Friday, 15 June 2012

Sea Watch seeks students by the sea shore!

Hello again, we're very sorry about the lack of updates, but it has been a busy period here at OceanBlogspot, so are next few articles are going to be catch up on what we have done recently.

Around three ago we packed my bags and headed off to Blackpool. No, not for a vacation by the seaside, but to meet some of the enthusiastic students at Blackpool & Fylde College studying for a BSc. in Marine Biology and Coastal Zone management.

Short introduction to the Sea Watch Foundation

With only two permanent members of staff, Sea Watch relies heavily on volunteers and many of Sea Watch’s current volunteers are students or recent graduates from biological science degrees.  It’s a mutually beneficial relationship as pursuing a career in zoology has become extremely competitive and many graduates find themselves doing months of unpaid volunteer work to accumulate the necessary experience to apply for ‘real jobs’. With ‘eco-tourism’ quickly becoming a flourishing industry, organisations offering ‘eco-volunteering’ are also becoming increasingly abundant. The only catch is that valuable volunteer and intern opportunities that used to be filled by passionate graduates eager to earn their laurels are now reserved for well paying customers looking for a ‘once in a lifetime wildlife experience’ before returning to their day jobs. While eco-tourism is a great way to raise awareness -and funds- for conservation, it is making it increasingly more difficult for students to find relevant opportunities to gain valuable experience that is essential when applying for jobs. Sea Watch offers students the opportunity to get involved and gain vital experience without an extortionate price tag through a variety of different options and this is what my talk, and this blog post, is all about!

What option is for you? Your choice! Sea Watch offers a range of volunteering opportunities to suit most needs! You can choose just how much you want to get involved and how much time you want to dedicate!

The easiest and most flexible way to get involved is home based volunteering. While it’s definitely the less glamorous side of cetacean research, computer based work is just as important as field work! There is always data that needs entering or sightings that need to be located, there is always something that needs doing! Working from the comfort of your own home, you can decide how much time you want to dedicate to the tasks at hand and fit them around your schedule to suit your needs! In addition to the regular database work, check the website regularly for more specific tasks! At the moment, Sea Watch is looking for School Representatives to provide fun, engaging and educational programs for local schools! Think this sounds like you?  Contact Sea Watch now! 
If it’s field experience you’re looking for, you don’t have to look abroad for projects in exotic locations- although we understand the weather there is probably a lot more enticing- Sea Watch has 35 regional groups all around the country that can provide valuable training and experience in cetacean field observations! The type of work you get to do differs from location to location, but generally the main focus of regional groups are land based cetacean watches which are an excellent way to get a preliminary idea of cetacean populations and distribution in the UK. You may also be able to assist in public awareness work and participate in local events such as beach cleans, bakes sales and World Ocean Day events! Generally, people are asked to commit a couple of hours a week although all field work is of course weather dependent! The Blackpool students were up for the challenge and despite suboptimal conditions joined me for their first land watch on central pier the next day. Unfortunately the heavy fog that was steadily closing in on us shut down the watch prematurely but with National Whale and Dolphin Watch just around the corner and under the watchful eye of their freshly appointed internal land watch coordinator, Sophie, we are confident that we will soon be receiving regular sighting reports from Blackpool!

Blackpool students on land watch on central pier

On watch in Blackpool

To find your nearest group, have a look at our Regional Contact list now! If you happen to live in Cumbria or South East Scotland and are looking for a real commitment and bit more responsibility, we still require Regional Coordinators in these areas!
For a more intensive experience, consider the resident volunteer program in the Sea Watch head quarters in New Quay

New Quay, Wales

Located on the picturesque Welsh coast, New Quay is a small town with a big draw: bottlenose dolphins. New Quay is home to one of  only two resident populations of bottlenose dolphins, as well as harbour porpoises and a grey seals. As a research volunteer with the Sea Watch Foundation, you will commit at least 6 weeks of your time to studying these amazing animals in their natural habitat, taking part in all aspects of field and office work. Field work consists of land based watches, line transect and photo-identification surveys as well as opportunistic observations from tourist boats while you will be learning all about data entry, public awareness work and photo-identification in the office! While the minimum commitment is 6 weeks, there is not upper limit. You can stay, one, two or even for all five of the research periods! Apart from the research volunteers, Sea Watch also recruits and Education Assistant, who works primarily with public awareness, and a Research Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator, a more experienced volunteer who coordinates field and office work. Read more about what our volunteers get up to on their blog and find out how to apply on our website.
Unfortunately, as Sea Watch is a small charity, volunteers do have to pay their own rent (£55 per week, all bills included) and are responsible for their own food expenses, however, Sea Watch has never and will never charge ‘project fees’.

Students also have the option of completing their dissertation in collaboration with Sea Watch. Sea Watch produces a list of potential projects for prospective MSc and BSc students but can also propose their own projects. Most students spent some time in New Quay to collect data but there is also a wealth of historic data to fall back on should all best efforts fail! Current projects include an acoustics project on signature whistles, a boat traffic impact study and a photo-identification study on grey seals. Previous Masters students have even presented their studies at the European Cetacean Conference!
National Whale and Dolphin Watch: 27th-29th July

Finally, for the people who just cannot find the time to commit to any of these projects, there is always National Whale and Dolphin Watch, during which members of the public are invited to take part in cetacean watches around the country to provide a snapshot of cetacean species around the UK. Everyone is welcome and no previous experience is needed, just some weather proof clothes and a bit of patience! Find out what watches are planned around your area on our website!
If you would like to support our work but are unsure where to start, you can always adopt a dolphin! For the cost of one fancy coffee a month(£3.50), you can choose on of our six adoptable dolphins and receive an adoption pack including a Species ID guide, a poster, a cuddly dolphin and access to a special adopters area on our website that allows you to track the progress of your dolphin. You will also receive a monthly newsletter with news and pictures about your dolphin. Tip: If you choose a female, you may well get a calf as well!  All the money donated goes straight back into research and allows Sea Watch to buy vital equipment such as cameras and binoculars!

So what are you waiting for? Sea Watch needs you, help us conserve cetaceans now!

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