Volunteers Needed for Humpback Whale Research

The Wildlife Conservation Society is a US-based, non-profit organization that saves wildlife and wild places worldwide, through science, conservation and education. WCS has been active in Gabon since the 1980s, pioneering studies of forest ecology and over recent years adding a focus on the marine ecosystems of the entire Congo Basin Coast region. Southern Hemisphere humpback whales migrate to the coastal waters of tropical West Africa to breed each year. Illegal fisheries, poaching, pollution, habitat disturbance and climate change threaten these populations. In this region, we are working to expand the number and size of marine protected areas to safeguard at least 10 percent of territorial seas. Efforts towards this include the collection of data on key species like humpback whales to aid in the design and implementation of management plans.

WCS has worked on Southern Atlantic humpback whales in Gabon since 1999, with the bulk of effort focused on the six-year period between 2001 and 2006. Work on humpback whales in Angola and Congo began in 2008. These efforts have led to the first post-whaling era population abundance estimates, clarification of genetic stock boundaries, and identification of links to other populations through a range of means (photographic work, genetics, acoustics and satellite tagging). Ongoing work includes a large-scale (African continent) landscape genetics study (in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History) and work to refine existing abundance estimates; the work proposed here will feed into these studies, as well as contribute to the development of management strategies for the Congo Basin Coast region.

Job Location: Mayumba National Park or Pongara National Park, Gabon

Field conditions at these sites can be challenging, with shared living quarters being quite basic (ie: frequent water shortages, limited electricity). Fieldwork can be intense, days are long and all participants are expected to work long and occasionally exhausting days. This is the reality of field based marine mammal work and the challenges should not be under-estimated. It should however be noted that field sites are in spectacular locations, with access to pristine and beautiful beaches. Volunteers will have access to high biodiversity, and interactions with whales will be unparalleled. This position will suit someone eager to increase their field experience and advance a career in marine mammal sciences.

Job Description: This is a temporary, seasonal position from July-September 2012.

Responsibilities will include:

Participating in humpback whale survey projects in Gabon. Roles will include photo-identification and an introduction to biopsying. Some structured survey work is also likely. Volunteers may be asked to help with C-POD deployments and recoveries. Ensuring smooth operations in base camp Assisting the whale team lead with data management Assisting the whale team lead with equipment maintenance. Minimum Qualifications:

Volunteers must be at least 21 years of age Have a background in science and/or biological field research Prior boating experience required. Most of the work will be conducted using rigid-bottom inflatables with an experienced skipper, but minimum competence with and comfort on small boats essential. Fluent in English or French, with a working knowledge of the other language Enthusiasm for, and commitment to, marine conservation Comfortable living in remote areas under basic living conditions Flexibility in challenging situations Desired skills include: driver’s license SLR camera photography skills Ability to swim Team leaders will receive a modest stipend for their services. All field expenses will be covered by the project. To apply please send a CV, cover letter and 3 references to Tim Collins (tcollins@wcs.org) and Johanna Polsenberg (wcs.cbc@gmail.com) by 5:00 pm on May 18th, 2012 for consideration.

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