Research Intern

Each year, Interns are invited to assist the Sea Watch Foundation (SWF) with the running of the “Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project”. The project is based in New Quay, West Wales, and supports the conservation management of the bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise and grey seal populations of Cardigan Bay, monitoring their abundance, distribution, reproductive success and population structure using a combination of vessel-based and land-based surveys. SWF has been monitoring these populations on behalf of the Welsh government (through funding provided by Natural Resources Wales) for two decades. Cardigan Bay contains Britain’s largest coastal population of bottlenose dolphins, for which two Special Areas of Conservation have been established under the EU Habitats Directive. Internships with Sea Watch have frequently led to established posts in national and international research and conservation bodies, as well as providing a stepping stone for students to undertake doctoral studies in marine mammal science.

Interns will assist New Quay staff by taking part in the following tasks:

  • Land-based surveys
  • Boat-based surveys
  • Photo-identification matching
  • Data entry
  • Raising public awareness
  • Education initiatives and events
  • Assisting with and participation in training courses and other needs of the charity.

In addition to these tasks, we have some specialist equipment, a digiscope, a hydrophones, a polecam, and an aerial drone, to opportunistically collect acoustic, video and aerial data during boat-based surveys. Sea Watch have also been contributing to a project to collect dolphin blow samples for population genetics and microbiome analyses. Interns interested in these subjects may also have the opportunity to assist in data collection for these projects.

Interns are required from early April until the end of October. The research season is split into four separate periods, each lasting 8 weeks. The research periods for the 2024 season are yet to be confirmed, but usually they are:

Period 1: The beginning of April to the end of May
Period 2: The end of May to the third week of July
Period 3: The third week of July to the second week of September
Period 4: The second week of September to the end of October

Interns are expected to arrive on the first day of their chosen period and depart on the first day of the next period. We are not able to change the start and end dates unfortunately.

Preference will be given to those applying for more than one period.

Interns will be based in New Quay, Ceredigion, West Wales. Accommodation is provided by a private landlord through rental of a house that interns share at a rate of around £75-80 per person per week. Rooms are shared between two or three people, with a total of nine people in the house at any given time. Please be aware that while every effort is made to accommodate interns in single sex rooms, in some cases it might not be possible. If you have a strong preference, please indicate so in the application form and we will try our best to accommodate this. Interns are responsible for their own travel, accommodation and living expenses, but it is generally quite easy to obtain part-time paid work in the area if required.

Important skills/qualifications


  • an ability to work independently in a meticulous and reliable manner
  • strong commitment to volunteering work
  • willingness to work long hours outdoors in often changeable Welsh weather
  • good IT skills (Office package)
  • an ability to get on well with others in a small team and in shared accommodation


  • a strong interest and knowledge of British cetaceans
  • a background in marine biology/environmental science or similar
  • prior experience in boat-based survey work
  • good verbal and written communication skills and in public speaking
  • experience in interacting with the public

All interns will be trained in cetacean observation and identification, in boat survey protocols, and photo-identification of bottlenose dolphins.

Normal office hours are from 10:00 to 17:00 hrs but field work regularly falls outside these hours. Interns typically work 5 days a week.

International applications are welcome but it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure visa requirements are met and we ask applicants to highlight their chosen visa option in their application. Please note that Sea Watch Foundation is unable to sponsor visa applications for Research Interns. 

We expect to open the application window for the 2024 season by mid November, so please check back here or keep an eye on our social media channels to find out when we are welcoming applications and how to apply.

Potential funding sources to support your internship with Sea Watch

SWF is aware that undertaking unpaid work can be challenging, however, as a small charity we are currently not able to offer compensation for internships. There are some outside funding bodies that may be able to help you fund your internship. If you are accepted for an internship, we are happy to provide letters to support your funding application.

If you are a current student or recent graduate it is worth checking whether your university offers financial support for students undertaking field work related to their degree subject.

This site offers a comprehensive list of potential grants to apply for here.