Field helper recruitment

We are looking for volunteers

to be employed as unpaid field helpers for the 2018-2019 field work season of our research projects on the ecology and behaviour of various marine megafauna species of Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands.

Deadline for applications : June 10th, 2018.


Introduction

Reasearch projects are carried out at Sea Lion Island (Falkland Islands) from the end of August to the beginning of April..

Sea Lion Island on Google maps

We carry out two main long tern projects: 1) a study of the behavioural ecology and breeding biology of the southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina); 2) a study of the activity, sociality and predation behaviour of the killer whales (Orcinus orca). All volunteers are involved in the field work of both these projects. Then, we have various supplementary research projects, in which volunteer involvement depends on the specific situation of each season. These projects are: 1) a study of the breeding biology and communication system of the Falklands skua (Catharacta antarctica); 2) various projects regarding marine birds and raptors of Sea Lion Island; 3) a general monitoring project regarding various aspects of the environment of the island. To get details about the study species and the specific goals of each project please see the dedicated pages (left menu). Volunteers will be very likely involved in one or more of these projects. Sometimes volunteers also help in activities related to the environmental management of the island (e.g., beach cleaning and tussac grass replanting), but these activiets are carried out just for a very brief time (few hours to few days).

We may ask volunteers to help with data processing (e.g., identification of killer whales, counts of marine birds in drone pictures, data inputting), but the most of volunteers work will be field work on the Sea Lion Island beaches.

ESRG reserves the full right to decide how to employ volunteers and allocate their time among the different possible activities and projects.

We recruit volunteers for two shifts; 1) shift 1: from the end of August to the beginning of December; 2) shift 2: from the beginning of December to the end of March. IN BOTH CASES VOLUNTEERS ARE REQUIRED TO STAY IN THE FIELD FOR THE WHOLE SHIFT, and early departures are not allowed, with the obvious exception of significant emergencies. In your cover letter please cleary state your shift preference, if any. Please note that nobody is allowed to stay in the field for two consecutive shifts.

IMPORTANT: please note that we cannot accept applications for a partial shift, and that all volunteers take a strict committment to stay in the field for the whole shift period.

The field work includes: collection of demographic and ecological data about the study species; marking of elephant seals for individual recognition; photo-identification of killer whales; observation of the behaviour of the study species; collection of various kinds of biological samples for hormone, genetic and diet study; application of special techmniques to study the animal phenotype and the social and phisycal environment (photogrammetry, GPS mapping, laser telemetry, drones). The monitoring work is carried out on a large number of species and aspects of the local environment. Therefore, we expect from volunteers maximum flexibility and a positive attitude toward learning and applying a large array of techniques and data collection protocols.

Important aspects of the position

Volunteers need a strong motivation, the willingness to work very hard, and a good physical condition. The field work is carried out in a cold weather, and, therefore, a good reistance to cold is an absolute requirement. We work in the field every day of the week, and volunteers have only one half day of rest per week. The field work is sometimes physically demanding, for example when we weigh weaned elephant seal pups (up to 200 kg, to be carried to the weighing tripod by four people).

We offer you to work on an very beautiful island, possibly the best oneof the whole Falklands, in a pristine natural environment, and in touch with an impressive and tame wildlife. Sea Lion Island is a National Nature Reserve of the Falkland Islands, an Important Bird Area, an Important Plant Area, a RAMSAR convention site, and the premire destination for wildlife watching in the Falklands.

Please note that at least one of the PI, and usually two of them, will be in the field for the whole season, so our projects are an excellent opportunity to learn from very experienced people.

Cost coverage

Volunteers should cover all expenses of their travel to Sea Lion Island. We cover accomodation, food and general expenses of volunteers while they are on the island, with the only exception of phone, Internet, and beverages, which cost should be covered by volunteers.

It is very important to keep into mind that, due to the Sea Lion Island weather and the requirement to spend long hours in the field, it is ABSOLUTELY COMPELLING for voolunteers to get a top quality technical clothing. All personal clothing and equipment need to be provided by the volunteers. Moreover, volunteers are required to have: 1) a full medical insurance covering all kind of emergencies that may happen during the field work; 2) 10x42 good quality binoculars (all other individual data collection equipment will be provided by the ESRG).

IMPORTANT: We ask volunteers a donation of 300 GBP, to help us cover management costs, and expesens for maintenance and repair of individual data collection instruments.

IMPORTANT: We ask perspective volunteers to carefully check all the costs, and in particular travel costs, before applying, because travelling to the Falklands can be expensive. Please note that we are not in the position to offer any form of financial help to our volunteers. Volunteers are welcome to apply for funding if they have a chance to do so, but any funding application is responsibility of the volunteers only, although we are keen to provide support letters upon request.

Work load

We warmly suggest volunteers to carefully consider the requirements of our field work, that can be demaning at times, and involves a rather complex data collection protocol. The following are some aspects of the field work that can be problematic.

- Volunteers work in the field the whole day, so they can be in the field for up to 14 hours per day, depending on the time of the season.

- The team cover all the daylight hours, and that means that at peak season we have three day shifts: 1) morning shift, starting at dawn, as early as 03:30; 2) evening shift, until sunset, as late as 22:00; 3) middle shift, with 6/7 hours in the morning and 6/7 hours in the evening, and rest around mid day.

- Due to the time shifts mentioned above, sleeping time can be reduced at peak season up to just six hours per day; moreover, due to the timing of the shifts, volunteers need sometimes to sleep around mid day, wake up very early in the morning, and go to bed very late in the evening.

- Sea Lion Island is a rather cold place, often very windy and wet, and the full sunshine days are few also during the summer. This kind of weather can be fine for any people with average resistance to the cold and adequate colothing, but can be problematic for people very sentitive to the cold.

- Walking is possibly the most physically demanding activity carried out at Sea Lion Island, we spend a lot of time walking. Although the island is flat, and there is no hiking on hills or mountains, each volunteer walk on average for 15/20 km every day, but up to 30/35 km per day at times (for example when we do repeated daily count/mapping of weaned pups to assess their dispersion patterns).

- Some of the activities carried out at Sea Lion Island require lifting of heavy stuff, for example when weighing elephant seal pups or downloading the supply boat, that carried food and stores to the island.

We work in the field together with the volunteers, with a very similar work load and timing, so we know how difficult can be to cope with the stress of the field work. We have a long experience in managing the field work, so we organize it in such a way to carry out effective projectrs but also to provide a very postive experience for our volunteers.

Regarding the data collection protocol, we ask volunteers to carefully read and memorize our operational instructions, such as to be ready to learn and apply the protocols in the field when they will be at Sea Lion Island. We provide a very accurate training to our volunteers, both in theory and practice. At least one PI is always in the field to monitor the results of the data collection and the application of the correct protocols (with possible rare exceptions of few days of absence of both PIs, when we do surveys on other islands). IMPORTANT: we carefully train volunteers on the best way to work safely with the elephant seals, that can be potentially dangerous, and we strictly apply safety rules that volunteers are compelled to follow.


How to apply

To be considered for the position please email us a detailed curriculm vitae. Please put your CV and documentation in a single PDF file. Please include a cover letter, specifing the position to which you are applying, stating why you are applying, and providing a brief summary of your main qualifications for the position. Please email to Dr. Filippo Galimberti (fil_esrg@eleseal.org).

The CV should include:

We are also interested in knowing:

We welcome vegetarians, but we need to know the volunteer diet requirements in advance, to plan our food and store orders, so please mention your diet requirements in your CV. Please state also that you grant ESRG the right to archive your personal data, to be used only for the recruitment process.

Please attach to the PDF of your CV an identification document with picture (this is a legal requirement to accept your application).

Deadline

The deadline to submit the applications is 10 June 2018. All candidates will receive an aknowledgements of their application by email. If you do not receive it in a few days please send your CV email again. Volunteers that will be included in our short list will be interviewed on SkyPe, so please remember to include your SkyPe ID.

FAQ

How to get to Sea Lion Island

- The only viable option to fly to the Falklands is through Chile. There is a MoD (UK army) flight leaving from the UK, but is very expesive, and not very reliable. We discourage volunteers to take the MoD flight, even if they come from the UK, because in the recent past some volunteers missed their Sea Lion Island arrival deadline due to problem with that flight. Therefore, volunteers need to: 1) to fly to Santiago (Chile; SCL); 2) to fly from Santiago to the Falklands (Mount Pleasant International airoport, MPN), passing through Punta Arenas (Chile; PUQ).

- The SCL to MPN flight is operated by LATAM (www.latam.com), and leaves from SCL just ONCE PER WEEK, on Saturday morning, arriving in MPN in the early afternoon.

- From MPN volunteers need to take the bus to Stanley, spend Saturday night in Stanley, and then fly to SLI on Sunday morning. We are keen to help volunteers with bus and B&B bookings.

- The flight to Sea Lion Island is operated by the Falkland Island Government Air Service (FIGAS), on Islander airplanes, that are small 2-engines 10 seats planes. We are keen to help volunteers with FIGAS bookings.

Cost of the travel

Volunteers need to cover all travel expenses. Although ESRG is keen to help with information and bookings all expenses are responsibility of the volunteers. Apart from the cost of the international flight to get to the Falklands, volunteers will need to cover the following approximate costs (please note that prices are in different currencies)

Costs at Sea Lion Island

We pay all running expenses including volunteer cabin rental, food and meals, gas, consumables, etc., but we are not covering: soft drink, beers, wine, etc; phone calls; Internet connection (that is by scratch cards on a WiFi hotspot).

Weather and cold

We fequently get questions about how cold is the weather at SLI. It can be pretty cold, sometimes freezing and stormy, but our main problem is not cold itself, but the fact that we spend long ours in the field, and often we need to stay still to observe the elephant seals, or wait for the killer whales to appear. That said, cold is definitely not the extreme cold of the polar areas, and can be managed with the appropriate clothing.

Clothing and personal equipment

Volunteers need to have appropriate clothing and equipment, to be confortable during the field work in cold weather. The following are just some brief notes about the main items that are required. Recruited volunteers will get more detailed information, we are very keen to help volunteers getting ready for their Sea Lion Island visit.

You will need: 1) an external waterproof but breatable shell, Gore-Tex or eqivalent; 2) a waterproof hat, possibly with a spare; 3) a good pair of treeking boots suitable for cold weather (and you should be used to walk with them, please do not come with new, never used, boots); 4) a good pair of work trousers, suitable for cold weather and with plenty of pockets (please do not come with just the GoreTex overtrousers, they are not very confortable and should be used only when it is raining or very cold); 5) waterproof gloves, possibly with a spare; 6) glasses with side protections (to be protected against the sand in windy days); 7) warm thermal underware, to be conbined in different layers depending on how cold the day is expected to be (with spares); 8) thermal and/or windstopper gloves, at least three pairs, possibly of different kind/weight.

Well, that's all folks ! We hope that the above information will help you to decide to apply.

For further details please email Filippo Galimberti, fil_esrg@eleseal.org.

Thanks !

Elephant Seal Research Group