Volunteer Placements

Photo-Identification Volunteer Placement

Our Purpose: The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust (HWDT) is the leading voice for the conservation of Hebridean cetaceans; dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding of Scotland’s whales, dolphins and porpoises and the Hebridean marine environment through education, research and working within local communities towards lasting conservation.

About the Placement: HWDT operates a vital cetacean monitoring programme in the Scottish Hebrides, conducting research into the distribution, abundance and habitat use of whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks. Our research programme is well established, running for over 20 years.

This is a fantastic opportunity for an enthusiastic individual, keen to gain experience in photo-identification research techniques, to join our team. HWDT is based in the colourful and picturesque harbour town of Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull; where we have our office, Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Centre and the mooring for our research vessel Silurian.

During the placement you will work with our science team to analyse images taken during minke whale encounters (over the 2016 field season) and attempt to match them to our minke whale photo-ID catalogue. You will also be tasked with managing the standardisation of historic encounters through-out the database and developing HWDT ID catalogues for dolphin species.

Placement Dates: We are offering a 6-month volunteer placement running from Monday 3rd October 2016 – Friday 31st March 2017. The successful candidate will work between 4 - 5 days a week and must be able to commit to the full placement length.

What you will get out of it:

  • Training and application in photo-identification (photo-ID) analysis techniques.
  • One-to-one training in database management, including Discovery and Access software.
  • ­Vital workplace experience for a career in marine conservation.
  • ­ Opportunity to live and work on a beautiful, remote Scottish Island!

Accommodation and living expenses: During the volunteer placement accommodation can be arranged for you through our team. Typically, accommodation in a shared house in Tobermory will cost between £60-£100 per week (inclusive of bills). Tobermory is the largest town on the Isle of Mull with a good range of facilities including a small co-op, pharmacy, pubs, gift shops and cafes. Other amenities you may require i.e. large high street chains, supermarkets, train station etc. can be found in Oban; a 45 minute ferry journey away. Please be aware that Mull is a remote island; only accessible by ferry links from the Scottish mainland.

Role description:

  • ­ Analyse minke whale encounters from the 2016 field season – matching individuals to HWDTs minke whale catalogue
  • ­ Archive all photo-ID images taken during the 2016 field season
  • ­ Contribute to the photo-ID image archive by standardising historic (pre-2016) file names with unique encounter reference numbers
  • ­ Develop existing photo-ID databases, including for bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins

Person Specification:


  • Friendly, confident open communication style
  • Experience with data entry – basic access and excel skills
  • Passionate about marine conservation
  • Ability to live and work with colleagues as part of a small team


  • Degree in relevant science or environmental subject
  • Experience in photo-ID analysis
  • Knowledge of Scottish cetaceans and conservation issues

To apply: Please email a current C.V. and covering letter outlining why you are applying for the opportunity to volunteercoordinator@hwdt.org. For more information, please contact Morven Russell on 01688 302620.

Application deadline: 12 noon 15th September 2016. Successful candidates will be invited to a Skype interviews in the w/c 19th September 2016.