Volunteer: Whale + Dolphin Conservation in Italy

Global Nomadic

Location: Ischia, Italy

Duration: 6 day placements

Cost: 800+ Euros (depending upon when you go) per 6 day trip

Fee Includes: all food, accommodation, pre-departure + in-country support, orientation and all project related activities

Does not Include: flights, airport pickup, travel insurance, personal spending, visas and vaccinations

Please note: This opportunity is designed to give you the contacts and experience to help further your career. You are not replacing any member of staff, but helping alongside them, whilst learning new skills.

Start Dates: Placements are available throughout the summer months, between June and October


  • Work and study aboard a sailboat cruising the Mediterranean, searching for marine life, conducting research, whilst attending onboard seminars from seasoned scientists
  • Hands-on experience monitoring and observing, acoustic analysis and seamanship
  • Ideal for Marine Biologists and Animal Science, Environmental studies professionals and students
  • Keywords: marine biology, environmental conservation, cetology research, seminars

For those wishing to jumpstart or further a career in marine biology, or for more casual conservationists keen to enjoy Italys dolce vita while contributing to important ecological research, this one week Marine Biology Course on the Italian island of Ischia is for you. You will specifically investigate declining dolphin populations in the Italian Mediterranean with a local NGO, living aboard a historical cutter ship of 18 m and contributing to ongoing academic research and conservation initiatives.

The presence of common dolphin populations off the island of Ischia, Italy, has been consistently documented since 1997. The short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis is a small cetacean species with a wide distribution. Literature, photographic documentation, and osteological collections indicate that the common dolphin used to be common – thence its name – throughout the Mediterranean Sea, however the species has experienced a dramatic decline in numbers during the last few decades, and has almost completely disappeared from large portions of its former range including the northern Adriatic Sea and the Ligurian Sea.

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In 2003, the Mediterranean common dolphin subpopulation was listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. A number of interacting factors may have played a role in the decline of common dolphins in the Mediterranean, ranging from natural fluctuations to the impact of human activities. Some of the human-induced threats – based on the available evidence – are most likely to be implicated in the species decline. These include factors as diverse as prey depletion, contamination by xenobiotics, direct killing, fishery bycatch and global climate change. Other potential threats to Mediterranean common dolphins include disturbance by recreational vessel traffic, noise from shipping, mineral prospecting (seismic) and military sonar, and oil pollution.

The research is conducted in collaboration with: ASMS Ocean Care (Swiss coalition for marine mammals), Humane Society, OceanoMare, RSPCA (Royal Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals, University of Naples (Geology Department), Zoological Station A. Dohrn.

Daily Life

On board there will be lectures on cetology: the research of cetaceans in the Italian seas, the key areas for the study of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean, conservation and preservation, evolution, adaptation to the marine environment, classification, insight into the cetaceans of the Mediterranean and in particular of the studied species in particular, bioacoustics, social behaviour and interaction with fisheries.

You will leave every day to sail, according to the project and weather conditions. Your duties onboard consist of helping researchers monitoring dolphins. Dolphin behaviour is recorded together with geographic position, group size, group composition, group formation, surface activity patterns and duration of surfacing intervals. Behavioural sampling is coupled with acoustic recording of dolphin vocalisations, in order to relate the sounds produced by the animals to different behavioural activities. Navigation data are collected in order to estimate dolphins relative sighting frequencies. You will also help record the presence of sea turtles, tuna, swordfish, fish schools, mantas, moonfish and marine birds.

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Get on board with this unique project and gain invaluable research, monitoring, and evaluation skills, while enjoying Italian wine (included in the project fee) and the clear waters of the Med.

Please note: all information above is subject to change. Please check the most up to date information on the Global Nomadic website when applying.

  • Seniority level

    Entry level

  • Employment type


  • Job function

    Research, Training, and Science

  • Industries

    Renewables & Environment, International Trade and Development, and Environmental Services


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