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. We are currently seeking applicants for our 2019 season, beginning as early as April.

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. As additional time allows, 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 check our Instagram for posts sharing stories from our interns.

Background to the program

The WDC internship/volunteer program aims to help participants hone their outreach and data collection and organization skills, while also gaining an introduction to all aspects of working with a conservation non-profit organization. Successful candidates are included in everything from field research to office administration. All interns gain experience with public speaking by interacting with passengers aboard whale watching vessels and 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 conservation 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 southern Gulf of Maine.  They will also have the opportunity to go out on commercial whale watching boats several times per week (field season is April - 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 in the office will be spent uploading photos and data into our photo identification database or working on any tasks that may be assigned.

Based on time of year, the intern program may include some portion of the following:

Education and Outreach

  • 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
    • Collecting opportunistic marine mammal sightings data in the Southern Gulf of Maine 
    • Collecting images for analysis of body condition of marine mammals through scarring and skin condition 
    • Data coding and cleaning
    • Attending stranding training and events


photo ID work in the office


  • Literature research for preparation of comments submitted to federal agencies
  • GIS or other mapping techniques

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 who can provide their own housing are encouraged to apply.

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. WDC is willing to help qualified students obtain credits for the program through their college or university. While international applicants interested in the internship program must be able to secure their own travel Visa and other required documentation, WDC can provide supporting documentation as needed upon program acceptance.

Candidate Requirements

  • Fluency in English.
  • Must be 18 years or older (preference given to students matriculated in or recently graduated from appropriate graduate or undergraduate degree programs.)
  • Be able to show proof of valid health insurance.
  • Act effectively as a member of a close-knit team.
  • Capable of spending long days in an office environment.
  • Ability to work on sea going vessels, sometimes in unfavorable conditions, for long hours that may require physical labor.
  • Good computer skills – familiarity with operating PCs.
  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills.
  • Ability to function well under pressure.
  • Must be comfortable speaking in front of groups of people of all walks of life
  • Ability to problem solve in unanticipated situations.
  • Ability to relay scientific information to the general public in an understandable way
  • Possession of a valid driver's license is strongly preferred.
  • Familiarity with literature research protocols is beneficial.

NOTE:  You need not be a marine biology student/graduate to apply. There is no requirement for a relevant degree program.

How to Apply 

We are currently seeking applicants for our 2019 season. Applications for the spring (beginning late March/early April) should be submitted by 23:59PM EDT on February 4, 2019. Applications for the summer (beginning in May) should be submitted by 23:59PM EDT on March 3, 2019.

Please submit only the following via e-mail to monica.pepe@whales.org:

  • Cover letter and resume
  • Contact information for two references including e-mail, phone number, and your affiliation to the reference
  • A supporting document of no more than 300 words answering one of the following:
    • In your opinion, what is the greatest threat that whales and dolphins face?
    • Whale watching can be a controversial topic. Does whale watching do more harm than good, or more good than harm?
    • In order to save a species, where do you think conservation efforts should start? 

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. Please review our Privacy Notice for information on how we collect and store your secure information.