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
Welcome to Whale Shark Mexico (WSM) family! WSM is a project belonging to the non-profit organization ConCiencia Mexico. It aims at researching, preserving, and contributing to the sustainable management of whale sharks off the coast of the Gulf of California, especially around the southern Baja California Peninsula.
“Interning with Whale Shark Mexico is an experience I would recommend to all students and early career scientists seeking to work in the world of marine conservation! – Jane Vinesky
By signing up to participate on this internship program you will collect valuable data that contributes to enhance the management plan for the species that was established in 2018, but also to collaborate with an international whale shark conservation network created to ensure whale shark protection around the globe. La Paz is a unique place to encounter whale sharks as both juvenile individuals (< 7 m long sharks) and large female sharks, apparently pregnant (> 9 m long) aggregate on a seasonal basis.
The internship program is designed to provide extensive hands-on experience, including field work data collection, assisting on scientific research projects, and data entry in scientific software. As part of our field work, you will be involved in collecting whale shark identification photographs (a non-invasive technique called Photo-ID), determine its gender, assisting in size measuring, recording body injuries, and collecting environmental data. We also use drones for behavioural studies.
As mentioned above, our internship program includes a lot of computer work. This is because we identify every individual that we observed in the water to build the photo-ID catalogue for the season. This catalogue is then compared with the data from past years and from the other localities that we work with! The whale shark injury database plays a critical role in our conservation efforts, since we try to achieve a no-shark-injured goal in the short term.
Therefore, all data that we collect will help to the whale shark conservation and management in the region.
Day 1: Arrival to La Paz International Airport. You will be picked up in the airport and drive to our intern-house! If your arrival is in the morning, one of our staff members will give you a welcome and a little tour around the city.
Day 2: Project work begins! Depending on our weekly schedule, you’ll receive a presentation about whale shark biology and ecology and about what we do, or you´ll get onboard to meet the whale sharks! The first time you will only enjoy the experience of swimming with the species! We need to know how you feel in the water while swimming with the sharks. We will explain you what data we take, and how we do it so you can start becoming familiar with the equipment.
Day 3: Depending on what you did the day before, you will either receive the presentation or you´ll go out for your first whale shark experience!
Next days: You will be involved both in field work data collection and computer work, getting better and better results in taking identification photos, in determining the gender and in measuring individuals. At the office all photos will be downloaded in one of our laptops to start the data processing. Additionally, there might be other activities such as beach clean-ups, and laboratory work where you might be involved in assisting with plankton sample identification, microplastic classification, and much more!
Weekend: You´ll have all weekends free for yourself! You can explore the city and the beaches nearby or sign up yourself in a snorkelling trip to the sea lion colony at Espiritu Santo Archipelago. La Paz Bay is also a beautiful place to go diving in some of the amazing reefs that we have in the area. To visit Cabo Pulmo or Todos Santos is more than worth it, or maybe you prefer to do some hiking, paddleboarding in the bay, riding a bike in the Malecon looking at sunset, or just spending the day watching Netflix.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The weekly schedule may vary depending on the weather conditions. Thus, WE DO NOT PROMISE any number of field trips!
What will you learn during your internship?
- Whale shark population survey methods, including ID photos, gender determination, size measurement, body injury analysis, and environmental monitoring.
- Computer work, including handling excel databases, photo-ID processing software, and handling a global whale shark ID database.
- Outreach and environmental education activities in La Paz and nearby areas, including whale shark presentations and beach clean-ups.
- Potential activities: collaborating with researchers and universities in scientific projects related to plankton biomass, microplastic analysis, genetic samples, and so on..
What is included in the project cost?
- Pick up upon arrival to La Paz airport.
- Accommodation during your internship in a shared-room apartment.
- Scientific training in field work data collection and data processing.
- Assisting in scientific projects and research articles (depending on the internship duration)
- Boat expenses and private captain.
- Direct hands-on experience in whale shark conservation and management.
What would we expect from you as an intern?
Our internship program requires full time commitment. There will be longer working days than other, in which you might be out at the sea for 6-8 hours. Therefore, we expect interns to have a good physical condition to be able to swim alongside whale sharks. Any intern will be forced to participate in any of our activities. However, interns should be willing to lend a hand whenever necessary, for your own benefit. Interns must respect the local culture all the time. And remember, you are representing Whale Shark Mexico during your involvement, so we ask for a decent behaviour in the city even though you are enjoying a free day! During the program, interns are not expected to seek external employment.
Program dates & Cost:
Our internship program runs from October 15th to June 15th. The monitoring program between October and April focuses on the juvenile whale shark aggregation in La Paz, whereas in May and June we will focus our efforts on the mature population of “pregnant” females, which aggregate around Espiritu Santo Island (ESI).
The internship focused on the juvenile aggregation in La Paz is ideal for a 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. On the other hand, the ESI monitoring program requires more physical effort as we will spend longer time at sea. Thus, this internship is designed for a more physically hardened individual who enjoys volunteering. During the field trips in ESI there are high opportunities to see other marine species such as whales, dolphins, turtles or mobula rays.
The costs of our whale shark internship program are presented below:
|Program Dates||Location||Program Length||Cost|
|Oct 15 – April 15||La Paz||3 months||$60,000 MXN|
|Oct 15 – April 15||La Paz||2 months||$45,000 MXN|
|Oct 15 – April 15||La Paz||1 month||$30,000 MXN|
|April 15 – June 15||ESI||2 months||$90,000 MXN|
|April 15 – June 15||ESI||1 month||$50,000 MXN|
What is NOT included in the cost of the project?
- Flights & Insurance
- Leisure activities on days off
- Minimum age: 18.
- Good physical condition: able to swim for long time.
- Good snorkelling abilities.
- 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.
- 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.
- Good interpersonal skills, initiative, enthusiasm, and good team-work abilities.
IMPORTANT! 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 you think you have what it takes to volunteer at Whale Shark Mexico, please email your CV and a brief cover letter to email@example.com
Note: Please specify the program and dates you are applying for as there is limited availability.
Let´s make a better future for whale shark together!
Learn about our Internship´s Experiences.