Interns are volunteers who come for six weeks during the field season (June to October). MICS is private and non-profit, and runs on a very small budget. Because of this, interns are not paid, and have to pay for their food and their rent (rent is usually around $50 Canadian per week). They work with the other team members, but their tasks are a bit different: they work mainly at the interpretation center and at other duties in the research station. They don't go out on the water as often as the other, more experienced team members. Interns take their turn to go at sea and therefore can expect to join the boat expeditions once every three or four days if the weather is good. But when the weather is not good, there can be longer intervals between days at sea and therefore the majority of the interns' time is spent on land.
For these reasons, intern status can appear a little frustrating, and more often than not, it is so. But interns are being taught many things during their stay: general knowledge about marine mammals and field studies, research work (dark room, use of the databases, etc.), maintenance of the equipment, driving of inflatable boats, driving around whales, and taking notes on the field.
Another thing must be clear: working at the station can be a very tiring job, always hard, with long days of toil, no week-ends, and strict discipline. We are very demanding. But it can be very rewarding: beautiful surroundings, field work with whales and team spirit usually makes it an unforgettable experience. Also, hiring interns is a way for us to find new team members.
Volunteers are required to help with both land-based and boat-based work:
- Education and interpretation: guided tours of the center and preparing materials for public talks
- Assist with the day-to-day operation of the visitor center, including staffing the front desk and gift shop, taking boat bookings, answering enquiries
- Assist with photo-identification work: matching of pictures with the catalogs of identified individual whales
- Work on logbooks and nautical charts
- Data entry for boat based sightings work
- Assist with any other research being conducted
- Record sightings, behavior and effort data
- Educate passengers about the marine wildlife found in the area
- Navigation and driving of boats around whales
- Maintenance of equipment
Candidates should be fluent in either French or English. We take about three or four interns per month, and most of these have to be able to speak French because the station is in Quebec. In consequence, we take only two or three interns who cannot speak French in a given summer. This makes competition rather high for candidates who cannot speak any French.
We usually take candidates with a background in biology, but we are open to people coming from other fields as well, especially if we understand their motivation. It is important that applicants have a mature attitude towards marine mammals and research, and be able to live and work constructively with others in a team. They have to be enthusiastic and hard working, as well as very conscientious and reliable. It is also important to have good verbal communication and public speaking skills.