W H A L E S H A R K M O N I T O R I N G P R O G R A M S 2 0 1 7 / 2 0 1 8
We are looking for diverse, motivated and hard-working volunteers who are passionate about conservation, interested in the field monitoring of whale sharks and an opportunity to gain unique experience that will provide valuable skills for a career in marine conservation.
What is Whale shark Mexico.com?
Whale Shark México, a project within the nonprofit organization ConCiencia Mexico, is dedicated to research, conservation, education and sustainable management of these charismatic giants, based in and around Baja California Mexico, with its main office in La Paz City. This part of the world is one of the few places globally where researchers can monitor both aggregations of juvenile whale sharks (less then 7m) and large pregnant female shark (over 9m) on a seasonal basis. Whale shark Mexico is proud to be responsible for a continuous monitoring program documenting the distribution & abundance of the species in the waters around Mexico. Our mission is to facilitate conservation through research and education, and to promote the sustainable use of Mexico’s natural resources for both the natural environment & the local communities for years to come. We operate in conjunction and with the support of our affiliate organizations Panterra Expeditions, Sea & Kayak, Baja Expeditions and Cabo Expeditions.
Whale shark Monitoring Program 2017/2018
Location: Baja California, Mexico
Duration: Depending on programs (1 week – 12 weeks)
What will you learn as a volunteer?
Photo identification survey methods of whale sharks, community outreach and environmental education regarding whale sharks in Mexico, up to date and modern scientific monitoring of the a marine species (genetic sampling, scar analysis etc), environmental monitoring (sea conditions, factor influencing abundance, profiling), stereo photogrammetry camera techniques, problem solving skills, communication skills, real life experience of how a whale shark monitoring program works and produces research with set goals, and so much more…
What is included in the project cost?
Pick up on arrival to Mexico, accommodation for the duration of the chosen monitoring program, a comprehensive series of lectures given by Dr. Ramírez & the scientific team covering all aspects of whale shark conservation (biology, scientific research, photo identification, stereo photogrammetry, behavior (using drone and underwater camera on shark’s fin) species threats and conservation management), training in scientific monitoring, spotter plane expenses (at Espiritu Santo Island), boat expenses and private captain, experience in marine conservation which can be used to aid in developing your career in conservation or used as possible points for university courses and a bike for your transport in town.
What is expected of a volunteer during the program?
Our Whale shark volunteer program requires a full time commitment from our volunteers. Your involvement with the program will require appox. 8 hours a day, six days a week. Volunteers should also expect to be involved with out of hours events and should be willing to lend a hand wherever necessary. Volunteers at all times must respect local cultures and remember that they represent Whale shark Mexico during their involment. During the course of the program volunteers will not be able to seek external employment.
Program dates & Cost:
Our Whale shark monitoring programs are scheduled throughout the year and duration is dependent on the intensity of the research agenda. The monitoring programs between May and June focus directly on the mature population of pregnant females in Mexican waters, which aggregate around Espiritu Santo Island (La Paz) & Los Cabos one of only two places globally where these mature sharks are seen. These intensive monitoring programs are designed for the more physically hardened individual who enjoys volunteering and is willing to push them self to the highest level of scientific research.
Internship opportunities are available from January through till March and from October to December offer a more comprehensive long-term volunteer experience, predominantly monitoring the juvenile population of sharks around La Paz area. This internship is ideal for the first time volunteer that wishes to gain valuable experience in the field and a foundation to marine conservation in a working organization. Alternatively, we offer shorter volunteer opportunities throughout the year, which can be adjusted to suit personal availability and dependent on availability during the time of interest.
A full Price list & dates for all whale shark monitoring programs for 2017-2018 are presented in the table below:
Program Dates Location Program Length Cost
April 25 – June 24 La Paz / Los Cabos 2 months $3360 USD
Oct 02 – Dec 22 La Paz 12 weeks $3000 USD
Jan 02 – March 23 La Paz 12 weeks $3000 USD
What is NOT included in the cost of the project?
- Flights & Insurance
- Leisure activities on days off
- Minimum age: 18. Maximum age: no maximum age, but all volunteers must be physically fit enough to carry out all activities.
- Participants must be motivated and enthusiastic about conservation of the natural environment, passionate about the ocean and should have an interest in biological studies.
- Preferably with relevant experience and/or studying marine biology, conservation, environmental studies or related field, but not essential.
- Ability to work in tropical conditions; hot and humid climate with mosquitos and sand flies.
- Must be a confident swimmer with capable snorkeling ability.
- Comfortable at sea and working on boats. No experience necessary but if you suffer from extreme sea sickness maybe this is not the right project for you.
- Interpersonal skills, initiative, enthusiasm and the ability to work within a team are essential.
- Personal insurance. All volunteers must have their own insurance, and documented evidence must be provided to Whale shark Mexico prior to volunteer arrival.
How to apply
If you are looking for a unique opportunity and think you have what it takes to volunteer at the Whale Shark Mexico please email your CV along with a brief covering letter (no more than one A4 side) describing your motivations for applying to firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Please specify the program and dates you are applying for as there is limited availability to certain programs.
We are the environment; make a change today, volunteer!
By Daphné Booth
I spent 10 weeks volunteering for Conciencia Mexico within the program Whale Shark Mexico in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. This experience has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life (maybe the best)!
I come from France but live in Denmark, and I always loved the ocean and I have always been concerned by the protection of it. For that reason I volunteered in Cambodia in 2014 for seahorse protection with a big international volunteering organisation, after that I was looking for another volunteering experience but with a more local organisation, during a longer period of time and with more involvement of the volunteers in the project. I have been very lucky to meet some one, who talked about the volunteering internship, offered by Conciencia Mexico. Few months later I was flying to La Paz to start my internship for the whale sharks protection.
We were 3 interns, Angie from Australia, Zuzka from Canada and me, living together in a very nice house close to the office, we felt at home very quickly and had our rituals, like having a beer on the roof during sunset =) We became very good friends and had a lot of fun together!
I never saw a whale shark before, and we have been very well “introduced” to their world: how to swim and interact with them without disturbing them, how to take all the data needed, how to identify sharks’ sex, injuries, behaviour… Dr Dení Ramírez Macías, the main scientist and director of Whale Shark Mexico, and Darren have always answered all of our questions; their knowledge about whale shark is impressive! I have learnt so much during these 10 weeks by working with these scientists. They are very friendly, we felt comfortable with everything. So nice to work in a relaxed and fun atmosphere like that! We had so much laugh and happy moments =)
Dení, Darren and Felipe (who is working for Conciencia in an eco-construction project) were very attentive to our needs and ar-ranged so many nice things for us: showing us around, organising camping trips (to swim with sea lions, see grey whales…), inviting us to parties but also helping us every time we needed it.
We (the 3 interns) had many tasks and responsibilities, we got to work with all the different areas of whale shark research:
- Field work, on the boat : swim-ming with the sharks, tak-ing data…
- Office work : identifying the shark, entering all the data on spreadsheets…
- Education and communication : participating in festivals, taking care of clients on the boat…
We were doing field work 2-3 times a week, I wish it was more often.
Besides whale sharks, the Sea of Cortez offers an incredible diversity of marine animals, it is just amazing: dolphins, whales, sharks, rays, sea lions… So many “first time I see that” for me!!
I would recommend this internship to everyone who loves the ocean and wants to protect it. It is a very good way to contribute to endangered species protection.
It was an amazing experience with amazing people in an amazing place. In other words I want to do it again!!!
By Angie Heriot (Studying: BA Environmental Science) from Shark Bay Western Australia.
My passion for the environment grew at young age the more I learnt about the oceans ecosystem the more I wanted to find out. I heard about Whale Shark Mexico through Science contacts and social media.
As soon as I read about the project with the whale sharks and the NGO’S values and aims I jumped at the opportunity to become an intern.
My self and the other three interns were housed in a beautiful spacious home with hot running water (perfect after a day of swimming). The other interns (Daphne and Zuska) and I shared an amazing adventure with lots of laughs, firsts and perfect moments. Although I can’t say it was all fun and games. All three of us put in the hard work and long days with a huge self-reward in the end.
We would wake up in the morning have breakfast and by 8am we would bike down to the local marina and meet our main field researcher Darren Whitehead. Once we found a shark one intern would stay on the boat and collect data such as shark behaviour, an es-timated length etc. the other interns in the water would take a serious of photographic shark ID’S. Our survey day would last any were between 3-5 hours. We would finish our survey with $10 peso ($0.80 AUD) fish tacos and a short siesta before our afternoon the office began.
All the data we had collected over the morning than had to be transcribed into a new copy and then processed though the computer. We would use the I3S shark ID programme to id the sur-veyed sharks. While taking ID photo’s we would also take injury photos with these’s scar pho-tos we would: Analyse age of injury, place of injury and caused e.g. boat propellers.
Our work wasn’t always just in the field, I was lucky enough to attend and partici-pate in multiple eco festivals that consisted of whale shark conservation, Mining protests, surf carnivals. While at these events we would participate in Educa-tion whale shark conserva-tion, face painting, and proudly representing Whale shark Mexico.
I would recommend to any hard working and self-motivated person to volunteer for Whale Shark Mexico as it was a real eye opener into the research world and full of life changing experiences with likeminded people.
By Zuzka Gazdik
I went on a diving trip to the Sea of Cortez in early November of 2014 and a seed was planted. Even before I left beautiful Baja a strong pull, both to come back to La Paz and to do something with a purpose, something of greater significance than feeding human demand, bloomed within me. I followed the roots of those needs back to La Paz in late January where I spent seven weeks participating in a volunteer internship for whale shark research. I had met the researcher Dr. Dení Ramírez Macías on the November dive trip, and through a friend from the trip whom I had expressed my growing urge to, I found out that Dení just so happened to have a volunteer program with room for one more. Talk about meant to be! It was an amazing adventure which gave me the opportunity to meet many fantastically wonderful people and to have many forever memorable experiences. I plan on coming back!
Amongst the volunteers there was myself and two other awesome interns, Angie and Daphne. We lived together dorm style in a big, old, Mexi-can house. Tones of person-ality! In the house I mean, but them too. It was actually a very funny assortment of per-sonalities and backgrounds. Angie is from Shark Bay, Western Australia, Daphne is originally from France but lives in Denmark, and then me, the Canadian. It all sounded like the start of some cheesy joke. Add to that two Mexicans, Dení and Felipe her husband, and a Brit, Darren the other whale shark researcher who was our main ‘go to’ for the program. What a mix!
Our spacious international volunteer house was located near the Whale Shark Mexico/Conciencia office which is a 10-15 minute bike ride away from the Malecon, the main waterfront of La Paz. We had volunteer bikes for our use and alternated them between us as two were in decent condition, while the third, which was paint-ed like a whale shark and subsequently known as The Whale Shark Bike, was a dilapidated contraption with a seat built for crotch torture. We zipped back and forth from our house to the Marina and Malecon on our trusted steeds like a little whale shark banda. The Whale Shanks! We some loco gringas, yo! *insert gangster finger signs*
We spent half our time during the internship out on a boat gathering data on the whale sharks and guiding whale shark trips for tourists. The other half was spent in the office processing da-ta. The times out on the boat were always a wonder as each trip we were lucky enough to swim with these magnificent Goliaths of the sea.
Visibility varied, occasionally to less than two me-ters, and it would always be a bit of a thrill to have this massive creature suddenly materialize out of the murk beside us. And on days with good visibility it was magical to watch them undu-late and glide in the blue, rays of light reaching down from the surface to ca-ress their lithe bodies and sparkle off the denticles of their skin as though they were crystals. A couple of times large schools of buzzing cownosed rays fluttered by and stayed long enough for us to swim with them. Oc-casionally humpback whales would make a grand appearance, once pass-ing directly behind the boat. And on some days resident dolphins would deign to thrill us as well. I may be missing the Sea of Cortez just a wee bit.