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Bottlenose Dolphin Photo-ID Internship Position for Summer 2022

The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research (OBXCDR)/Nags Head Dolphin Watch are currently accepting applications for the 2022 summer season. The research season is May 2nd-October 22nd. Three internship positions are available for the following dates: May 2nd-September 30th, May 2nd-October 22nd, May 23rd-September 5th. Start/end dates are flexible but successful applicants must be able to commit for the entire internship period.

The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research is a 501 c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of bottlenose dolphins in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our program’s goal is to gain an understanding of the population dynamics, movement patterns, and behavioral ecology of coastal bottlenose dolphins in the sounds and coastal waters near the Outer Banks. The OBXCDR conducts a long-term photo-identification monitoring study of bottlenose dolphins in Roanoke, Croatan, Albemarle, Pamlico and Currituck Sounds. Data is collected via dedicated small boat surveys as well as opportunistically from a local dolphin watch. Information from the monitoring study is used to examine annual population trends, habitat utilization, social associations, and ecology of the dolphins as well as aid in efforts to examine bottlenose dolphin stock structure and movement patterns along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Interns will gain experience in field data collection, photo-identification of dolphins, and environmental education. For more information about the OBXCDR, please visit:

The internship position will consist of bottlenose dolphin photo-identification, opportunistic/dedicated field research, and environmental education. Responsibilities include:

Mate/naturalist duties aboard the Nags Head Dolphin Watch: This involves the implementation of educational programs, including public speaking aboard the eco-tours (using a microphone and one-on-one) to educate others about local dolphin biology and marine conservation, as well as additional mate duties. The mate/naturalist will also collect opportunistic photo-identification data aboard the eco-tours (photographing dorsal fins, measuring environmental parameters, and recording sighting data), organize opportunistic data for inclusion in the photo-identification catalog, and assist in general maintenance of field equipment.  For additional information about the Nags Head Dolphin Watch, please see (70% of time)

Photo-identification of dolphins in the lab: This includes photo sorting, grading, and matching, sighting data entry, and assisting in maintenance of the long-term OBX catalog using the MS Access database FinBase.  Additional time will also be spent completing an independent project in which the intern will match the OBX catalog to the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog (MABDC) to examine seasonal movement patterns. The MABDC is a long-term collaborative effort to gain a greater understanding of the stock structure and movement patterns of bottlenose dolphins along the U.S. Atlantic coast. This independent project should be completed within the span of the internship. The final product of this project will be a final project report. This work will be completed in our lab space at the local Coastal Studies Institute. (20% of time)

Boat-based photo-identification: The intern will assist with dedicated boat-based photo-identification surveys to examine abundances, site fidelity, and progression of skin lesions of bottlenose dolphins in Roanoke Sound.  Responsibilities include operating a small vessel during transect surveys and sightings, assisting with photo-identification, collecting sighting data for dolphin groups, and general maintenance of field equipment. (10% of time)

This internship requires a minimum commitment of 40 hours per week, consisting of eco-tours, lab photo-identification, and dedicated surveys. The intern will carry out mate/naturalist duties and opportunistic photo-identification aboard the Nags Head Dolphin Watch for 3-4 days per week throughout the field season while 1-2 days per week will be spent conducting photo-identification in the lab. Abundance surveys will be conducted 2-4 times per month from May through October.

Salary:  This internship is a paid position. Applicants will receive $12/hour salary for the naturalist position on the dolphin watch. Tips aboard the dolphin tours are expected, but not guaranteed.

Housing:  Although housing is not provided, we will assist you in finding housing accommodations in the Outer Banks. Interns are responsible for their own transportation to and from the Outer Banks as well as to and from the field sites and lab.

The successful applicant would ideally have the following qualifications:

Minimum of 18 years of age and recently graduated with an undergraduate degree in marine biology, biology, zoology, or related field

Strong interest in the marine environment and conservation

Ability to swim

Basic proficiency in MS Access, Word, Excel, and Picture Manager as well as digital photography

Enthusiasm, attention to detail, responsible, independent, focused, and dedicated

Works well in a team environment as well as individually

Experience in boating and marine field data collection

Experience in environmental outreach preferred

Experience in photo-identification preferred

First AID/CPR certification required (certification classes available in the Outer Banks)

Due to employment aboard the dolphin eco-tours, all candidates must be U.S. citizens

NOTE: The United States Coast Guard requires all passenger vessels to be drug free work environments. In order to work aboard the dolphin eco-tours, the intern will be required to pass a pre-employment drug test and to participate in random drug testing during the period of the research season.

Application Process:

Please submit cover letter, resume, and contact information for 3 references via email to: Use “Dolphin photo-id internship” in the subject line of the email. Applicants must apply by February 12th to be considered for this position. Applications will be reviewed in the order received. Decisions to be made by March 1st.

Jessica Taylor

Executive Director, Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research

P.O. Box 7721

Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948