Our work is mainly on the behaviour (principally social organization and cultural transmission), ecology, and population biology of sperm, northern bottlenose, and pilot whales. We have ongoing research projects in the South Pacific (sperm whales since 1985) and northwest Atlantic (sperm whales since 1986, bottlenose whales since 1988, pilot whales since 1998). We spend weeks at sea on board ocean-going sailing boats or whale-watch boats, collecting acoustic, visual, photographic, and oceanographic data, and then long periods analyzing them in the lab. The graduate students whom I supervise study the social organization, behaviour, acoustics, and population biology of pilot, sperm, and northern bottlenose whales. My own work is principally on the behaviour, social structure, population biology, and conservation of sperm whales, and more general questions about social structure in mammals and cultural evolution.
Jobs and Volunteering
Our funding is insufficient to employ anyone (except occasionally, and temporarily, a Dalhousie student, usually in the co-op programme). We sometimes have volunteers working in the lab and, more rarely, during the field research. However, space on the main research vessel (a 12m sailing vessel) is limited, so places are usually restricted to Dalhousie graduate and undergraduate students, and those with substantial offshore sailing experience.
Graduate Studies on Cetaceans: The General Pictures
There are rather few scientists studying cetaceans who are in a position to supervise graduate students, and there is a great deal of interest from potential students. This means that there is considerable competition, and only potential students with an outstanding record have much chance of being accepted. Studying cetaceans is difficult and less rewarding (in results per unit time) than research on most other kinds of animals. There are also very few jobs for those with graduate degrees in cetacean work, so it is only for the truly committed. For more information on graduate or other work with marine mammals, see the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s advice and links.
Graduate Studies on Cetaceans in Our Group at Dalhousie
I do supervise graduate (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) students but there is much more demand than I can accommodate. I only accept students with field research experience on marine mammals, or something similar (this can be obtained through internships). To be seriously considered, a student must also have a full scholarship from an external source. Nearly all the graduate students that I have supervised over the past two decades have had scholarships from Killam or NSERC (Canada), FQRNT (Quebec), foreign governments, or international organizations (such as British Commonwealth or Organization of American States). For the normal Dalhousie Scholarships, about half the money comes from the supervisor's research grant which mine cannot stand, and graduate students are almost never accepted without scholarships. These restrictions mean that it is hard for students from some countries to be accepted. I am particularly interested in potential students with offshore sailing experience and mathematical/statistical/computing skills. For general information about Dalhousie University, see http://www.dal.ca/. Information on the graduate program in the Biology Department is at: http://biology.dal.ca/GradInfo/index.htm.
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