Centro de Estudios para la
Conservación de Ecosistemas Marinos
© Paula Barrios
How to get involved?
Volunteer participants/ Internships
Every field season we have a few spaces for volunteer participants. Priority is given to those currently in higher education (and completing a degree in a South American country). In the following we outline what we expect of our interns and volunteers and what you can expect from interning/ volunteering with us. Please note that we do not provide stipends for internships and we require interns/ volunteers to cover their own costs of transport to the field site plus the incurred living and accommodation expenses (details see below). We do not charge a participant fee but we expect interns to cover the full costs of participation.
Our interns/ volunteers become an integral part of our team - please read the experience section for an impression of what it's like volunteering with Yaqu Pacha Chile. You will work closely with the lead investigators of the different project themes during field work and will enance your practical skills (e.g. boat handling, equipment maintenance), learn about data collection, data entry and some basic data processing, as well as build your team working and social skills. We also encourage all our volunteers to present short projects, participate in critical reading sessions of scientific articles and get involved in our community outreach activities.
Fieldwork in Northern Patagonia, Chile
The field work activities usually take place from January to April (austral summer and autumn). Field activities are determined by the current research themes which can vary from year to year. The core project activities involve visual surveys from a small inflatable boat conducted in the nearshore waters (< 5km from shore) of the study areas. The boat team usually consists of two to four observers one of whom also drives the boat. All volunteers are expected to learn how to drive the research boat. Boat surveys usually involve long hours on the water (4-10 hours) and conditions even in summer are very often cold and wet.
During each survey we record environmental conditions in regular intervals and volunteers are expected to assist with all those measurements, including deploying and recovering various hand-held instruments from the boat. Whenever dolphins or porpoises are encountered we record group size, behavioural state and sometimes undertake focal follows. If conditions allow we aim to photograph the dolphins for our photo-identification catalogues. Volunteers are expected to assist with the processing of photographs and data entry back at base during non-survey days.
Since 2013, we also undertake static passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) using C-PODs to register echolocation clicks from dolphins (or porpoises). The C-PODs need to be recovered and serviced at regular intervals to download data. The recovery and deployment of C-PODs will only be performed by experienced scuba divers with scientific diving authorisation in Chile. Volunteers might have the opportunity to join the recovery boat trip but should not expect to get involved in the diving operations.
Since 2015, we have also been taking minimally invasive skin samples from Chilean dolphins and Peale's dolphins as part of the Tonina Health Assessment project. Such samples will only be taken by trained and authorised researchers, but volunteers will assist in the collection of behavioural information and, if suitably qualified, might drive the boat during sampling.
Depending on the current research questions to be investigated volunteers will also be expected to assist with land-based observations from an elevated vantage point. This involves having to carry surveying equipment to the study site including a 100 m climb up a steep hill. Sure-footedness and reasonable fitness are therefore important.
Overall, this project takes place in some rather remote (but stunningly beautiful) locations in southern Chile where the local facilities are limited (e.g. shopping, medical services). Please consider these circumstances carefully before applying with us.
The main accomodation during fieldwork is provided in the Marine Biological Station of the Universidad Austral de Chile located in Yaldad, a small village about 10 km south of Quellón at the end of the Panamerican Highway (end at least on the Chilean/Pacific site). The station is located where road access ends on the Isla Grande de Chiloé. During the survey campaigns in the central part of the Chiloé archipelago, we might stay in a rented cabin.
It is important to note that all living is communal with little private space. Everyone is expected to contribute to cooking meals, washing up and cleaning.
Sleeping quarters are simple, dormitory-style rooms with separate shower facilities (gas-heated hot water boilers). Sheets and blankets for the beds are not provided, and everyone must bring their own pillow and sleeping bag (adequate for temperature ranges of -2 to +18°C).
The Isla Grande de Chiloé is located south of Puerto Montt at the northern limit of the Chilean fjords (northern Patagonia) in the Los Lagos region. You can get to Chiloé by bus/ferry/bus or by flying from Santiago de Chile via Puerto Montt. There are almost hourly buses from Puerto Montt to Quellón operated by “Cruz del Sur” - you can buy a ticket online. At peak times reservation or early bus ticket purchase is recommended as the buses can get very full. The bus ride includes the ferry transfer across the Canal de Chacao (watch for sea lions, pelicans, penguins and maybe dolphins as you cross). You can also take long-distance/ overnight buses (buses with beds or fold-out seats) directly from Santiago to Castro (Chiloé Island) where you will need to change to another bus to Quellón. Alternatively, you can fly with LAN Chile from Santiago de Chile or Puerto Montt to Castro, and then continue by bus to Quellón. All international flights arrive into Santiago de Chile for customs/ immigration.
© Paula Barrios
What to bring
You must bring
- Sea water proof jacket & trousers (e.g. oil skins)
- Rubber (wellington) boots
- Warm clothes including thermals
- Good quality sunglasses (UVA & B filters)
- High fator sunscreen (4 or 5 stars)
- Warm hat with sun protection
- Sleeping bag for temperatures betweet -2-18°C
- Personal hygiene products
- Personal medication
You might want to bring
- External disks, pendrive, or similar
Cost of Participation
The cost for participation in the project is currently set at $160.000 Chilean Pesos per month which covers your accommodation and main meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
It does not cover:
- Transport to/from the field sites (except for where this is part of study site visits)
- Meals at restaurants and snacks, alcoholic drinks
- Leisure or tourist activities
- Personal items/ sundries
The payment has to be made in advance through a bank deposit or wire transfer. Details will be provided at time of confirmation of your place.
Application process & enquiries
To apply for participation in the Chiloé Small Cetacean Project or request further information please contact Mrs Marjorie Fuentes (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you submit an application please include the following documents:
- your resume/CV including relevant previous experience, your language abilities and the contact details for three referees;
- a cover letter outlining your motivation and interest in the project;
- a transcript of your academic record (this applies only to students who wish to have their participation credited as practical placement as part of their degree).
Places are filled on a first come, first serve basis pending that applicants meet the project requirements and accept the payment conditions outlined above. We usually hold a short interview, either in person or via skype.
Applicants who have completed the full application process will be informed of the outcome of their application. Incomplete applications will not be considered.
You must be/have:
Participants must be older than 18 years and must be able to commit to a minimum of 8 weeks stay.
You must have comprehensive health and accident insurance valid for Chile for the duration of your stay.
The project language is Spanish, with some of the core team also speaking English.
You must be able to communicate clearly and comprehensively either in Spanish or English, ideally in both.
The number of participants is limited and priority will be given to students currently in higher education (and completing a degree in a South American country).
We do not require previous field experience, but we will give preference to participants who have:
- experience working with marine mammals in the wild
- powerboat licence/ boat-handling experience
- experience with photography equipment
- good public speaking ability to support our outreach activities.