Whale and Dolphin Volunteer Conservation, Hebrides



Time Commitment

Full time (30+ hrs/wk)


Short-Term (few weeks/months)


The Hebrides

United Kingdom


The Project

During the expedition you will live-aboard the research yacht Silurian, exploring the Hebrides while collecting visual and acoustic data on the various species of whale, dolphin and porpoise (cetacean) found in the study area. Images will also be collected during encounters for Photo-ID analysis; Photo-ID is a tool used to identify individuals using distinguishable marks on their dorsal fins. 24 species of cetacean – nearly a third of the global total – have been recorded in the Hebrides.

However, the most commonly encountered species, and target of specific research include:

The minke whale; researchers have documented approximately 122 individuals in the area using Photo-ID. Some return to the same areas annually while others are just passing through.

The harbour porpoise; some of the highest densities of porpoises in Europe are found in the Hebrides. They are fairly elusive cetaceans, rarely approaching vessels or leaping clear of the water.

The bottlenose dolphin; Scottish bottlenose dolphins are at the most northern extent of the species’ range and are consequently the largest. Photo ID suggests that Hebridean waters host one of the UK’s three resident populations.

The white beaked dolphin; HWDT have been investigating population structure differences between east and west coast Scotland white-beaked dolphins, in particular the differences between vocalisations. This research will contribute directly to how this species is managed in UK waters.

Common dolphins are seasonal visitors, recorded mainly between April and October, in groups sometimes containing several hundred individuals. Research suggests that common dolphin numbers have increased in the Hebrides in recent years; in fact the encounter rate aboard Silurian has almost doubled in the last decade. Common dolphins are very inquisitive and will actively approach boats and play in the bow-wave.

The species outlined are the most commonly sighted; however we also have annual encounters with Orca, Risso’s and white-sided dolphins and sunfish (towards the end of summer). In the Hebrides, the occasionalhumpback whale, sperm whale, sei whale, bottlenose whale and fin whale have also been recorded, although the chance of seeing these is very small.

The data collected aboard Silurian will allow for a better understanding of cetacean species, both locally and internationally. The resulting information will feed into more effective conservation strategies’, ensuring the Hebridean marine environment is safeguarded for future generations.


Despite the EU labelling the Hebrides as one of the last 'wild' coastal environments and one of the best examples of Atlantic maritime coast in Europe, very little was known about the cetacean species found there until research began in the mid-1990’s. Since then, researchers have been monitoring the area, recording encounters (alongside other environmental factors) and taking images for analysis.

Free Time

Sailing on board the Silurian whilst being a dolphin and whale research volunteer is a truly fantastic way to explore the west coast of Scotland. Anchoring each evening in secluded island bays will give you the opportunity to hop ashore and explore the otherwise inaccessible vast beaches, rugged cliff tops and abandoned villages. A whole wealth of British wildlife will also be revealed from from carnivorous plants to beautiful orchids and rare bees to majestic eagles.

For more information on this project please visit http://www.workingabroad.com/projects/whale-and-dolphin-volunteer-conservation-hebrides

Fee Required


  • Training Provided
  • Housing Available


  • Groups
  • International Volunteers

How To Apply

If you are interested in joining this project, you will need to fill out the online application form (you can also print it out and send it to us by post) – to secure a placement on the project, please complete and submit the form including two references and your application payment of £155. If for some reason, your application is not accepted, we would reimburse this payment fully. For those who are accepted, 25% of the final payment is due within 14 days of being accepted and the balance payment is due 6 weeks before arrival. Once your place is confirmed, you will receive a pre-departure package with all detailed information on your project, suggested items to bring etc.