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Key Research ... The members of MUCRU work on both applied and empirical conservation-based research projects. This includes assessing abundance and habitat use of a variety of dolphin populations. Analysing cetacean social structure and mitigating against dolphin by-catch are also tackled in our research. Other areas of research include foraging ecology, population genetics and assessment of anthropogenic impacts on cetaceans through development and tourism.


WHAT: Volunteer assistants are requested to partake in a PhD project investigating diet and foraging ecology of bottlenose dolphins.

WHERE: Bunbury, South Western Australia (180 km south of Perth). A beautiful coastal town with easy access to Perth, the Margaret River wine region, surfing and bush walking.

WHEN: June 2010 to Sept 2010.

DUTIES: Relative composition and abundance of prey species in the Koombana Bay region will be sampled using beach seine nets, fish traps, and gillnets. Volunteers will be required to manually deploy and retrieve fish traps, seines and gillnets, assist in the operation of a research vessel, identify, count, weigh, and measure fish and invertebrate species.

Stomach contents of stranded dolphins and scat samples will be analysed for prey content. This will involve separating and identifying hard parts in scat and stomach samples. Volunteers may also have the opportunity to assist with post mortem examinations of stranded dolphins.

Spatial analysis to determine foraging “hot spots” will be carried out using point observational data. Assistants will be required to assist in the creation of data layers by entering data into an ArcGIS format and learn to use some basic GIS tools.

Fish, invertebrate, and marine plant samples will be collected and prepared for stable isotope analysis. Volunteers may also be required to assist in the biopsying of dolphins for stable isotope work.

Data entry and management, equipment maintenance, and other office and lab tasks will be required.



-Primary requirement is a good attitude, work ethic, and ability to work in a physically demanding environment. This can include long hours in extreme weather conditions and long days on the water. Hauling fish traps and nets is physically demanding work. Volunteers must be able to repeatedly lift over 23 kg (~51 lbs).

-Must be able to commit to a minimum of one month. People able to commit for longer periods will be preferred.

Preferred, but not mandatory

-Undergraduate degree in the biological sciences

-Previous field work experience, specifically with fisheries or marine mammals

-Experience using ArcGIS or similar spatial analysis software


If interested contact:

Shannon McCluskey or


I am seeking a research assistant for field work from ASAP until the 20th of November, assistants that can stay and help for the whole period will be preferred. Assistants will help me in collecting behavioural data in the field on the bottlenose dolphin population off the southwest coast of Western Australia. The field work began in June 2009 and will continue to June 2011. Fieldwork will be based just north of the coastal town of Bunbury, approximately 2hr drive south of Perth.

When & where? Edit

needed from now until 20th November 2010, Tursiops sp.,based in Bunbury, Western Australia


The project aims to ascertain the population abundance of the dolphin population in the Binningup region and determine the residency/movement patterns of the population. It will hopefully also identify critical habitats for dolphins for particular behavioural activity states and possibly determine drivers of these. This area is zoned for the construction of a desalination plant. This research will assist in establishing the long-term viability of the population.

Field workEdit

All observations and data collection will be conducted from a 5.9m centre console boat equipped with a 100HP engine. Assistants should be prepared to work long hours with early starts. Aboard the research boat assistants will be required to assist in boat handling and data collection and be expected to participate in the following duties in the lab: data entry, fin-matching, and database/catalogue maintenance. Field work is physically and at times mentally demanding but you will have the opportunity to observe and gain hands-on experience in relation to survey techniques, photo-identification, behavioural observations and improve existing skills. This experience will be most useful to students or anyone hoping to pursue a career in behavioural ecology or population biology.


1. Be enthusiastic, team oriented, have a positive attitude and good sense of humour as well as a genuine interest in marine mammal science. 2. Be adaptable and patient as fieldwork is highly weather dependent. This means office based work during bad weather and long consecutive days in the field when weather permits and fieldwork will vary between weekends and weekdays. For every day on the water there are approximately 3 days in the office data processing. The days you work are very inflexible as it is weather dependant and having a job while you are assisting is not recommended unless they are very flexible. 3. Be prepared to work long days in a small vessel in small team of 3 people approximately 40 hours per week.

Accomodation, travel and expensesEdit

Regrettably I am unable to provide monetary compensation or living provisions and research assistants will be responsible for travel to Perth or Bunbury and their own living expenses. Pickup from Perth may be possible but is dependent on arrival time. Perth is the closest airport. We are 2hrs drive south of Perth in Bunbury. There are trains and buses to Bunbury. Transport within Bunbury is not provided and is via Bus/Walking/Bicycle.


If you are interested please email Valissa on and include the dates you are available, a copy of your CV and a couple of references.

Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit

447 Koombana Drive Bunbury

WA 6230 Australia

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