Cetacean conservation in Scotland aboard a research sailing yacht
Who: Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust.
Where: The Hebrides Islands, Scotland (3 departure points – Tobermory, Kyle of Lochalsh, and Ullapool).
Focus: Dolphin and whale monitoring from the research sailing yacht Silurian (used as a filming platform in the BBC series The Blue Planet).
When: April – Oct | Specific expedition dates
Duration: 7-12 days
Suitability: 16+ | Great for students doing research.
Requirements: No experience required as full training is provided. Volunteers need good eyesight and hearing.
Cost: Available here.
As a volunteer, you will:
- Experience life on board an expedition research sailing yacht and explore the Hebrides.
- Gain experience as a marine mammal field biologist and learn from experts who’ve been conducting cetacean research in the Hebrides since the 1990s.
- Conduct cetacean surveys and engage in wildlife identification.
- Go ashore in the evenings to explore land-based wildlife, from carnivorous plants and orchids to rare bees and eagles. Each evening the yacht will anchor in a different location, usually off one of the many remote and uninhabited islands in the area.
- Collect photographic and acoustic data on the various species of cetacean found in the survey area to therefore identify individuals using distinguishable marks on their dorsal fins.
- Take part in research such as the differences between vocalisations; the impact of pollution and boat traffic on the animals; and international migratory route research.
- Contribute to the trust’s excellent citizen science programme. Every sighting in the database has been collected by a member of the public.
Accommodation: Shared cabins for up to 2 persons.
Food: Full board. Cooking is done on a rotation basis to set meal plans.
Max. Passengers: 6 volunteers and 4 crew members.
Support: Remote project, with limited access to emergency medical services.
Departure: Expeditions depart from three different locations to explore specific areas around the islands of the Hebrides depending on the time of year and wildlife to monitor: Tobermory, Kyle of Lochalsh, and Ullapool.
24 species of whales and dolphins have been recorded in the Hebrides – that’s nearly a third of the global total. The most commonly encountered species, and target of specific research, include:
- Minke whales
- Harbour porpoises
- Bottlenose dolphins
- White-beaked dolphins
- Common dolphins.
Rarer cetaceans can also be spotted, such as Orcas, Risso’s dolphins, White-sided dolphins, Humpback whales, Sperm whales, Sei whaless, Bottlenose whales and Fin whales.
In addition, non-cetacean species are also spotted and recorded such as, sunfish (by end-summer), basking sharks (May and October), seals, and seabirds.
The next step
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