to the project a minimum of two months (longer stay could be discussed). Because of the training provided participants must be able to join the project one week prior to the research period starting date.

Unfortunately, these positions are not paid and the successful candidates have to contribute with 350 Euros per month covering training program in scientific methods, scientific supervision, and reference materials related to the project including a certificate of completion. 100% of fees support this research project and associated lectures. Candidates also must be able to cover their own travel expenses, travel insurance, food and other personal expenses. Accommodation and food during working hours (mainly lunch) will be provided.

There are possibilities for students to develop their own academic projects using data collected during their stay (please contact Chiara G. Bertulli for more information).

DUTIES:

Applicants should be ready to work long hours (07:00 to 17.00 or to 21.00 hours depending on weather conditions) and be expected to participate in the following duties:

-    data collection (behavioural data, photo-id images, environmental parameters, ect.)

-    data entry under the supervision of the PI

-    recognition of feeding manoeuvres (engulfment and entrapment)

-    identification of species and behaviour of associated avian species (e.g. auks, gulls, gannets, arctic terns, skuas, fulmars and shearwaters)

-    identification of skin marks (infectious, parasitic, anthropogenic and antagonistic)

-    use of photo-ID matching softwares (Darwin)

Above this, cleaning, painting and other maintenance tasks is part of staying at the fishing boat in the old harbour as a gratitude to the free accommodation provided by Elding. At the beginning and end of each whale-watching trip, we also help the boat crew out by assisting passengers with life jackets, warm blankets etc.

QUALIFICATIONS:

-      have a strong background in Marine biology/Oceanography, with knowledge and experience of marine mammal behaviour and/or sea birds

-      have previous wildlife field experience and ability to stand long working days, sometimes in rough sea conditions (seasick people should not apply for these positions!)

-      have previous cetacean photo-identification and/or wildlife photography skills

-      be computer literate with a working knowledge PC operating system and proficiency with MS Word and MS Excel. Familiarity with software including MS Access and Photoshop is very helpful. Possibility to bring your own Laptop is much preferred

-      be enthusiastic, hard-working, team oriented, able to share small living space on board

-      be adaptable, flexible and patient as fieldwork is highly weather dependent

-      have good English language skills

-      bring your own digital reflex camera and zoom lens: 70-300mm, 70-200mm and/or 70-400mm zoom lenses preferred (Nikon compatible)

HOW TO APPLY:

CV or resume should include the following:

-      details of your availability

-      contact details of two referees

-      a brief description of yourself including your interest in marine mammals and what you hope to gain from this experience

-      specify if you have any preference for the ‘Reykjavik’ project or the ‘Husavik’ project.

-      any dietary requirements (i.e. vegetarian, vegan, etc.)

 

Send applications to both Chiara Giulia Bertulli and Marianne Helen Rasmussen:

Chiara G. Bertulli (Ph.D. student)

University of Iceland
Biology Department

Natturfr??ahus/Askja
Sturlugata 7
101 Reykjavik
Iceland

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Mobile: +354-8618307

Skype: chiara.giulia.bertulli

Website: www.faxa-cetacean.org

 

Marianne Helene Rasmussen (Ph.D.)

Director of Husavik Research Centre, University of Iceland

Gar?arsbraut 19

640 Husavik, Iceland

E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Mobile: +354-6958846

Website: www.dolphinresearch.dk

www.stofnanir.hi.is/nordausturland/