Advice for potential graduate students
Our work is mainly on the behaviour (principally social organization and cultural transmission), ecology and population biology of sperm, northern bottlenose and pilot whales. We have ongoing research projects in the South Pacific (sperm whales since 1985) and northwest Atlantic (sperm whales since 1986, bottlenose whales since 1988). We spend weeks at sea on board ocean-going sailing boats collecting acoustic, visual, photographic and oceanographic data, and then long periods analyzing them in the lab. The graduate students whom I supervise study the social organization, behaviour, acoustics and population biology of narwhal, pilot, sperm and northern bottlenose whales. My own work is principally on the behaviour, social structure, population biology and conservation of sperm whales, and more general questions about social structure in mammals and cultural evolution.
Jobs and volunteering
Our funding is insufficient to employ anyone (except occasionally, and temporarily, a Dalhousie student). We sometimes have volunteers working in the lab., and, more rarely, during the field research. However, space on the research vessel is limited (12m sailing vessel), so places are usually restricted to Dalhousie graduate and undergraduate students, and those with substantial offshore sailing experience.
Graduate studies on cetaceans--the general picture
There are rather few scientists studying cetaceans who are in a position to supervise graduate students, and there is a great deal of interest from potential students. This means that there is considerable competition, and only potential students with an outstanding record have much chance of being accepted. Studying cetaceans is difficult and less rewarding (in results per unit time) than research on most other kinds of animals. There are also very few jobs for those with graduate degrees in cetacean work, so it is only for the truly committed. For more information on graduate or other work with marine mammals, see the brochure "Strategies for pursuing a career in marine mammal science" on the web at http://www.marinemammalogy.org/strat.htm.
Graduate studies on cetaceans in our group at Dalhousie
I do supervise graduate students but there is much more demand than I can accommodate. I only accept students with field research experience on marine mammals, or something similar. To be seriously considered, a student must also have a full scholarship from an external source. Nearly all the students that I have supervised over the past decade have had scholarships from NSERC (Canada), FQRNT (Quebec), Commonwealth or a foreign government. For the normal Dalhousie Scholarships, about half the money comes from the supervisor's research grant which mine cannot stand, and graduate students are almost never accepted without scholarships.
These restrictions mean that it is hard for non-Canadian students to be accepted, and especially so for US students (as NSF scholarships, the US equivalent of NSERC, are few and very hard to obtain).
I am particularly interested in potential students with offshore sailing experience and mathematical / statistical / computing skills.
I plan a sabbatical leave in 2008-2009, so will only accept MSc students starting in 2007 in very special circumstances.
For general information about Dalhousie University, see http://www.dal.ca/ on the Web.
Information on the graduate programmes in the Biology Department is at: http://biology.dal.ca/GradInfo/index.htm
Among those able to supervise graduate students on cetaceans, I would particularly recommend:
Dr Bernd Wursig (Texas A & M University, Galveston, Texas 77553, U.S.A.) [WÜrsig studies the behaviour and ecology of whales and dolphins.]
Dr Andy Read (Duke University Marine Lab., North Carolina, USA) [Read studies the ecology and conservation of small cetaceans.]
Drs Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson (Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand) [studies of the population biology (Slooten) and bioacoustics (Dawson) of Hector's dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales.]
Dr Richard Connor, Department of Biology, UMASS-Dartmouth, 285 Old Westport Rd, North
Dartmouth, Mass 02747, U.S.A.) [Connor studies social relationships in dolphins.]
Organizations which take interns for cetacean projects include:
Scott Kraus, New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, Mass 02110, USA (studies of
Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, P.O. Box 1036, Provincetown, Mass 02657, USA
(humpback, fin and right whales).