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Contribute towards important dolphin research

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  • Duration
    4-12 Weeks
  • Minimum age
  • 1st of every month
  • From
  • Duration
    4-12 Weeks
  • Minimum age
  • 1st of every month
  • From

Montenegro Dolphin Research

Gain real life experience as a marine biologist as you contribute towards important dolphin research, surrounded by the striking landscapes of Montenegro.

The picturesque bay of Kotor is a biodiversity hotspot and officially the deepest fjord in the mediterranean - making it a perfect home for bottlenose and striped dolphins. However, due to increasing threats, the species is now at risk of disappearing completely from the Adriatic.

Volunteering alongside an inspiring team of researchers, your duties as a volunteer will include participating in land and boat surveys as well as entering data, helping with photo identification, joining community outreach projects and more! This is also a great opportunity to learn directly from working marine biologists who will offer workshops and lessons throughout the week. You will also get the opportunity to contribute towards scientific research papers - a great asset to add to your CV!

Conservation at it's finest!

I volunteered for four weeks and I cannot describe just how memorable the experience has been! From the uber-considerate, passionate, dedicated and genuinely helpful people who work there, to the wonderful conservation research initiative, I could not have ... Read More

Violet CunningsOctober 2023

Background to the dolphin programme

Dolphins are renowned for their playful and sociable nature. In Kotor they are well loved by the local community and tourists, who often spot them from the shore or sail alongside them in the bay. One dolphin, ‘Joca’, was so popular in the 80’s, there is now a statue in the town to remember him.

However in the past decades, numbers in the bay have drastically decreased due to threats such as habitat degradation, prey depletion, by-catch, marine traffic and pollution.

Dolphins are an integral part of the Adriatic sea to balance the eco -system, meaning that the decline of this species has a knock on effect for other marine life. Although this is an issue across the Adriatic sea, research and funding is often given to richer countries with well established research centers, meaning conservation in Montenegro often goes under the radar.

Due to this, the local team set up the first dolphin research centre in Montenegro in 2016. Their aim is to raise both scientific and public awareness in order to conserve dolphins in Montenegro. You will help to collect important data and assist on research projects to gain a greater understanding of the dolphin’s behavior and help raise awareness about the threats they face.

Where will I be volunteering?

The organisation was originally founded in Turkey in 2016 by Doctor Aylin Akkaya whose aim was to monitor and conserve cetaceans in the Aegean and Adriatic sea. Realising the lack of research in Montenegro, a new dolphin project was then founded in Kotor which went on to become its own NGO in 2021.

Since starting the organisation, the team have now completed over 500 land surveys and over 100 boat surveys, creating multiple publications and research studies over the years which are helping to raise awareness within the scientific community. Through outreach projects the team have also raised awareness within the local area, teaching the community about the importance of protecting dolphins throughout Montenegro.

You will be based at the research center in Kotor as well as spending time at various different survey spots around the local area - each offering breathtaking views of the bay. You will also get to explore the bay by boat during boat surveys which take place at least once a month.

You may also get the chance to join the team on their monthly survey in the beautiful town of Ulcinj, around 2 hours south of Kotor. 

What is my role?

This is your chance to join a passionate team, helping collect data to contribute to reports and research papers.

Your role will be research based, with your main duties being to collect data through surveys and assist the team. However, this is also a great opportunity to learn through weekly workshops and involvement in publications and reports.

Land surveys - The team aims to run land surveys almost every day at sunrise and sunset, however this is very dependent on the sea state and weather as this can greatly affect accuracy of data.

Land surveys take place in different locations all round the bay. Survey stations range from walking distance to 1 hour away, giving you a great opportunity to see all that the area has to offer.

Surveys generally last 3 hours and you will be responsible for gathering environmental data, setting up equipment, recording data and inputting data when back at the office.

Depending on how long you are volunteering, you will also get the chance to join the team on a weekend trip to Ulcinj, which they aim to do once a month. Here you will participate in land surveys and get to explore the stunning landscapes of South Montenegro - all included in your programme fee!

Boat surveys - The team aim to run a boat survey at least once a month to record data from the bay. By deploying sound equipment into the water the team can gain a greater understanding of the behaviour and location of the dolphins which may not be visible on the surface. Again, you will be responsible for gathering environmental data, setting up equipment, recording and entering data.

Photo identification - The team uses photo-identification software in order to identify individual dolphins using unique markings and characteristics. You will be fully trained on the software in order to help the team with reports - providing you with another amazing skill to add to your CV!

Community outreach - In order to raise awareness within the community you will participate in outreach activities in the local area. These may include running beach clean ups, visiting local schools to educate the children and manning the information stand in town. You will also have the opportunity to join brainstorming meetings and offer your own ideas!

Aside from your mandatory tasks ,there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with other aspects of the NGO. You may be asked to help out with other research tasks around the office and have the opportunity to get involved with some exciting and innovative scientific publications. The local team will always encourage you to use your existing skills or teach you new skills, meaning you can really make this role your own!

What will a typical day look like?

You will generally be volunteering Monday - Friday. Each week the volunteer coordinator will create a timetable consisting of surveys, workshops, supervisions and other volunteer activities. You will generally have 1 day a week to work on your own personal projects.

Surveys must be done at sunrise and sunset so on survey days there may be some early starts and evening shifts - depending on the time of the year. Surveys are dependent on the sea state so you will not be doing this every day. When you are not on surveys or outreach projects, you will be based in the office, generally within the hours of 9am - 5pm.

The local team will drive volunteers to and from surveys. There may be occasions when you need to get the bus between the accommodation and office, however this is a short 5 minute journey costing only 1 Euro. If you would prefer you can walk this distance in 30 minutes, along the picturesque path by the bay.

Occasionally volunteering duties may fall on the weekend - if this is the case you will receive a day off in the week. The local team will make sure you get 2 days off a week.

During evenings and weekends you are free to do as you please. There are plenty of activities around the picturesque town Kotor such as kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, visiting the old town or simply enjoying the views from the shore. You can easily travel further afield to visit the rest of Montenegro or even catch a bus to Croatia. 

Where will I be staying?

Kotor is a coastal town in Montenegro surrounded by a dramatic mountain range and crystal clear waters. From the winding streets of the medieval old town to the sandy shores of the bay and even the many ski resorts there is something for everyone here. Famously home to one of the highest morgues in the world, Lovćen mountain offers breathtaking views of Montenegro and is definitely worth a visit!

The volunteer accommodation is centrally located in Kotor - just a 5 minute drive from the office. Surrounded by mountains, the accommodation offers stunning views of the bay. You may even get the chance to spot dolphins whilst relaxing on the balcony!

The accommodation is conveniently located within walking distance of a supermarket, bakery, restaurants, cafes and a bus route which can take you to the Old Town in 10 minutes. 

Other things to consider

Laptop needed - It is essential for each volunteer to have their own laptop in order to participate in volunteer activities. These cannot be issued at the research centre.

Interest in Marine - Due to the research based nature of this role it is important for all volunteers to have a strong interest in marine biology. It will be especially beneficial to marine students who are looking to gain real life work experience.

Weather - Montenegro is renowned for having unpredictable weather and huge storms. You will need to be prepared to volunteer in all weather conditions and deal with last minute changes to the schedule. It is important to understand that most of our projects are highly weather dependent, especially boat-based fieldwork. Bad weather days will be used to catch up on data entry and other database tasks. 

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