2018 Applicants

An announcement will be made soon regarding research assistants for the upcoming field season.

Join us…

MCERC accepts 2-6 Research Assistants each winter who participate collecting and analyzing data and mentoring interns while we study humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) wintering in the Caribbean. Applications are accepted following announcements on the MARMAM list, Texas A&M University job board, and social media including Facebook and Twitter. Interested applicants must have a degree in marine biology or a related field and follow the detailed instructions for applying following the announcements. Experience is not a requirement for these positions but previous participation in the Humpback Whale Field Intensive Program is a plus. Accepted applicants must be available to commit to full time participation beginning with training from home (via electronic media) the entire month of December and arrival in Puerto Rico/TCI no later than January 1st. We typically depart the field site after April 30th each season. Applications will not be accepted in advance of the open period indicated on announcements. Please read the full description below.

General Description

Research for this project includes seasonal occurrence patterns and social behaviors of humpback whales. Our goal is to have 5 days of vessel based data collection (weather permitting). Time is divided among being on a boat, data analysis, and turtle work. Acoustic data will be analyzed during days when field excursions are not practical or possible. There may be opportunity for aerial survey experience. Research assistants will work hard during the season and can expect to gain a solid foundation in marine and coastal ecology, humpback whale ecology with a focus on behavioral ecology, sea turtle ecology, and an excellent mastery of field equipment related to this project. We work from land and vessel platforms with occasional aerial reconnaissance. There may be an opportunity to learn aerial survey skills in addition to set up and work with a theodolite, however; this is limited to the needs of the project. Boat work includes data collection using hydrophones.

Commitment

Research assistants must be available full time from December (for training from home), arrival in Puerto Rico or Salt Cay (TCI) the first day of January, and stay until the end of April/beginning of May. You will have a bunk at the field house and must be prepared for very long days. We typically rise well before the sun and finish well after sunset each day. This is a low density area for humpbacks. The ability to maintain land based observations for hours (or even a full day) without seeing a whale requires commitment and patience. Vessel based data collection will be from a small boat and is dependent on a team that is able to work well in close quarters. Commitment and dedication should be applied to computer tasks as they can become monotonous. Day to day tasks will include posting updates to Facebook, updating the MCERC website, and other tasks as needed. Photography skills and knowledge of updating websites is a plus. Some training will take place in December via meetings over the internet prior to arrival in Puerto Rico or Salt Cay. Research assistants must be willing to dedicate effort from home, including reading publications and installing required software.

Responsibilities

Research assistants are fully involved in this project! You will work with interns to make our research team is effective. You will be coached in teaching methods to facilitate mentoring interns, and assist in surveying and data collection.

Tasks include:
• Demonstrating equipment and providing instruction to students and interns
• Preparation and maintenance of equipment
• Leading and participating in roundtable discussions of peer reviewed publications
• Interacting with the public and peers
• Overseeing household chores and field house living expectations.

You will be working on continually updating our humpback whale catalog, photo identification, fluke matching, and acoustic analysis. You will be taught to use bioacoustics software and databases. Neatness and attention to detail is key.

Provisions & Accommodations

You will be provided with a place to sleep at the field house, food, training, required software, and transportation to all field sites from the research station at no cost. Research assistants will pitch in for internet access (when available) and basic amenities (details are discussed in interviews). Please review the website for more information on the research site and accommodations available.

Travel

Research assistants are responsible for transportation to and from San German, Puerto Rico, USA or Salt Cay, TCI. Residents of Puerto Rico or TCI are required to live at the field house with the team during their work on the project. International research assistants are responsible for determining and acquiring all necessary travel documents. MCERC will provide a letter affirming acceptance into the position as needed. We have created a document listing travel tips you may find useful available for download here.

Qualifications

Priority is given to students with an upbeat, hardworking and positive attitude. The ability to take direction and live in close quarters with up to 10 people is a key to a successful field season. A stellar academic average is a plus, but is not a requirement and should not discourage interested people with less than perfect academic scores from applying. A strong desire to learn new skills, mentor other students, and promote a positive attitude towards stewardship is essential for candidates. Please be self-motivated, energetic, patient, and enthusiastic! You must enjoy working with a group from around the globe and be respectful of cultural differences. Candidates for a research assistant position must complete 2-3 interviews via Skype or in person prior to being accepted for a position. You will need your own snorkel gear and laptop with windows (and be willing to load the required programs) to the project. Mac laptops will not be compatible with all software needed for these positions.