Volunteer Information

Founded in 1990, the Bimini Biological Field Station (BBFS), aka ‘Sharklab’, is operated by Dr. Samuel H. Gruber and his wife Mariko. Dr. Gruber came to Bimini decades ago after discovering what a vital habitat the islands were to an array of marine life, especially the lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris). The station was set up as a place for Dr. Gruber, and his students, to carry out field research on elasmobranchs full time. BBFS is organized and run similar to the research vessels which Dr. Gruber spent much of his scientific career working on.
The Sharklab offers subsidized internships to persons 18 or older who wish to learn field research skills. Our approach is to integrate students with active marine scientists from around the globe. We thus support about ten international interns monthly, for periods up to 12 months. Interns experience a unique opportunity to take part in our intensive field research, learning practical and theoretical skills that will enhance their prospects as future scientists. The volunteers live at the station with three fulltime PhD students and six staff members. The Sharklab depends on the efforts of dedicated volunteers to accomplish our research and the station has hosted over 800 interns from around the globe since its inception.
The Sharklab is looking for highly motivated, hardy people with a desire to work and gain experience with marine fauna and flora. Volunteers are integrated into all aspects of the station's workload and are expected to assist with fixing gillnets, cleaning toilets and cooking dinner, as well as tagging and measuring large sharks! We very much believe that volunteering at the station is a life-changing experience that not only develops scientists but also helps to create well-rounded people, with a drive and passion to succeed in whatever path they choose to follow!
At BBFS we are seeking general interns who can collect data for our PhD student’s projects and assist with the daily running of the station. We also seek project students who undertake normal volunteer activities while completing their own research under the guidence of our PhD students (see independent projects). Internships range in length from two to twelve months, with two months being the minimum stay and three to four months being the recommended duration for an intern to make the most of this opportunity as well as to maximize their skill development. There are five dates available for interns to start and end their volunteer placement, stated below:
Start Date Application
January 5th June 5th
April 15th October 15th
June 20th January 20th
August 15th March 15th
October 15th May 15th

Interns can apply to stay for as long of a duration as they would like, as long as they are able to arrive/depart on the specific start dates mentioned above. We are not in a position to be flexible with these start and end dates due to our need for a standardized schedule for our chartered air service, food supply, and bed availability. The first 3-4 days of a newcomer's arrival are set aside for training and building up lab familiarity.
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 behavioral 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 organise 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 grueling, 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 organising 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!
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