A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A VOLUNTEER
No two days at the Sharklab are ever the same. New groups of volunteers arrive four times a year. There is different work to be carried out every week and the weather and local marine conditions change every day. This affects what research activities can be conducted. While so many things are constantly changing, over the years certain things have become part of the routine....
Every morning the entire crew wakes at 7:30am, after breakfast has been prepared by the lab manager. While the volunteers eat and get ready, our staff meets in the lab to determine the day’s activities and organize appropriate crews. Everyone is assigned certain tasks for the day, for example tracking sharks, fixing nets, conducting behavioural observations, setting longlines, cutting bait or entering data, etc. Each day we also have a ‘duty person’ who stays back from the field to clean and organize the station, as well as assist with meal preparation. There is a list of duties that need to be accomplished every day, in addition to any other work that our staff require help with.
Lunch is usually scheduled for around 12:30 and is prepared by the duty person with the help of the lab or assistant manager. After lunch, some crew members may change activities while others will continue on with their morning work. We also regularly have tasks that require interns to be in the field throughout the day, in which case they will prepare a packed lunch. Crews return from the field when light falls or when they have completed their tasks, usually between 5 and 6pm. Boats and gear are cleaned, data collated and checked, and then everyone chips in until the dinner bell, which typically rings between 6 and 7pm, signalling the end of the work day!
Some of our research does require working into, and sometimes through, the night. For example, during our tagging program (PIT) we gillnet from 6pm to 6am or when longlines are set multiple crews will check for shark captures throughout the night. While the work day can sometimes be gruelling, crews that are working through the night are usually able to catch up on sleep the next day. By 11pm the station is quiet for those who want to sleep. We try to plan a day off every 7-10 days or as the research demands permit.
At the BBFS, scientific research is the focus of our daily activities; however, upkeep of the facility is also a high priority. Interning at the station provides unique opportunities both in the field and around the lab. In the field volunteers develop research skills (see current research), whilst at the lab they gain experience in cooking and organizing household. With hard work and aptitude comes responsibility as we rely a great deal on skilled volunteers to run and lead crews for us in the field. All of our past and present PhD students, director and managers volunteered before they obtained their positions. We are always excited when a new group of volunteers arrives as they come with varying perspectives from countries or cities we likely have not visited ourselves!
Check out our lab blog to get the inside scoop!