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Volunteer Quantitative Position on Dolphin Research Project in Australia

We are excited to announce a mixed quantitative and field-based research
assistant position to study bottlenose dolphins in Australia. The position is open
from January 9th to February 28th 2017 for the Mandurah Dolphin Research
Project in Western Australia (WA).

The Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit (MUCRU) commenced a research
project in January 2016 aimed at gaining a solid understanding of the bottlenose
dolphins using the Peel-Harvey Estuary (part of Ramsar Wetlands) and adjacent
coastal waters. The overall aims of the project are to characterize population size
and structure, habitat use and genetic connectivity of dolphins using the estuarine
and coastal areas.

We seek a dedicated and independent research assistant (volunteer) to run
capture-recapture computer simulations and statistical analyses. The research
questions will be focused on practical problems of estimating abundance and
demographic processes from photo-ID data, modelled after the ongoing field
studies conducted by the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project. The simulations are
expected to inform the survey design and analytical methodology of the overall
Project, and potentially contribute to scientific publications. In addition to
quantitative work, the assistant is expected to participate in boat-based dolphin
surveys with a team of biologists and field assistants.

The main duties include:
– Simulations: write computer scripts to simulate dolphin movement patterns and
capture-recapture data collection;
– Batch analyses: write R scripts to analyze simulation datasets;
– Data collection: spot dolphins, drive the boat, take photographs for photo-
identification, record data;
– Data processing: upload data, enter data, match fins, map sightings;
– Literature: read and review capture-recapture literature to inform simulations
and analyses;
– General: maintain the boat and car, clean equipment.

Applicants are expected to have the following traits and qualifications:
– can work independently;
– intermediate or advanced proficiency in R (or another scientific computing
– have prior experience debugging complicated computer code;
– have the mathematical acumen to read, learn, discuss and implement basic
statistical analyses.
– have mental and physical stamina to endure long days on a boat under intense
sunlight while collecting complex data according to a rigorous protocol;
– have a mixed background in biology, ecology, statistics, and computer
programming, including some combination of formal tertiary education (B.Sc.) and
relevant internships/jobs.
– additional preferred skills include boat handling, first aid, experience in photo-ID,
experience in population ecology analyses (but not necessary).

The position would suit a student who is interested in a career in quantitative
ecology. Supervision will be by two PhD students specializing in different aspects of
capture-recapture. Ambitious and competent candidates may have the opportunity
to pursue their own research interests, e.g. for academic research credit, such as a
B.Sc. Honours project.

The boat-based data collection and data processing will be from the 9th of January
till the 28th of February 2017. Data collection (photo-identification and biopsy
sampling) will be conducted in inland waters to up to 12nm offshore. Data
collection is weather dependent and research assistants are expected to be
available full time during day light hours throughout the time they commit to the

This is an unpaid position and assistants need to organise their own travel to and
from Mandurah, which is approximately 1 hr south of Perth in WA. The office space
will be in a research house where assistants are required to rent a room for a cost
of 150 AUD/week (inclusive of internet and bills) in shared accommodation. And
for your free time Mandurah has everything you can think of a holiday town to
offer (shops, cafes, bars, cinema, nature, hikes, camping, surfing, diving,
snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking, wildlife spotting, skydiving etc.) and
cosmopolitan Perth is only an hour away.

To apply for this position please send me a cover sheet specifying why you would
like to assist in this project, how you meet the qualifications, the time you are
applying for, your CV and names and contact details of two references to

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