Become a Shark Conservation Volunteer at the Shark & Marine Research Institute
Join our volunteer research programme at the Shark & Marine Research Institute and have an experience unlike any other in one of the great white shark capitals of the world. It is an incredible opportunity for early-career scientists, post-graduates or simply nature and ocean lovers who are looking to gain experience or get involved with marine conservation initiatives.
Volunteers work alongside our marine biologist helping collect data for great white shark, elasmobranch, fish and environmental research projects. All the data you collect is used to help monitor, protect and preserve our incredible marine species. This programme gives you an opportunity to contribute to meaningful conservation research and support the development of marine science around South Africa’s coastline.
On top of this there will be ample chances to enter the cage, giving you the opportunity to come face to face with great white sharks in an unforgettable diving experience!
Our partner – White Shark Diving Company
The Shark & Marine Research Institute is an independent Non-profit Company, but we work in collaboration with White Shark Diving Company, a fully licensed cage-diving tour operator recognised by the South African government (Department of Environmental Affairs, allowing us to undertake great white shark cage-diving activities and research monitoring.
We have a strong focus on conservation and are committed to protecting not only the great white shark, but the vitality of our oceans and our environment as a whole. Whilst our cage-diving tours offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to come up close and personal with the majestic great white shark, our volunteer programme gives you the chance to contribute to groundbreaking research on these amazing creatures, as well as other sharks, and support our various marine conservation initiatives and community upliftment projects.
With at least 100 million sharks killed every year and the climate constantly changing, it is vital we continue our efforts to understand and conserve our sharks and oceans, which are so vital for the positive future of our planet.
Volunteer Research Programme
The programme is hosted in Gansbaai, roughly two hours out of Cape Town. Here, a short distance from the mainland near Dyer Island, is an incredibly dynamic ecosystem that is one of the best places on the planet to study great white shark behaviour and demographics.
Our research projects are designed to take a holistic approach towards shark conservation by looking at the whole ecosystem and monitoring not only the charismatic great white shark, but also the diversity, abundance, and habitat use of a number of commercially exploited shark, fish, and marine species that inhabit our coastline. Our aim is to detect disturbances and identify potential human impacts through monitoring changes in populations and the environment.
To achieve this aim we obtain day to day great white shark monitoring data and conduct scientific baseline surveys of other species in the area. Once a long term data set is obtained we will be able to detect population fluctuations, environmental changes, and disturbances to ecosystem functioning. In the meantime our monitoring data enables us to contribute to ongoing research projects and assist with informing managing authorities accordingly to help protect and save our sharks and oceans!
What will I be doing?
Whilst the programme does include multiple opportunities to cage-dive with white sharks our focus is on research. We currently have five research projects running which our volunteers are involved in:
1. White shark behaviour and demographics
2. Elasmobranch diversity and abundance (including kelp snorkelling surveys and catch-and-release tagging trips focused on gathering much needed data on the smaller sharks along our coastline)
3. Fish diversity and abundance
4. Rocky shores surveys
5. Beach clean ups / marine debris surveys using the ‘Dirty Dozen’ methodology.
Volunteer tasks involve collection of white shark monitoring data, white shark photo fin ID, controlled angling shark and fish surveys, tagging with conventional spaghetti tags, genetic sampling, baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVs), snorkelling, and a number of shore based survey techniques. Whilst staying with us you will learn ethical handling and angling of the animals, local species identification and how to collect and manage biological data. You will be fully trained in all field techniques and expected to participate in all projects running at the time.
Whilst out in the field you will encounter an array of marine life including but not limited to great white sharks, bronze whaler sharks, smoothound sharks, shysharks, seals, a number of fish species, and marine invertebrates. You may also be lucky enough to see dolphins and during whale season (May-November) you will likely have the chance to see the Southern Right and Humpback whales that visit our coastline.
Our programme is designed to be fun and challenging. It is suitable not only for early career scientists seeking hands-on experience in the field but also for passionate conservationists who want to learn and get involved in meaningful conservation research. We hope to inspire you to continue to be involved with conservation initatives and the sustainable use of the world’s marine resources. Your stay with us will be educational, hard work but also an experience you will never forget. You will return home with new friends, stories and incredible memories.
So come and join us, help us make a difference and continue our efforts towards saving our shark populations!