Sarah, a past volunteer, starting the cleaning process on a common dolphin skeleton.
Sarah, a past volunteer, starting the cleaning process on a common dolphin skeleton.
Being a mammal, the common dolphin has a skeleton with similarities to a human.
Being a mammal, the common dolphin has a skeleton with similarities to a human.

Skeleton Preparation Project

Background Information

Porpoises, dolphins and whales (cetaceans) are highly specialised mammals, being fully adapted to life in the sea.  These adaptions are reflected in their skeletons and can provide a great insight at a classroom level.  Since most students have never seen a living porpoise up close, teachers require resources to help students understand and visualise life at sea.

HWDT currently use bones in the classroom as an educational resource during our workshops at both primary and Secondary schools.  We have designed activities which have been very well received by students and teachers and wish to expand the range of what we can deliver by having a complete skeleton available.

The Project

You will complete the preparation of a harbour porpoise skeleton and design some sort of transportation method.

A harbour porpoise stranded on the Isle of Mull and was collected by HWDT.  The bones were buried for a period of time, allowing for the first (and smelliest) stages of decomposition.  Various volunteers have contributed to the cleaning of the skeleton and have completely removed all organic material from the bones.  We now need a volunteer to come to Tobermory and assemble the skeleton. 

We are also in possession of a complete Cuvier's beaked whale skeleton, an extremely rare species to see in the wild resulting in most of the information held has come from stranded animals.  If you are planing to join us for an extended period of time we can discuss the possibility of cleaning and assembling the Cuvier's beaked whale.       


Your role

The project will involve piecing together the porpoise bones, using both an already complete skeleton and diagrams to assist.  You will need to devise a method of linking the various parts together using resources available.  You will also need to think about how we might transport the skeleton.




The project will involve:

  • handling bones

  • possibly using chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide to whiten the bones further
  • numbering, cataloguing and assembling the skeleton

Required skills/interests

We would preferably be looking for someone with the following:

  • interest in cetaceans/anatomy

  • willingness to get hands dirty

  • able to follow instructions and procedures

  • able to use own initiative and to work independently

  • reliable and take pride in work

If you have a particular interest in education maybe you could help the education team develop resources based around the skeleton.


How to apply

We require a commitment of 3 weeks or more to complete the project.  No experience is required, just a willing to learn.  Unfortunately as a small charity we cannot offer any financial contribution and volunteers will have to provide their own food and accommodation. We can however offer assistance when planning your journey or give you some advice with regards to accommodation.


Please contact our Volunteer Coordinator. To apply, simply fill out the online volunteer application form.