WDC (NA) Field Research Internship Program

WDC North America (NA), located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, offers internships and field volunteer positions, providing research, policy, education and advocacy experience in working for an international non-profit organization. At this time we will not have any positions open until 2019.

Internships are offered to qualified applicants throughout the year, allowing each participant to become proficient at field data collection, educational outreach, and conservation issues of marine mammals. Interns may also assist staff in completing various tasks pertaining to our focal projects. For a personal perspective of what life is like as an intern find out more about previous interns and read the blogs of our recent interns.

Examples of projects completed with the help of previous interns:

  • Developed calendar of important marine mammal conservation dates for distribution to supporters
  • Initiated a humpback whale jaw scuffing/scarring analysis to determine left or right "handedness" in feeding techniques
  • Ongoing finback whale individual photo identification study
  • Compiled review on history of vessel strike mitigation efforts
  • Humpback behavioral data review and analysis from 2009-2012
  • Comparative analysis of international responsible whale watching programs
  • Development of a video presentation for whale watch passenger education
  • Development of Humpback Whale Curriculum Program
  • Development and implementation of onboard vessel survey protocols, followed by analysis of pilot study data
  • Review of vessel strike impacts on endangered humpback whales: An evaluation of non-lethal collision rates from scar-based photographic data
  • Ethogram of the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliea)
  • Whale Watching: More than meets the eye:  Special Report exploring the causal relationship between whale watch experience, a whale watcher’s awareness of problems and their consequences in order to foster support for marine conservation.

Background to the program
The WDC internship/volunteer program aims to give participants exposure to all aspects of working with a conservation non-profit organization. Successful candidates are tasked with everything from field research to office administration. All interns gain experience with public speaking by interacting with passengers aboard whale watching vessels, participating in school talks, and other public outreach events throughout the year.  Additionally, interns will assist with written communication efforts including social media, blogs, and supporter directed communications. Other potential opportunities include attending workshops/conferences and responding to stranded marine mammals, though these are not guaranteed opportunities. This program exposes interns to real world experiences that will help them develop the skills and understanding needed to succeed in the field of marine mammal conversation and research. Participants will gain an in-depth perspective of this field and a better understanding of where their interests lie. Through this internship, a number of skills are developed including analytical, organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills.

As part of the field work experience, interns will learn species identification, behavioral sequencing, data collection and photo identification research techniques on marine mammals in the Gulf of Maine.  They will also have the opportunity to go out on commercial whale watching boats several times a week (field season is April through October) to photograph and record sightings of humpback, finback, and minke whales, as well as other notable marine wildlife. The frequency of fieldwork is weather dependent. Days not in the field will be spent at the office uploading photos and data into our photo identification database or working on any tasks that may be assigned. 

Based on time of year and the interest level of successful applicants, the intern program may include some portion of the following:

Education and Outreach

  • Whale watch naturalist training workshop
  • Outreach to local schools and the general public
  • Assisting with and learning about the importance of ecotourism and best practices   
  • Writing blogs about work conducted or current events while interning with WDC
  • Attendance at conferences and meetings

Intern Claire explaining baleen to passengers


  • Cataloging individually identifiable humpback and finback whales
  • Collection of marine mammal sightings and distributional data in the Southern Gulf of Maine  
  • Collecting images for analysis of body condition of marine mammals through scarring and skin condition  
  • Attendance and participation in stranding training and events 
  • Data coding and cleaning 

photo ID work in the office


  • Supporting WDC personnel at conservation meetings
  • Literature research for written and oral comments submitted to federal agencies

Take Reduction Team members voting

At the end of the program our hope is that interns will be able to leave with a comprehensive understanding of both the exciting and routine aspects of what it takes to research and conserve marine mammals.

There is no fee or compensation for the internship/volunteer positions. Participants must arrange for their own transportation to and from Plymouth and provide their own food. Limited housing with a shared bedroom is available on site for a monthly fee of $300 USD, which is strictly to offset the cost of housing. Assistance can be provided in finding alternate housing at the request of the applicant, and those that can provide their own housing are encouraged to apply. 

WDC is willing to help qualified students obtain credits for the program through their college or university. The program requires a minimum commitment of 12 weeks, with the possibility of extending the term on a case-by-case basis. The internship is a full time position requiring open and flexible availability.

International applicants interested in the internship program must be able to secure their own travel Visa and other required documentation.

Candidate Requirements

  • Fluency in English.
  • Must be 18 years or older (preference given to students matriculated in or recently graduated from appropriate graduate or under graduate degree programs.)
  • Be able to show proof of valid health insurance.
  • Act effectively as a member of a close-knit team.
  • Be open to long days in the field or office.
  • Ability to work on sea going vessels for long hours that may require physical labor.
  • Good computer skills – familiarity with operating PCs.
  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills.
  • Familiar with literature research protocols is beneficial.
  • Ability to function well under pressure.
  • Must be comfortable speaking in front of groups of people of all ages and able to handle unanticipated situations.
  • Familiarity with DSLR camera, GPS equipment is preferred.
  • Possession of a valid driver's license is strongly preferred.
  • Ability to impart information in an understandable way to the public under a variety of conditions.
NOTE:  You need not be a marine biology student/graduate to apply. There is no requirement for a relevant degree program.

How to Apply (NOTE: At this time we will not have any positions open until 2019.) 
Please submit only the following via e-mail to monica.pepe@whales.org:

  1. Cover letter and resume 
  2. Contact information for two references including e-mail, phone number, and your affiliation to the reference 
  3. A supporting document of no more than 500 words answering one of the following:
  • Do whales die through human’s knowledge or ignorance? 
  • Preservation or conservation. Which offers the best route to a sustainable population of an endangered species and why? 

Applicants should make sure they clearly indicate their availability (specific dates, if possible) in their cover letter.  

Any additional questions should be directed to Monica Pepe via email at monica.pepe@whales.org or by calling the office at (508) 746-2522.

WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, is the leading international charity dedicated solely to the worldwide conservation and welfare of all whales, dolphins, and porpoises. WDC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin.