Marine Mammal Science Job Openings

Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project Research Assistants

Job Category: Internship Opportunities (unpaid)
Date Posted:

The Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project (PCDP) is seeking two dedicated research assistants for the upcoming fall field season (September 3rd to October 23rd, 2019) in Heathsville, Virginia, USA. The PCDP was established in 2015 by Professor Janet Mann of Georgetown University. The PCDP’s mission is to better understand and protect the bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Chesapeake Bay and greater western North Atlantic Ocean. Despite being the largest, and most populated estuary in the US, almost nothing is known about bottlenose dolphins in the Chesapeake. Yet, reports of dolphins in the area date back to the 1800s, with sightings as close as 13km from the US’ capitol, Washington, DC. This field season is part of an ongoing PhD project studying the populations dynamics, behavior, and historical presence of bottlenose dolphins in the Potomac River-Chesapeake Bay area.

Field work is demanding and requires long hours both on and off the water. There is no guarantee of seeing dolphins on a daily basis given their seasonal presence. However, when dolphins are sighted, there can be well over 100 in a group and spending time with them is incredibly fun and rewarding. Field assistants will gain valuable research experience. We particularly encourage those interested in pursuing graduate school in marine mammalogy to apply.

~2 months

Field site:
Heathsville, Virginia, USA.

Heathsville is approximately 200km south east of Washington, D.C. in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Our field site is located where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Even though Heathsville is in relatively close proximity to DC, Heathsville is remote. We do have a fieldhouse with electricity, water, limited cell phone service, and limited internet. Housing will be provided, and the research team will share cooking and cleaning responsibilities in a communal kitchen. We eat a predominantly vegetarian diet.

Job responsibilities:

Research assistants will help collect transect and behavioral surveys on bottlenose dolphins. Boat work is dependent on weather, but even on windy days we need to be ready to pack up and quickly get out on the water if the wind drops. Days on the water can be consecutive, long, and tiring in variable environmental conditions (often very hot and humid conditions). Days on land require extensive, and tedious, data entry and processing.

Most of your time will be spent:

  • Searching for and spotting dolphins
  • Driving the boat
  • Scribing data during surveys
  • Entering transect surveys and coding photographs on the computer
  • Doing basic maintenance and equipment prep and cleaning

The ideal candidate will be a recent graduate with a science background and a genuine interest in marine mammal science and behavior. This position is well suited for recent graduates of marine biology, animal behavior, zoology, ecology, or similar fields looking to gain additional analytical and in-field experience. Applicants must be able to work closely with a small team (3 people). We not only work together, but also live, cook, and eat together, so being mature and a strong team player is critical.

The candidate must:

  • Possess basic computer skills
  • Be detail oriented, flexible, and patient
  • Possess excellent verbal and communication skills
  • Work well both independently and in a team
  • Be fluent in English
  • Have prior research experience (preferably fieldwork)
  • Be comfortable on a small boat
  • Be prepared to work long, consecutive days, including weekends

The most essential qualifications are that you are flexible, conscientious, and hard-working, and are excited about the research.


This is an unpaid, volunteer position. However, all living expenses (housing, food, and internet) will be fully covered by the project. If you are unable to pay for domestic travel to and from the field site due to any student loans, or other moderate monthly expenses, that could prevent you from accepting this position, please apply anyway. If you are selected, we may be able to use other sources of funding to cover those expenses so that you can take the job. We particularly want to encourage candidates from groups that are underrepresented in STEM fields to apply.

If interested please email Ann-Marie Jacoby at with the subject line Research Assistant Last_Name. Application review will begin immediately, and candidates will be evaluated until the position is filled.

In the email, please include:

  1. A cover letter describing your research interests, the skills and strengths that you will bring to the position, and what you hope to gain from the project and apply to your career. Please list the full range of your skills, both practical (boat handling, photography, etc.) and academic (statistics, computer programming, etc.).
  2. CV
  3. A copy of your unofficial transcript
  4. Email contacts for 2 references