A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A Shark Lab VOLUNTEER
New groups of volunteers arrive several times a year, and every group is different! On arrival, the group is subject to orientation which is a week or two of intensive classes in order to become accommodated to lab life. It typically takes a few weeks to become accustomed to where everything belongs at the lab, and getting used to the routine.
No two days at the Shark Lab are ever the same. There is different work to be carried out every week and the weather and local 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 daily schedule....
Every morning the entire crew wakes at 0730 to enjoy breakfast. At 0800, volunteers will complete their “personal duties,” and someone is assigned “garden duty,” while the remaining staff commence their morning meeting to determine the day’s activities and organize appropriate crews.
WHAT IS “GARDEN DUTY”?
Proper maintenance and care of the garden is essential in providing the team with extra fresh produce to bolster the Shark Lab diet. At present, we are successfully harvesting rocket, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Garden duties include, but are not limited to: watering, picking fruits, trimming and securing plants, and scrubbing the equipment.
WHAT ARE “PERSONAL DUTIES”?
Personal duties are a string of tasks that help the lab to run smoothly at the start of the day. Volunteers are divided into groups, and each group has a few tasks they are responsible for completing and maintaining, with both daily and weekly checklists. Jobs include fuelling the boats, checking the cars, and prepping data paperwork.
Everyone is assigned certain tasks for the day, this could range from tracking sharks, fixing nets, conducting behavioural observations, setting longlines, preparing bait, shark work ups, or organizing equipment. Every day there is an assigned “First Mate” who stays back from the field to look after the station.
WHAT ARE THE “FIRST MATE” DUTIES?
Everyone takes a turn as First Mate of the lab. Responsibilities include completing a list of duties, such as cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping the deck, and meal preparation. The First Mate is also the main point of contact for those out in the field that day, as well as overseeing the care of lab dogs and pen sharks. The First Mate has to exhibit good time management skills as they ensure the rest of crew stay on task and are efficiently cleaned up for dinner.
Lunch is served between 1200-1300; after which, crew members may change activities or carry on with the same task. There are often times, when research requires a team 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, somewhere between 1700 and 2000. . Boats and gear are cleaned, data collated and checked, and then everyone chips in to tidy up until the dinner bell, signalling the end of the work day. The Shark Lab tries to host a 1800 dinner, but this is not always possible based on the needs of the research!
Some of our research requires working into, and sometimes through, the night. For example, during our tagging program (PIT) we gillnet from 1800 to 0600, or when longlines are set multiple crews will check for shark captures throughout the night. While the work day can be gruelling, crews that are working through the night are usually able to catch up on sleep over the next few days. By 2300 the station is quiet.
At the BBFSF, 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, fixing gear and learning the responsibilities of a First Mate. It is worth noting, that in order for the “exciting” aspects of research to be successful, there are plenty of behind the scenes tasks such as fishing for bait, preparing equipment, and repairing gear, that need just as much attention and focus.
With hard work and aptitude comes responsibility as we rely a great deal on skilled volunteers to run and lead activities out in the field. All of our past and present PhD students, and most of the staff were valued interns, before they obtained their positions. We are always excited when a new group of volunteers arrives as they come with varying perspectives from different countries and backgrounds!
Check out our lab blog to get the inside scoop.