Be part of a scientific team focused on the study and conservation of coastal dolphins in the beautiful waters of western Greece.
By sharing every experience with us, and ultimately living a researcher’s life, you will gain a first-hand understanding of the motivations that inspire our work, appreciate its significance for dolphin conservation and learn about the importance of protecting the marine ecosystem and its wonderful inhabitants.
Volunteers will conduct daily surveys onboard the research boat, working side-by-side with the researchers and contributing to field data collection. You will actively engage in visual surveys, looking for dolphins, sea turtles, birds and other fauna during navigation. As soon as dolphins are sighted, volunteers will help record angle and distance from the boat. You will help to record dolphin spatial distribution and record dolphin group size (a demanding task, as dolphin groups are often large and fluid), record group composition (i.e. number of newborns, calves, juveniles and adults) and behavior at five-minute intervals throughout the duration of the sighting, as well as to look out for sea turtles, birds and other animals.
While most of the survey effort will be carried out in the Gulf of Ambracia, volunteers will be also involved in the monitoring of the secondary study area located in the Inner Ionian Sea archipelago. Such monitoring, however, will depend on weather conditions and project priorities. After each survey, all the data is entered into dedicated databases. At the field station, you will contribute to data entry and analysis of digital photos. You will be taught how to file, name, crop and prepare digital photos of the dolphins’ dorsal fins for subsequent matching. You will then engage in individual photo-identification based on natural marks on the fins, by matching the dolphins photographed at sea with a digital catalogue of known animals. You may also assist in the identification of birds associated with the dolphins, and of fish prey in the birds’ beaks, based on digital photographs taken in the field.
Volunteers and researchers alike will engage in cooking and housekeeping shifts (on a rotation). Shared tasks will include meal planning and preparation. Those that are not familiar with cooking are recommended to bring some recipes with them. Dishwashing and house cleaning are also communal activities shared by all.
Once their participation is confirmed the volunteers will receive a .pdf file with detailed information on every single aspect of the project, including information on the study area, meeting arrangements on arrival and useful info and travel tips on how to get to Vonitsa.
Although in most cases our volunteers are 18 years old or more, we can also accept younger volunteers as long as they participate in the project accompanied by and adult (e.g., parent/s, family member or friend 21years old or older). This possibility is discussed in a case-by-case basis.
All our volunteer weeks start on Sundays and finish on Saturdays. Please keep this in mind when arranging your volunteer journey.
Volunteers will have plenty of free time. The work at sea is concentrated mostly during the morning hours. Once back from the sea, we will all have lunch at the field base. Then, all team members will have about 2 hours of free time before starting to work with the data collected at sea during our dolphin observations. Usually, the afternoon activities are interrupted around 7pm; it is then when those in charge of preparing dinner start so set things up and the rest of participants are free to do as they like until dinner time (around 8-8:30 pm).
No specific activities are scheduled during the free time. Volunteers will do as they like depending on their own initiative and interests. Typically free-time hours are spend resting and chilling out at the volunteers accommodations, walking along the seaside, in local bars and tavernas or at the beach.
In the field base there will be a sign-in/sign-out form, where volunteers will write their cellphone number, what time they are leaving and what time they expect to be back, in order to keep the project's personnel informed of their whereabouts in case they need to be contacted.
Our field base, just 50 meters away from the seaside, consists of the first floor of a two-storey house and is divided into two areas: an apartment with a large living room, open kitchen and a big balcony, two toilets with showers (one for staff and one for project participants), two bedrooms (for staff) and the office. The second area is a large comfortable loft of 90 square meters where participants will work and also sleep (bunk beds). Sheets and blankets are provided.
Vonitsa offers a choice of restaurants and taverns where volunteers may choose to eat dinner at their own expense (an average lunch or dinner costs about 12-20 Euro). Shopping is usually done by project staff members in Vonitsa, where one can find well-equipped, modern supermarkets and ingredients for the most demanding palates and needs. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included. Alcoholic drinks not covered by the project. The fridge at the field base will always have fruit juices and water.