Monthly Archives: February 2013

8 Tips for Seeking Internships in Science

These tips aren’t about finding research internships per se, but hopefully they’ll help you in your search for those valued practical experiences 😉

'Search Bar' post illustration


I HIGHLY suggest (see what I did there?) you take the time to assess which criteria are the most important to you. If you keep them in mind while you’re seeking, it will guide you and save you time, much like an internal lighthouse helping you make sense of the sea of opportunities. Think of the following: are you limited geographically and/or financially? What are your availabilities? Do you have a favourite research topic?


They’re the people who have succeeded in your field of interest. Besides, it’s likely that they, too, have gone through an internship-seeking stage in their life, so that they know about where to search, how to apply, etc. Maybe they even know people who might be interested in free labour, or are themselves interested. PS: this can help build a relationship with your professors – an essential step in professional networking.


If you liked them, there is a good chance you would also like working on that topic yourself. Simply look up authors’ information. This should lead you to the research group they belong to, which, in turn, could direct you to internship opportunities. If not, contact them anyway!


Taken together, they ABOUND with information regarding the scientific discipline they’re concerned with, including internship, scholarship and job listings. If you are interested in ethology research, you can check out the list I have made of animal behaviour related professional associations.


The listings I mentioned earlier are sometimes published through mailing lists. These are great because offers arrive directly in your inbox, without you having to search for them. Neat, right? For example, MARMAM is a mailing list for “researchers and managers working with marine mammals” (to subscribe: link).


Universities hold great research groups along with great scientists – and that’s great. But it could be a good idea to broaden your horizon by considering companies or non-profit organisations. For one thing, you’d be expanding your pool of possibilities. For another, the difference in internship experience could enhance your transferable skills, such as adaptability. If you study biology, you might want to check out websites of natural parks, reserves and wildlife protection organisations (such as LPO in France).


This one might seem self-evident, but it really is not. In my experience, there are ALWAYS unforseen complications. Usually they are of an administrative nature and can range from agreements that must be signed to visa applications which can take months. The more time the better, of course, but I would say beginning at least 6 months prior to your preferred starting date is a good rule of thumb.


Sometimes, getting accepted to be a willing slave can be a competitive process. Don’t let that stop you from applying. Even when requirements are clearly stated and you (think you) don’t fulfill them completely, apply nonetheless! You wouldn’t lose anything. Even if you get rejected, the time you have spent working on your application goes into perfecting your writing skills.

As a final bit of general advice: do send cover letters regardless of whether there is an actual internship offer. I mean, let’s be real, most of the time there won’t be any. It’s up to you to prove your worth and convince people they should totally take you to work with them, even if they didn’t know they needed someone in the first place. I wish you all the good luck in your search!

PS: I would like to thank my friends Tiffany, Amandine and Sophie for providing me with ideas and insights on the subject ^_^


Research Assistant – Ecology and behaviour of Australian sea lions

Australian sea lions. Credit: LI refugee

Australian sea lions. Credit: LI refugee

Seeking volunteer research assistants for a project on endangered Australian sea lions

Project title: Conservation ecology and human disturbance of Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) in Western Australia

Project description: In this study, baseline information on the ecology and behaviour of Australian sea lions in Western Australia are collected. Individual focal follows (behavioural observations) will be conducted to measurethe level of disturbance caused by humans using the beaches simultaneously with these endangered otariid.

Also, a new photo-identification method is being tested and developed to recognize individual Australian sea lions in the field. This method will aid estimating the population size of Australian sea lions and investigating their residency patterns and habitat use on key breeding islands and haul-out locations in Western Australia.

This project is aiming to provide basic knowledge on the sea lions’ colony sizes, movement patterns, temporal and spatial habitat use as well as critical haul-out behaviour that will inform the management of Australian sea lions inhabiting key breeding and non-breeding locations in Western Australia.

Main field sites: Seal Island in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park, Carnac Island Nature Reserve and potentially Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

Few other haul-out islands off Perth Metropolitan area are visited during monthly boat surveys.

           Field trip dates: April – May 2013, July – August 2013

June and September 2013 will be spent entering and processing data with opportunistic field trips.
Research assistants who can commit for 2 months are strongly preferred. Priority will be given to assistants who can commit for longer periods due to the training required.

Assistant duties: Collecting and recording observational data, both on land and from the boat. Assistants will be helping with data entry and processing, including sorting and processing photos and data on dictaphones.


1. Background knowledge in marine biology, ecology or conservation and experience in field research is a plus.

2. Research assistants should be confident working for long hours on islands with limited facilities and on small boats. Boat license and handling skills would be beneficial.

3. Assistants need to be dedicated to help in this project. During data collection the ability to focus for long periods is required. Assistants are expected to maintain a positive attitude during long hours in the field and towards other team members, also in varying weather conditions.

4. Field trips are very weather dependant and will therefore be organised on short notice (often only 1-2 days prior) and will vary between week and weekend days and may take place on public holidays. Field trips may start early in the morning.

Expenses: This is an unpaid opportunity to gain training and experience in ecological sciences and particularly in marine mammal research. Unfortunately, travel expenses cannot be covered and research assistants are responsible for their own living expenses around Perth/Fremantle. Rides to the study sites can be provided from Fremantle. Research assistants are expected to bring their own lunch and water.

If you are interested in helping out in this project, please send a CV, a brief cover letter highlighting previous experience and relevant qualifications along with contact details of two relevant referees

           Sylvia Osterrieder

PhD Candidate

Ecology & Sustainability Group, School of Engineering and Science, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria


Research Associate

Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia

Related post

A 3-step guide to the perfect bee trap

Reduviidae. Credit: Gustavo (lu7frb)

Reduviidae. Credit: Gustavo (lu7frb)

HELP !!!!!!!!!! (post illustration)

Aand yeah – you’re trapped.

Brought to us by the ingenious bee assassin bug. Watch it happen in this excerpt from Sir David Attenborough’s The Amber Time Machine:

STEP 1: Find out what they like

As shown in the video, these stingless bees are resin addicts. With it, they build solid nests and protect their young. So go grab some resin.

STEP 2: Get close

Needless to say, if you find the local resin dealer, in our case amber producing bean trees, you will also find its clients.

STEP 3: Wait patiently

Stay put and be ready to seize a bee. The amazing thing is that more will arrive as your first victim calls for help. Warning: you might need to wrestle a bit to secure your preys.

Aaaand – that’s it! You have just gotten yourself a substantial meal with really not much effort at all.

Want more? See below for a nice close-up view of a bee assassin bug collecting resin. As it turns out, some of them use it as protection for their eggs against predators (Choe & Rust, 2007).


Choe, D.-H., & Rust, M. K. (2007). Use of plant resin by a bee assassin bug, Apiomerus flaviventris (Hemiptera: Reduviidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 100(2), 320-326. doi: 10.1603/0013-8746(2007)100[320:UOPRBA]2.0.CO;2

Gunton, M., Martin, T. (Producers), & Leith, B. (Director). (2004). The Natural World: The Amber Time Machine [TV episode]. Worldwide: BBC Worldwide.

Salmon ACTUALLY use Earth’s magnetic field to find their way home

Five years ago, it was hypothesized that marine migrants, such as salmon and turtles, travelling long distances to reach their natal waters to spawn (a process known as natal homing) use geomagnetic cues to navigate to the correct area (Lohmann, Putman & Lohmann, 2008). Now, for the first time, there is empirical evidence to support this hypothesis.

Sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka. Credit: Wikipedia.

Sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka. Credit: Wikipedia

Adapted from Putman et al. 2013

Putman et al. (2013) analysed fisheries data spanning 56 years, from 1953 to 2008, that described the proportion of sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka that took either the northern or the southern route to reach the mouth of the Fraser River, near Vancouver Island, Canada (see the above illustration). They examined whether these proportions were correlated with changes in magnetic field intensity and other environmental factors.

They found that, the more the magnetic field of a strait resembled the one of the Fraser River mouth, the higher the proportion of salmon that used it. It is as if they had previously imprinted on the magnetic field of the river, much like geese imprint on a parent some 13 to 16 hours after hatching, and were able to use this information years later during spawning migration.

The other significant factor affecting their itinerary was Sea Surface Temperature (SST). Years with higher SST were characterized by an increased propotion of salmon choosing the northern route, possibly because fish preferred colder waters.

Changes in magnetic field intensity, SST and the interaction between the two explain up to 66% of the variance in migratory route use.

This study employed a retrospective non-experimental design, which does have its shortcomings, including a multitude of possible confounding variables. Notwithstanding, these findings are crucial to understanding natal homing mechanisms and, as Putman et al. put it, “call for experiments on the navigation abilities of adult salmon as well as further investigation into the magnetic imprinting hypothesis”.

PS: I would like to thank my brother for drawing my attention to this study.


Lohmann, K. J., Putman, N. F., & Lohmann, C. M. F. (2008). Geomagnetic imprinting: A unifying hypothesis for long-distance natal homing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(49), 19096-19101. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801859105

Putman, M. F., Lohmann, K. J., Putman, E. M., Quinn, T. P., Klimley, A. P., & Noakes, D. L. G. (2013). Evidence for geomagnetic imprinting as a homing mechanism in Pacific Salmon. Current Biology, 23, 1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.041

Research Assistant – Dolphin Ecology

This one seems like a great opportunity for “beginner” marine mammalogists/biologists. Details below.

Two research assistants are required to assist with a PhD study investigating common dolphin ecology (Delphinussp.) in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. This PhD project is part of the ongoing research of the New Zealand Common Dolphin Project (NZCDP) and the Coastal-Marine Research Group (C-MRG) at Massey University Albany, Auckland. (


Growing interest in observing and swimming with free-ranging cetaceans has contributed to a rapid growth ofdolphin-based tourism operations. The PhD project aims to examine distribution and habitat use of common dolphins in the East Coast Bay of Plenty and assess the effects of interacting activities on both populations. Part of the study focuses on photo-identification in order to assess common dolphin site fidelity in the Bay of Plenty.


March – September 2013. A minimum commitment of 3 months is required. Priority will be given to candidates who can commit for longer periods.


Tauranga, New Zealand


Analysis of photo-identification data, including assistance with photo sorting, grading, and matching, sighting data entry, maintenance of long-term photo-id catalogue using a MS Access database. Research assistants should be prepared to work long days analysing photographs and matching them with the photo-identification catalogue.

Opportunistically, the candidate will be able to join the team on the field and learn environmental and behavioural data collection for cetaceans. Surveys will be conducted from tourism boats. Surveys will be carried out in the coastal waters of Tauranga. Fieldwork is weather dependent and can vary between weekdays and weekends.

Assistants need to be available FULL-TIME (including WEEKENDS and PUBLIC HOLIDAYS if on the field) and be prepared to work on computer 6-8 hours per day.

This position is suitable in the framework of a degree, with the opportunity to write up a report/thesis for the candidate university/school.


. Be meticulous, reliable, adaptable, hardworking and patient.

. Have a mature and independent attitude towards marine mammal research.

. Speak fluent English

. Be sociable, enthusiastic and have a positive attitude

. Strong interest in the marine environment and conservation

. Previous experience in photo-ID on small cetaceans will be considered.


. The project is well suited to upper level undergrads, recent grads and graduate students who have some background in Biology, Marine Biology, Ecology, Zoology or related fields.

. Basic computer proficiency in Microsoft Office (especially Excel and Access)

Preferred qualifications but not required:

. Field research including photo-identification experience

. Previous experience in survey techniques and especially in marine mammal research

. Prior experience working on small research vessels


This is a volunteer position, so there is unfortunately no monetary compensation or living provisions. However, help can be provided to find accommodation. Assistants will be responsible for travel to Tauranga and their own living expenses.

Applicants should email a letter of interest outlining relevant experience and motivation for participation, as well as a CV and the contacts for referees to Anna Meissner

Early application is recommended as applications will be examined in order of reception.

Kindest regards,
Anna Meissner
Anna M. Meissner
PhD student
Coastal-Marine Research Group
Institute of Natural and Mathematical Sciences
Massey University
Private Bag 102 904
North Shore City, 0745
Auckland, New Zealand

Tel: +64 9 414 0800 ext 41520
Cell: +64 22 603 6646
Fax: +64 9 443 9790


My Main Page

main page screenshot

I have just finished putting together a new website, which is going to serve as my main page – phew! It is yet another online profile but, this time, its almost only purpose is to showcase my research work.

You can check it out at via this link and, if you want to, you can tell what you think about it (pretty please? ʘ‿ʘ).

Until next post, have a wonderful weekend!

Do you see corvids?

Carrion crow Corvus corax in a field

Carrion crow Corvus corax in a field

Answer the Corvid Perception Survey in less than 3 minutes!

Cambridge’s Wild Cognition Research Group has launched a survey to assess people’s perception of corvids. Birdwatchers, especially ones of the bird feeder-possessing variety, should have very useful information to provide.

Professional associations in ethology

Credit: Atos International

Credit: Atos International

Professional associations embody and further the professional or scientific field they are concerned with. Through their websites, they are an extremely useful source of job and internship listings, mailing lists, newsletters, links to other associations, as well as information on conferences, meetings, grants and awards, courses, programs and workshops. This is why I think it is a good idea to learn about them, perhaps join one or two that are closest to your interests and/or geographical range, but at the very least bookmark their websites and subscribe to their mailing list if they have one.

I have compiled a list of animal behaviour associations that are ‘field’-specific, rather than taxon-specific (except may be for the very last one), dividing them in ‘generalists’ and ‘specialists’. It is possible that I failed to mention one or more that you may think should be included here. If so, don’t forget to mention it in the comments.


The International Council of Ethologists‘ [ICE] website features an extensive list of associations organized by country or continent. Plus, it co-organized ‘Behavior 2013’, happening in August in Newcastle, UK, which gives reason to look forward to their next conferences (I think).

The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology [SICB] has 7 awards and scholarships for students, a rather impressive listing of jobs and fellowships, TONS of information and resources, and an annual meeting. The society is structured in divisions by sub-fields and there is one for animal behaviour.

The Society for the Quantitative Analyses of Behavior [SQAB] has a journal – Behavioural Processes, an annual symposium, links to lab pages from members, as well as an announcements list and a Yahoo! eGroup that can be subscribed to.

The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour [ASAB] is based in the UK. It organizes meetings at least thrice a year and offers a rather wide range of grants, even to undergraduates. It also provides links to some other associations according to research topics. Its journal is Animal Behaviour.

The Animal Behavior Society [ABS] concerns North America but it is related to ASAB through Animal Behaviour. It offers a total of 15 different grants and awards (!!!) and its ABSNews forum always has interesting postings.

The Australasian Society for Study of Animal Behaviour [ASSAB] provides student research grants and a variety of student prizes.

The Société Québecoise pour l’Etude Biologique du Comportement [SQEBC] is based in Québec, Canada, so its website can be viewed in either French or English. It contains brief explanations about certain research areas, a directory of university departments in which animal behaviour is studied, and, finally, a list of associations and journals. It also has a mailing list.

The Société pour l’Etude du Comportement Animal [SFECA] is French. It has directories, an active mailing list, offers awards to either french or foreign scientists, including young researchers.

The Ethologische Gesellschaft concerns German-speaking countries and the Netherlands. It awards the Niko Tinbergen (for post-docs) prize every other year and funds research. Its booklet ‘Etho News’ is published twice a year and is available on their website, as are job vacancies and an index of research institutes. Its journal is Ethology.

The Argentinian Association for the Behavioural Sciences [AACC] meets once a year. Its website contains, among other things, a list of publications and links of interest (all in spanish).

The Sociedad Portuguesa de Etologia [SPE] is Portuguese. I can’t read the language so I don’t have much more information.


The International Society for Behavioral Ecology [ISBE] has conferences every other year and a journal – Behavioral Ecology. It posts available positions and gives an award for excellence in research.

The Comparative Cognition Society [CCS] has a database of papers published by their members, 3 communication resources that you can sign up for, a YouTube channel and a Facebook group. The CCS Research Award honors contributions to our understanding of animal cognition. You can also find on its website photos of past conferences.

The International Society for Comparative Psychology [ISCP] hosts a biennial meeting. On their website, there are links to numerous other associations, information about their meetings, but most notably, free online issues of the International Journal of Comparative Psychology.

The Spanish Society for Comparative Psychology [SEPC] has meetings every year and a Facebook group.

The International Society for Neuroethology [ISNE] hosts congresses in addition to meetings on more specific topics. It offers awards to students, young and confirmed researchers. Its website features educational resources, links, and job opportunities.

The Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology [SBN] offers lots of awards. You can find links of interest on their website but information on jobs is visible only to members.

The International Society for Applied Ethology [ISAE] organizes international congresses and regional meetings. It posts employment opportunities and other useful information.

The International Society for Human Ethology [ISHE] has a biennial conference, a biennial summer institute and 3 awards for doctoral students.

You can find a search engine and more information on scholarly societies here.