Volunteering for MARINElife

Logo: MARINElife

Prior to evolving into the charity MARINElife in 2005, it all began back in 1995 as the Biscay Dolphin Research Program (BDRP). The core work since 1995 has been in researching the distribution, abundance and population trends for whales, dolphins, seabirds and other marine wildlife from commercial vessels, (currently 17 routes); hence, the role of the surveyor is absolute key to MARINElife’s work.

Surveyors (© MARINElife)
Surveyors (© MARINElife)

Each survey is conducted with a team of two surveyors and we operate year-round surveys along fixed 'transect' routes across the English Channel, Bay of Biscay, North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean working on ferries, freight ships, cruise liners and smaller recreational boats.

Working on the bridge of our vessel, we use scientific methods together with the ships GPS system and instruments to make our surveys accurate and useful. We welcome observers with experience of cetacean and seabird identification courses throughout the year for those that would like to become surveyors and once completed, will have the opportunity to hone these newfound skills conducting surveys on one of our routes under the guidance of a team leader.

Recording ships data (© MARINElife)
Recording ships data (© MARINElife)

My wife and I first discovered BDRP around the year 2000 whilst on a mini cruise to Spain on board P&O’s passenger ferry the ‘Pride of Bilbao’. We went up to the top outer deck (11) to take in the view and saw a   young woman with a digital camera and large lens looking out to sea through her binoculars. Introducing herself as Amanda from BDRP, we curiously asked what she was looking for, to which she replied, whales, dolphins and seabirds. This came as a surprise to us, as at the time we were very inexperienced with marine wildlife and did not know about the wealth of wildlife that frequent

Fin Whale (© MARINElife)
Fin Whale (© MARINElife)

the Bay of Biscay. Amanda explained about the diversity of ‘Biscay’ and what to look for, then as if by magic, as she described the blow of a Fin Whale, we observed one in the distance and from that moment on, we became hooked line and sinker.

Becoming volunteer surveyors led us on to other areas within the charity and we now organise and attend various events in the south. Other ways to help is with the survey data collected. Tricia; (our administrator) will always welcome offers of help with the inputting of this valuable data.

Another role for experienced surveyors to volunteer for is to become part of MARINElife’s Lundy wildlife officer team. This entails engaging and educating the passengers on the crossing to Lundy Island, this is a very rewarding role to perform. To look out to sea from an open deck and point and shout ‘dolphins’ and see the delight on the passengers faces as the dolphins come in to bow ride is just amazing.

Common Dolphin (© MARINElife / Rick Morris)
Common Dolphin (© MARINElife / Rick Morris)

For more information and for ways of volunteering with MARINElife please check out our website.

Rick Morris
Events Manager & MARINElife/Lundy Wildlife Officer



Updated information January 2017:

MARINElife have now expanded the Wildlife Officer program to include Ilfracombe to Lundy Island every Saturday during the sailing season, Summer mid-week wildlife trips from Poole to Guernsey with Condor
Ferries and various day trips from various locations around the UK on the historic ship the MV Balmoral – please see website for more information.

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with The Scottish Countryside Rangers Association, the Countryside Management Association and NATUR on 10 February 2014

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