WHEN SHOULD I APPLY?
Scheduling around projects, university courses and film crews can be tricky so we like to have all the volunteer spots filled 4-6 months in advance. The sooner you apply and the more flexibility you have, the better!
CAN I STAY LESS THAN TWO MONTHS?
Unfortunately, due to the investment of time and effort into training volunteers, we require all interns to stay for approximately two months. We believe it takes this amount of time for a volunteer to become settled into their role and to learn necessary skills and techniques.
WHAT ARE THE APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS?
There are no official requirements for the internship, however the recruitment team is looking to hire positive and enthusiastic individuals that can thrive in a unique working environment. Candidates must have exceptional communication skills in order to excel at the Shark Lab in the dormitory style living. We accept volunteers with no prior field experience and in the early stages of their scientific career, all the way up to individuals that have completed their studies.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS?
All applications are vetted approximately six months prior to the desired start date. The Station Admin team will invite a small group of successful applicants to interview shortly after the deadline. Decisions are usually made 2-3 weeks following the interview, with typically half of the interviewees hired. Recruiting volunteers is a rigorous process, and the internship is highly competitive.
DO YOU OFFER DISCOUNTS OR SCHOLARSHIPS?
Unfortunately not for international students, BBFS is a non-profit organization and is self-funded, largely by grants, university courses and film/TV crews. The fees the volunteers pay contribute to less than a third of the cost to keep the station running. It works out to be approximately $30 per day for 3 meals, accommodation and all field activities - not a bad deal!
For national students, we do support the Alf Thompson Memorial Scholarship available for Bahamian citizens only, hosting positions in the Summer. You can read more HERE.
DO I NEED INSURANCE?
All volunteers must have insurance that covers repatriation and emergency evacuation from Bimini in case of accident. There is a basic medical clinic in Alice Town, Bimini; for any serious conditions you will be flown to the US by air ambulance. Hurricane season also runs from June to November (with peak season being August – October) every year. If you are volunteering during this time, please be aware that in the case of a hurricane volunteers will be asked to leave the island and remain in the US until it is safe to return. Please make sure that you have sufficient access to funds if this situation was to arise. Most insurance companies will require a Government Evacuation Notice to claim any travel expenses due to natural disasters. The Shark Lab will likely be evacuating volunteers before such a notice is released, as the Bahamas tend to post notices late.
IF I AM NOT A BAHAMIAN CITIZEN, HOW LONG CAN I STAY IN THE COUNTRY FOR?
Most volunteers are granted 90 days (sometimes 60). At the end of this period, you can apply for an extension on island. This is assessed on a case by case basis by Bimini Immigration. Nine times out of ten you will be automatically granted an additional 90 days. At the end of this extension you will be asked to leave the island, and re-enter to stay on longer as a volunteer. The Shark Lab will provide you time during the work day to request an extension. In some rare cases, volunteers may be requested to leave Bimini earlier and re-enter, to renew the tourist visa. This is the decision of the Bahamian government and is out of the Shark Lab’s hands. While the Shark Lab team will support and offer advice to you during this time, it is up to you to cover the costs of additional flights in and out of the country in order to accommodate this request. You can read more HERE.
DO I NEED A US VISA TO VOLUNTEER IN THE BAHAMAS?
Typically you do not, but you must obtain an ESTA (or visa) to transit through the US. All volunteers will be responsible for checking if they are eligible for an ESTA, and as a result, organizing the correct visa for travel into the US. All volunteers are given a letter to state they are staying at the Shark Lab. You will be granted a tourist visa on arrival.
DOES THE US ESTA COVER MY ENTIRE STAY IN THE BAHAMAS?
Yes, as the ESTA is only required for transit through the US and is not technically required to stay in the Bahamas. Note the following:
The Bahamas is considered part of the ‘contiguous territory and islands’ of the United States for US visa waiver purposes. Therefore the Bahamas cannot be used as your “Exit Country” if you have already spent 90 days in the US prior.
Other than this, the Bahamas DOES NOT count towards your 90-day maximum allowance in the US, as it has its own tourist visa system.
If entering the US on the ESTA system you may, however, be asked to show proof of a return flight out of the US (out with the contiguous territory and islands, aka your international flight home) depending on where you are flying from and what airline you are flying with. We recommend researching this thoroughly.
WHAT ARE THE DETAILS OF THE CHARTER FLIGHT?
The BBFSF will organize volunteer flights from Fort Lauderdale (Florida, US) to Bimini International Airport (South Bimini, Bahamas) through Tropic Ocean Airways. Volunteers will be responsible for organizing all travel arrangements (flights and additional transport) to Fort Lauderdale International Airport. To avoid tight connections, we highly recommend arriving in Miami/Fort Lauderdale the night before your flight to Bimini. The volunteer flights leave Fort Lauderdale at 10 AM on the first day of your internship, and depart Bimini at 11 AM on the final day.
Note: all passengers should arrive at Fort Lauderdale International Airport (SHELTAIR TERMINAL) at 9 AM - one hour before the scheduled departure time. As the charter planes are very small, there is also limited room for luggage. Please use soft luggage bags that can be easily stowed, and limit total luggage weight to 40 lbs (including any carry-on luggage).
We will do our best to forward on the formal itinerary when we get it, but often this is not sent through to BBFSF by Tropic Ocean Airways until the day before.
WHAT TRAINING IS INVOLVED?
WHAT IS A SHARK WORK UP?
After arriving in Bimini, all volunteers will be provided with training to allow them to effectively and safely undertake field work. This will include the following classes:
First Aid basics (not a certifiable course)
Map class and orientation of Bimini’s landmarks and the surrounding waters
Boat safety and knot tying
Fishing & fish ID
Radio & GPS use
Longline methods and shark ‘work-ups’
You will also sit in on lectures about the Station’s current and past research, among other topics.
A “work up” is the process of capturing, securing, and taking data from a shark. This includes, but is not limited to length and girth measurements, DNA/isotope samples, ultrasound, blood extraction, and insertion of tags.
All volunteers will play a key role in taking samples and measurement from local elasmobranchs.
WHY CAN'T I ORGANIzE MY OWN TRANSPORT TO BIMINI?
Bimini is a small island, and as such the charter flights are the Shark Lab’s main source of bringing over supplies. As you take your seat upon our charter flight, you are also helping to support the lab by accompanying scientific equipment and fresh food. The team really appreciates this!
WHAT IS THE AVERAGE AGE OF VOLUNTEERS?
Most of our volunteers have recently graduated or are in the middle of their undergrad studies, but applications are open to people of all ages.
WILL I GET TO TAG SHARKS?
You will assist our staff in tagging, and be hands on in the midst of this activity! You will have a front row seat to our scientific research, but you will not be requested to do any invasive tagging as an intern, this is largely due to the animal ethics requirements of our PhD students’ universities.. Generally long term volunteers are given priority if assistance is needed with tagging.
HOW OFTEN DO I GET TIME OFF?
As the research demands permit, we try to plan a day off once a week – typically on a Sunday. Occasionally we will work through to achieve our research goals.
CAN MY FAMILY OR FRIENDS VISIT?
Yes there are a variety of relatively cheap accommodation options close to the station ($75/night upwards). We can share our contacts with you once on island. If needed necessary for the research, we expect volunteers to work during these visits, however, we are flexible and will give you time off if our schedule allows.
DO I NEED/CAN I BRING SCUBA GEAR?
SCUBA diving is not required for our research and most of our field work is conducted via freediving or snorkelling.. There is a dive shop on North Bimini that offer dive trips. Please keep in mind that storage space is limited
WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE?
There is limited access to fresh on the island, with supplies shipped approximately once per month. As the date draws closer to its next shipment, fresh produce is limited and the lab relies on its frozen food supplies to make the majority of meals.
Three meals/day are provided, and all meals are fairly carb heavy to ensure the crew have plenty of energy for long field days. The lab can accommodate food allergies, but asks that all participants are open minded and flexible when it comes to their food preferences in Bimini. All food is sourced from Florida, with the exception of locally caught fish.
DO YOU CATER TO VEGETARIANS?
Yes! However, as there are limited supplies in Bimini we cannot cater for all food preferences/allergies. If you have additional dietary restrictions (veganism, grain fee etc.) you will be expected to supplement your own diet.
Note that a large part of shark research requires the fishing, culling, and storage of fish as bait. While you do not have to take part in the culling of fish, you need to be ethically comfortable with the process as a whole and playing a role as required.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO VOLUNTEER, AND WHAT DOES THIS FEE COVER?
Please refer to our volunteer fee page. Your fees cover all accommodations and meals for the duration of your stay, field work and training activities, use of equipment (including boat rental) flights to and from Bimini, as well as transportation to and from the Bimini airport. Note that the fee does not include your insurance costs.
HOW DO I PAY MY VOLUNTEER FEES?
On acceptance of the internship, you will be sent clear instructions by the Station Admin. All invoices are sent via Quickbooks. If you are paying through a bank of the United States, you can easily pay the fees via bank transfer. International payments are transferred through a “wire transfer” that must be made through your local bank. Please note, there is a an additional $15 charged by the bank to make such a payment.
ARE THE START DATES FLEXIBLE?
Our start and end dates are fixed throughout the year to enable a smooth running of the lab. This is the same for Project Students. The typical arrival and departure dates are January 5th, April 15th, June 20th, August 10th, October 20th and December 15th.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO EXTEND MY STAY ONCE I ARRIVE IN BIMINI?
In most cases, it is rare that you will be able to extend your internship as our volunteer positions are confirmed months in advance. We will be flexible when we can, but it is best not to plan your trip under the assumption you can prolong your stay in Bimini. Note that your performance as a volunteer will be assessed before automatic acceptance for another period.
WHAT IS THE ACCOMMODATION LIKE?
The Shark Lab is located in a former Police barracks, and Doc designed the lab to imitate a research vessel. There are five cabins, each with two sets of bunk beds in, two heads, and communal kitchen and dining area. The lab is very much dormitory style living, with approximately 20 people sharing the quarters at any one time.
WHO WILL I BE SHARING A ROOM WITH?
When possible rooms are allocated by gender, however this is not always possible so we appreciate your flexibility and understanding. There is usually four people/room.
IS THERE A CASH MACHINE?
There is an ATM on the North Island, however it is not very reliable. Therefore, we recommend bringing US or Bahamian cash with you. US dollars are accepted in Bimini.
HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD I BRING?
We recommend a budget of $30-40 per week for dinner, drinks and day off activities. All meals are provided, except on the day off when you are allowed to cook for yourself at the station with allocated ingredients. You are not expected to spend money on food, but it is a nice treat on the day off if you choose to venture out.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
The South Island of Bimini is relatively small, there is one bar that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and one convenience store. There are some nice snorkel spots that you can visit, which are accessible from land on South Bimini. The North island offers more to do with restaurants, stores, and a small grocery store. This is readily accessible as it is a 30 minute walk from the Shark Lab, and short ferry ride away ($4 round trip).
WHAT IS THE WATER/WEATHER TEMPERATURE LIKE?
Summer temperatures can reach the 90s and water temperatures will reach mid-80s. Winter temperatures can get to low 70s and water temperatures can reach mid-70s. We recommend bringing a wetsuit if you are coming in the months August-June. Especially in the winter, it can be chilly spending extended periods of time in the water. Wind is the main factor in affecting what fieldwork can be done.
CAN I SEND MAIL TO BIMINI?
Bimini postal service is highly unreliable. Letters can take anywhere from 1 – 7 months to appear in Bimini, based on our experience. If you are happy to send at your own risk, you can post to:
Bimini Shark Lab
15 Elizabeth Drive
If you need emergency medication or similar, we can have this sent to our FL office at your request.