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Center for Whale Research

General Description

The Center for Whale Research (CWR) is seeking applications for a 2023 summer research internship. This is a three month position, working with the CWR research and education staff on San Juan Island, Washington, to conduct on-the-water field work, catalog and analyze data, and communicate scientific information to the public. The successful applicant will be provided with housing, training by CWR research and education staff, and a $500/month subsistence stipend.


About the Center for Whale Research

The Center for Whale Research is an internationally recognized non-profit research institution based in Friday Harbor, Washington, USA. For the last four decades, the CWR has conducted rigorous, non-invasive demographic and behavioral research on killer whales in the Pacific Northwest, with particular emphasis on the endangered southern resident killer whales. As part of our primary research project, Orca Survey, the CWR completes an individual-level photo-ID census of the SRKW every year. Additionally, the CWR conducts behavioral studies of killer whales using unoccupied aerial systems (UAS) to understand killer whale foraging, movement, and social structure. More information about the CWR, including our mission, goals, current research, and past publications, is available on this website.

Role and Responsibilities

This internship aims to provide training and experience to students and early career researchers who hope to pursue a career in marine mammal research and conservation. The intern will participate in the CWR’s Orca Survey and Aerial Observation research programs, both on the water and in the office. The successful applicant will gain training and experience in:


  • Small boat operations and safety

  • Cetacean photography for individual identification and health assessment

  • Killer whale behavioral observation and sampling

  • Unoccupied aerial system (UAS) operations for behavioral observation

  • Data cataloging and management, including photographs, videos, and behavior notes

  • Identification of individual resident and Bigg’s killer whales

  • Communicating science to the general public


This work will involve early mornings, long days on the water in a small, open boat, and long hours of computer work to catalog and analyze video and photographs.


The intern will spend one day per week in the CWR’s Orca Survey Outreach Center in Friday Harbor, communicating research and delivering short presentations to the public. The intern will receive science communication training from the CWR’s education and outreach staff.


The successful applicant will be given the opportunity to complete an independent project. The nature of this project is flexible, and will be designed collaboratively by the intern and the research team. This project could involve, for example: writing a review paper, conducting novel analysis of existing CWR data, collecting and analyzing new behavioral data, or creating educational material to communicate information to the public.



Applicants must either hold or be pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (i.e. life and environmental sciences). All applicants must be at least 18 years of age and hold a valid driver’s license.

Required Skills and Experience


  • Experience being part of a collaborative research team in field or laboratory settings

  • Able to live in a communal setting with other researchers

  • Good teamwork and communication skills

  • Highly motivated and eager to learn

  • Computer literate, particularly with Microsoft Office and file management systems

  • Comfortable communicating information to the general public, both one-on-one and in presentations

  • Availability for three months between June and October of 2023 (exact start date is flexible)

  • Physically able to lift equipment up to 35 kg and spend long days on a moving vessel

  • Able to wake up and perform field work early in the morning


Application Process


To apply for this internship, please fill out this form:


In addition to answering some basic questions, you will be asked to upload a cover letter, CV, and up to two reference letters. In your cover letter, please clearly outline why you would like to undertake this internship and what you hope to accomplish in your career more generally.


Applications close March 19, 2023. Applicants will be notified by the end of March whether they have been short-listed. Short-listed candidates will then be invited to a brief online interview with the CWR research team, with the successful applicant selected no later than April 15, 2023.


If you have any questions, please email Michael Weiss: 

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