LAMAVE’s whale shark research and conservation projects will allow volunteers to study whale sharks in the water through photo identification and other research work.

About the NGO:

Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (“LAMAVE Research Institute”) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the research and conservation of marine megafauna and the marine environment in the Philippines. LAMAVE focuses its efforts on charismatic marine megafauna, using it as an umbrella species to protect the wider marine environment. We identify hotspots and quantify populations of species including whale sharks, turtles and other animals. We use technology, such as satellite and acoustic tags to help determine key habitat sites, home ranges and migratory corridors of marine species. The results are shared with governments and stakeholders, to work together to minimise impacts and develop tools for conservation management such as creating or zoning marine protected areas or advising policy.

Whale shark projects:

LAMAVE has been studying whale sharks in the Philippines since 2012. We started working with this species to understand the human-shark interactions, and how these can be beneficial to local communities as well as for the species. However, human-shark interactions can have ecosystem-level implications which need addressing in order to ensure their long-term sustainability. We are now working across the different tourism sites in the country, namely Donsol, Oslob, Southern Leyte and Palawan.

As part of our ecological understanding of the species, we also study their movement patterns and distribution, and how these sites link up between them.

What volunteers will do:

Volunteers will help in gathering data on whale sharks in the water. LAMAVE’s main research technique to understand their ecology is photographic identification (photo-ID). This techniques harnesses the uniqueness of the whale shark’s spot pattern and through the aid of star-mapping software, we can ‘match’ whale sharks between areas. Volunteers will get a chance to swim in the water with these animals and observe them. Other methodologies are also used by the organization’s researchers, depending on the site.

Volunteers collect data that contributes to LAMAVE’s research outputs, including scientific publications, policy and education. Volunteers help not only in gathering data, but also in collating and evaluating some of the information collected. Volunteers are also involved in community engagement work that is geared towards imparting conservation knowledge and inspiring conservationist attitudes and behaviors in the local community.

What volunteers learn:

By the end of your time here, you will be very knowledgeable in photo-identifying different individuals of whale sharks. You will be immersed into a local community and will be living with a group of people from different backgrounds. You will gain social skills through public speaking, community relations and group dynamics. In three months, you will gain new insights on the conservation of whale sharks and more information on their biology and their ecological functions.

Typical Day:

Volunteers will have in-water days and on-land days. For days in water, they will conduct in-water surveys, swim and study whale sharks. This will happen in shifts and will take a few hours.

For days on land, volunteers will process all the data collected and do all other administrative and daily (cleaning, cooking, etc.) work required for life with the project. There are also learning activities scheduled and conducted by project leaders, such as Journal Club, Cultural Nights, etc.

Program requirements:

General requirements: At least 21 years old; strong swimmer, can freedive up to 7m; positive attitude; attention to detail; contributive member of a small team; marine/biology background preferred

Minimum stay: 3 months

Placement Contributions: USD 1,350 (USD 450 per month)


The placement contributions cover the project’s costs while the volunteer is on the project: accommodation and utilities, three meals a day, on-project transport to and from survey sites, and a LAMAVE uniform.