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Whale ID & Research Internship

The purpose of the whale photo ID intern position is to give candidates experience in collecting and managing whale sighting photos and field data for future research use.

photo ID intern looks through camera with long-distance lens while out on a boat on the open ocean

Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific is southern California’s largest public Aquarium whose mission is to instill a sense of wonder, respect, and stewardship for the Pacific Ocean, its inhabitants, and ecosystems. The Aquarium of the Pacific prides itself on being a scientific and educational institution, making Aquarium guests feel like explorers as they learn about conservation and ecology across multiple animal touch pools, exhibits, and public whale watches in partnership with Harbor Breeze Cruises.

The purpose of the whale photo ID intern position is to give candidates experience in collecting and managing whale sighting photos and field data for future research use. Interns will experience the value of communicating science to the public and public engagement.

Role of the Intern

Interns will be collecting data on various cetaceans (dolphins, blue whales, humpbacks, fin whales, gray whales, etc.) while on public whale watches. Primary responsibilities of the position include but are not limited to: handling photography equipment, participating in whale watches in various weather conditions, uploading photos and data to a database, and managing photos and sighting data for further utilization, and interacting with Aquarium and whale watch guests.


  • 200-hour program that will be completed in 10 weeks, average 20 hrs per week.
  • Pay Status: This is an unpaid internship
  • Summer Session: June 1, 2022 - August 31, 2022

Interns will receive training and experience in the following:

  • Learning the methods of wildlife observation and data collection in the field
  • Using DSLR photography equipment
  • Taking dorsal fin and fluke photos of cetaceans encountered during daily, public whale watches
  • Maintain detailed data logs of sightings and enter them into a digital database
  • Create a research project to display to Aquarium staff and guests using whale data
  • Photo management with Adobe Lightroom and data entry with Microsoft Access
  • Interpreting and communicating science while on board the whale watch or in the building to Aquarium guests

What the Aquarium of the Pacific expects from interns

  • The drive and ability to learn tasks quickly and well
  • To perform all of their assigned duties promptly and reliably with minimal supervision
  • To be prompt and on time
  • To exercise care and judgment when working on a boat
  • To abide by all Aquarium of the Pacific employee guidelines and policies
  • The ability to meet the minimum time commitments of the position


  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Background in cetacean science, biology, marine biology, or conservation a plus but is not required
  • Prior experience with DSLR cameras and photo software is a plus, but not required
  • Completed and pass a background check

Skills, Knowledge and Abilities

  • Applicants should have a broad knowledge of ecological and biological principles, especially those relating to marine mammals and marine habitats
  • Ability to spend many hours standing, especially on a boat, and in various weather conditions
  • Experience in data entry recommended but not required
  • Comfortable speaking in front of groups of people
  • Strong communication skills to transmit information to staff, visitors, and whale watch participants in a clear and thorough manner
  • Have excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to manage multiple tasks at once
  • Must be able to lift and carry 30 lbs on stairs, boats, docks, etc.


  • Must complete general orientation session
  • Interns will complete a pre-post program questionnaire
  • Internship completion based on accruing 200 hours of work time
  • Research project completed and presented to Aquarium Staff during internship period (to be determined by the intern in collaboration with program coordinator)


Apply here.

Staff pose with a sea lion on exhibit.

Volunteering at the Aquarium

The Aquarium owes much of its success to our dedicated and committed volunteer staff. You can be part of that story by joining our team in one of the many volunteer or intern programs that we offer throughout the Aquarium.