Interns and volunteers

Current and Past Interns & Volunteers | Graduate Students

About Cascadia Research

Cascadia Research is a private non-profit research organization founded in 1979.  Cascadia receives grants and contracts, primarily from government agencies, to pursue research primarily on marine mammals. Cascadia also makes educational presentations to a variety of audiences; from technical talks to scientists at international conferences to presentations to elementary school children.  Based in downtown Olympia, Washington, Cascadia has conducted field research in the Canadian Arctic, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Hawai‘i, North Carolina, Mexico, Costa Rica, and along the Pacific coast of Central America, but most of our research is focused either on the west coast or in Hawai‘i.

Although we study many marine mammal species, most of our current work is focused either on gray, blue, humpback, fin, and killer whales along the west coast of North America, or a variety of species of odontocetes (e.g., false killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, melon-headed whales, beaked whales) in Hawai‘i. Much of this work involves using photographic identification. These species have natural markings unique to each individual, and by photographing and cataloging these markings, we can identify animals and study their behavior, movements, and population structures over extended periods of time.

While photo-ID is a large part of what we do, we utilize a variety of other research techniques, including tissue sampling for genetics and other physiological analyses; cetacean suction-cup tagging with a variety of instruments that can record shorter term movements, dive behavior, sound, or video images; examining dead stranded marine mammals and assisting in live stranding response and disentanglements; satellite tagging a variety of species to track movements over extended periods; and studies of foraging behavior and prey sampling of killer whales. 

Volunteer and Intern Responsibilities

We are seeking interns to help with our U.S. west coast projects and our Hawai‘i research, although both internships are office based positions in Olympia.

US West Coast Research

Interns with Cascadia’s US west coast most often assist staff on our long-term photo-ID studies baleen whales, for example humpback, blue, and gray whales off the US West Coast and the inside waters of Washington state. In this capacity, interns will be expected to spend a large portion of their time comparing photographs to our existing catalogs, and may additionally be involved in digital image processing, data entry, and tasks related to historical catalog maintenance.

Hawai‘i Research

Interns will assist staff on long-term studies on a variety of species of odontocetes (e.g., melon-headed whales, rough-toothed dolphins, false killer whales, beaked whales) in Hawai‘i. Much of this work involves using photographic identification, a non-invasive technique that uses natural markings unique to each individual. By photographing and cataloging these markings, we can identify animals and study their behavior, movements, and population structures over extended periods of time. For more information on Hawai‘i projects, please visit our Hawai‘i web pages.

Interns involved in both programs will assist staff in stranding response in Washington state as they come up. This includes participation in beach surveys, data and specimen collection, data entry, and assisting in necropsies of both pinnipeds and cetaceans. Responses may involve hiking into remote areas and carrying heavy loads, and participants should be comfortable with the sight of blood, and strong, unpleasant odors.

 Required and Desired Qualifications for Volunteers and Interns

The following is required for consideration for a volunteer or internship position:

  • The ability to commit to an unpaid position for a minimum of 20 hours per week for a three-month time period (although we do favor candidates who can commit to 35-40 hours per week)
  • A minimum of junior standing at a college or university and some background course work in general biology
  • The ability to work well with others or independently, and with various distractions going on around them
  • Strong communication skills
  • Focus and attention to detail

The following is desired (but not required) of prospective interns:

  • An interest in the study of marine mammals
  • Some experience with independent research
  • Basic computer literacy and experience using Microsoft Office products (MS Access, Excel, and Word)

How to Apply for an Internship Position

For formal consideration, send your resume or CV, two letters of recommendation, and a letter stating your interest, what you would like gain to out of the internship, relevant background experience, the time period you are interested in, the number of hours you can work, and if you would be seeking internship credit from your college or university.

For a US west coast project internship please send the information to: Kiirsten Flynn: kflynn@cascadiaresearch.org

For Hawai‘i project internship please send the information to: Sabre Mahaffy: mahaffys@cascadiaresearch.org

If you would like to be considered for either, please indicate that in your letter and send to both Kiirsten and Sabre. Please note the time period you are available for. We typically fill internships at least a few months in advance.

Special Instructions for International Applicants:

We recognize that international applicants may need additional time to make travel, lodging and Visa arrangements. You may apply up to 3 months earlier than the opening of the application period for the quarter in which you are interested. In your letter of interest, please indicate if your academic institution requires that you complete a thesis project as part of your internship and include any potential project ideas you may have.