The Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Lab at the University of Queensland is seeking expressions of interest from volunteers for a five-and-a-half week behavioural response study  on humpback whales from September 19 to October 26 this year. The study will examine how humpback whale behaviour is affected by noise from seismic air guns. It is the fourth and last in a series of experiments, known as the Behavioural Responses of Australian Humpback whales to Seismic Surveys (BRAHSS) project, that has been examining this issue since 2010 in collaboration with the University of Sydney, Curtin University, the Australian Marine Mammal Centre, the University of Newcastle and Blue Planet Marine.

The 2014 study will once again be conducted at Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast, just north of Brisbane, and follows several successful studies of humpback whale vocalisations and behaviour at the same site during the Humpback whale Acoustic Research Collaboration  as well as the first two years of BRAHSS in 2010 and 2011.

Volunteers are required mainly to conduct land-based observations of the whales as they pass our study site. Approximately 4,000 whales should migrate southwards within 10km of Peregian Beach during the field period making the site ideal for land-based tracking and observations of behaviour. We will also have a fixed hydrophone array moored offshore allowing us to record ambient noise and whale vocalisations and acoustically track singing whales in real time as well a second array of acoustic recorders deployed in the area for propagation modelling and recording the air gun signals. Some whales will be tagged with Dtags. Although volunteers will be used to help out on the boats, opportunities for volunteers to participate in boat work are limited and most time will be spent doing land-based observations. Volunteers will also have opportunities to participate in the acoustic recording and tracking of whales.

Individual volunteers will spend approximately five hours daily (in two shifts) counting and observing passing whales from the land. Volunteers will get at least one day off per week, usually during bad weather. Due to the complex nature of the study, volunteers will receive detailed training at the beginning of the project and therefore successful applicants must be available for the entire duration of the project. A high standard of safety will be maintained throughout the field work and volunteers will be trained in safety procedures.

Volunteers must be sociable as they will be expected to work and live as part of teams with shared cooking and cleaning duties. We expect that there will be up to 90 people (researchers, staff and volunteers) at the site. Volunteers must organise and pay for their own transport to the study site (close to Brisbane International Airport) but food and accommodation are provided once there. As meals are communal, fussy eaters are discouraged from applying! (vegetarians are fine).

This project will suit people with a background in science (including recent graduates and graduate students as well as higher level undergraduate students) keen to gain experience in cetacean survey techniques, acoustics and behavioural response studies. Applicants should also be highly motivated and able to concentrate for several hours at a time. Those with previous survey experience of marine mammals or other taxa will be preferred.

The research project is being funded by the Joint Industry Programme on E&P Sound and Marine Life and the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as part of a broad investigation into the potential interaction between the sounds that are generated by the offshore petroleum industry and the marine environment.

Applicants should reply with a single email to Michael Noad (<>), Rebecca Dunlop (<>) and Michael Williamson (<>) outlining why they would be suitable for this survey, why they would like to participate, an outline of previous relevant experience, and any other relevant details. The email should include an attached CV and the names and contact details of two professional referees. The closing date for volunteer applications is 31 May and successful field applicants will be notified in June.

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