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.

Prerequisites:

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 to:sylvia.osterrieder@gmail.com.

           Sylvia Osterrieder

PhD Candidate

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

and

Research Associate

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

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