Bottlenose Dolphin Research Assistants Required in the Shannon Estuary

1st Feb 2018

The Shannon Dolphin Project was established by the IWDG in 1993 to develop and provide educational awareness and conservation of the Shannon dolphins. The project has a strong research background and has collaborated with a number of Irish and international research groups. Long-term monitoring of the bottlenose dolphin population in the Shannon has been carried out using photo-id since 1993 and static acoustics since 2001. The Shannon dolphins are unique as they are genetically discrete and largely confined to the Shannon Estuary and adjacent Brandon and Tralee Bays. The Shannon Estuary was designated as a Special Area of Conservation for bottlenose dolphins in 2000 and is one of only two such sites for this species in Ireland.

Based in the Shannon Dolphin Centre in Kilrush, Co Clare, the project also operates an interpretive centre that is open to the public and used to promote awareness of the dolphins and wildlife in the Shannon region.

The Shannon Dolphin Project is seeking research assistants from May-September 2018 based in Kilrush, Co. Clare, Ireland. For more information about the Shannon Dolphin Project see  Research assistants will be required to conduct monitoring surveys from dolphin-watching tour boats, spend a considerable amount of time on bottlenose dolphin photo-identification and related office tasks, and assist in the management of the dolphin centre on a daily basis. Photo-id training will be provided on the boats and in the office. There will also be the opportunity to help with research conducted on board the IWDG’s research vessels Muc Mhara and Celtic Mist, and to assist the IWDG with cetacean strandings should the opportunity arise.

These positions provide an excellent opportunity to develop skills in marine research and education and to assist with one of the longest-running bottlenose dolphin population monitoring programs in Europe.


We are seeking skilled research assistants to commence on 15 May 2018. Because of the training required, applicants must be able to commit to three or four months. Research assistants are required full-time, finishing 28 September 2018.  Up to two days off a week will be either assigned or given when requested if possible.


Kilrush is a small town located in west Clare on the northern shore of the Shannon Estuary. The Shannon Dolphin Centre is located less than 5 minutes’ walk from the town centre. West Clare is a beautiful place to work, but applicants are asked to be aware that it is also somewhat geographically isolated with limited facilities and variable weather patterns.


1. Conducting monitoring surveys from two dolphin-watching tour boats operating in the Shannon Estuary, collecting photo-id data and recording data on tour boat encounters with dolphin groups. Surveys involve one to three daily boat trips and are weather dependent.

2. Photo-identification and database entry in the office, including fin identification, fin-matching, photo processing, sighting data entry and maintenance of our long-term photo-id catalogue. Research assistants should be prepared to work long days in the office during bad weather, and long days in the field during good weather.

3. Dolphin centre duties, including general administrative tasks, receiving visitors to the dolphin centre, engaging with and educating members of the public, managing merchandise, updating websites and supporting and promoting the IWDG, and raising awareness and membership participation. Also, general maintenance of research equipment and facilities.



-   Previous photo-identification experience or a strong desire to learn photo-id skills

-   Genuine interest in marine mammal biology, the marine environment and conservation

-   Basic computer proficiency in MS Office

-   Excellent verbal and communication skills and enthusiastic with a positive attitude

-   Sociable and work well both in a team and independently

-   A detail-oriented work ethic with an ability to work in a meticulous manner

-   Conscientious, reliable, hard-working, and self-motivated

-   Flexible and patient; must be prepared to work long days in the field or office

-   Comfortable working on boats and no history of debilitating seasickness

-   Good English language skills

-   Must be 18 years or older


Desirable but not essential

-   Enrolled in or completed a degree in Biology, Marine Biology, Environmental Science, Animal Behaviour, Ecology, Zoology or related fields

-   Previous field research experience, especially in marine mammal research

-   Prior experience working on boats

-   A strong interest and knowledge of bottlenose dolphins and/or Irish cetaceans

-   Experience in interacting with the public

-   Familiarity with DSLR cameras and GPS equipment and software

-   Prior experience with MS Access and IMatch

-   Driving Licence, preferably having your own vehicle

-   Possibility to bring your own laptop for data entry



Volunteers will be expected to work and live as part of a team with shared cooking and cleaning duties. Unfortunately, there is no monetary compensation for these positions and a contribution of €400 per month towards accommodation and utilities is required. Accommodation will be provided in a shared house within walking distance of the dolphin centre and town of Kilrush. Research assistants are responsible for their own food costs and travel expenses to and from Kilrush, Ireland.

The closing date for applications is 30 March 2018. However, early application is recommended. Shortlisted candidates will be required to undertake a Skype interview in April. Successful applicants will be notified by mid-April.

To apply, please send your CV (including two relevant referees and their contact information) and a covering letter with a brief description of yourself and what you hope to gain from this experience, details of why you would like to work on this specific project and any relevant experience you have to Stephanie Levesque (

Please also specify the dates you expect to be able to join the project. Please put “Research Assistant” in the subject line of your email.