Join marine biologists, conservationists and scientists in the Canary Islands to help collect data on marine mammals AND get career training from Conservation Careers!
Join a marine biology research project with a focus on marine mammals when you travel to Spain’s Canary Islands. Here, you’ll be based on the island of Tenerife along with marine biologists, conservationists and other scientists, as well as volunteers from around the world. You’ll help them to collect and analyse data on whales and dolphins as well as marine and coastal habitats.
Want to know what being a marine biologist is really like? Looking to trial a job in marine science before pursuing a qualification in this field? Do you have a particular interest in whales and dolphins? Then our marine biology research and conservation program, based in the Spanish Canary Islands, might just be for you.
This program is based on the island of Tenerife. Tenerife is located just off the coast of Morocco and is roughly a three-to-five hour flight from most European destinations. The island’s balmy waters are an excellent location for marine biology research, specifically studying whales and dolphins. This is because its waters are warm all year round, are up to 2,000 meters deep and are sheltered from harsh, open-ocean conditions. These same factors make it the perfect location for other marine species such as sea turtles and blue rays.
Many of these species are endangered, vulnerable or threatened. But several of these species, specifically dolphins and whales, are classified as data deficient. This means that we don’t have enough information about their populations. We also don’t yet fully understand how environmental threats such as plastic pollution and climate change affect these marine creatures.
This is how volunteers like you can help out professional marine biologists and conservationists. You’ll participate in what is known as a citizen science project by helping to collect data. In the process, you’ll learn what marine science is all about and earn new technical skills.
On this program, you’ll travel the waters around Tenerife with other volunteers, keeping an eye out for whale and dolphin activity. You’ll collect data on their numbers, their health and their behaviour. You’ll also take pictures of them to help with identifying specific individuals. You’ll also conduct surveys of the waters and beaches, recording a range of factors such as boat activity.
Then, you’ll learn how to input the data you’ve gathered into a database and find out how the data is analysed. You’ll learn how this data is used by local and international marine conservation organisations to make decisions about establishing, adapting and implementing environmental policies.
You’ll also participate in other marine conservation activities such as cleaning beaches and helping to educate tourists about the importance of choosing an ethical whale and dolphin watching tour.
Please note that this is not a diving program, although you can go for a recreational dive during your free time.
- Get hands-on work experience in marine biology research and conservation without needing any prior experience or a specific qualification.
- Earn skills such as scientific research techniques, data collection, data analysis, intercultural communication and teamwork.
- Contribute directly to effective, local marine conservation efforts.
- Experience the tropical climate of Tenerife.
- Live and work with other volunteers from around the world who share your interest in marine conservation and adventure travel.
Our Award-winning Partner
Conservation Careers has teamed up a family-run organisation with an amazing culture and an awesome team of people across the world who are passionate experts in their chosen field and will make your experience a truly unforgettable one (in a good way).
Their award-winning projects receive over 2000 participants every year, and we’re proud to say that the vast majority of them describe their experience with them as ‘life changing’. Their approval rate from over 20 000 participants since 1997 is over 95%.
A key component of the success of their community development and conservation projects is the participants who join their programs. Opportunities include high impact volunteering from one week and up, internships for those looking for career development opportunities, Challenges that allow a one week adventure all for a good cause and a range of programs for school groups and younger volunteers.
If you register your interest below, you’ll put you in touch with our partner to take the booking and to plan your trip!
Location and life on base
Our base in the Canary Islands is located on the island of Tenerife. It’s situated near the three main harbours where visitors board Tenerife’s famous whale and dolphin watching tours.
The base is a basic but comfortable house with ample space to spread out for training, working through project data or just relaxing after a busy day. We cultivate a family atmosphere on base, cooking as well as tidying duties are shared on a rotation basis among staff and participants.
Depending on the weather conditions, participants can look forward to boat trips on the Atlantic Ocean to monitor the whales and dolphins found around Tenerife. On other days, participants might collect data on other marine species or conduct beach surveys, plastic pollution clean-ups or environmental awareness sessions with tourists visiting Tenerife. Participants will often start their mornings early with training, carrying out surveys or capturing collected data from marine research. Evenings are spent enjoying a meal and being debriefed on the activities of the day. Afterwards, there’s time to sit back and relax while chatting with your fellow participants.
Participants sleep in dorm rooms that can accommodate 4–6 people. Bathrooms with showers and flush toilets are shared. The accommodation is equipped with electricity and running water.
Staff and participants take it in turns to prepare meals according to a rota. Meals are usually simple but healthy, combining the flavours of Canary Island ingredients. Breakfasts may include cereals, eggs, toast, pancakes and fresh fruit. Depending on the preferences of participants, lunch and dinner options vary, but favourites include curries, pastas, salads and stir-fries. Participants can also buy their own snacks in town.
A staff member will be at the airport to welcome you. From there, we’ll provide a transfer to our base location. Transport is also provided for project work unless the project site is within walking distance. On weekends, participants can visit local tourist attractions on foot, by bus or by taxi.
Wi-Fi is available on base for participants to use and there’s decent phone signal reception. Internet cafes can also be found in town.
Tenerife has a warm and pleasant climate, which is just one of the reasons why it’s such a popular year-round tourist destination. With an average temperature of 18–24 °C (64–75 °F) during the months of December, January and February and 24–28 °C (75–82 °F) during the months of June, July and August, most days are sunny and precipitation is minimal, except in the mountains.
Increasing Employability: Pre Departure Program Training:
Our programs are not only life-changing experiences but are also designed to help participants increase their employability. We have developed a curriculum to be completed prior to arrival in the country in order to ensure that more time is dedicated to program work once you commence your volunteer program.
Eight weeks prior to your start date, you will complete the following online courses in preparation for your in-country program:
PRE-DEPARTURE ORIENTATION (1 hour)
PROGRAM SPECIFIC TRAINING (1 – 5 hours)
OPTIONAL: MARINE CONSERVATION COURSE (10 – 15 hours)
In order to obtain a certificate for the Marine Conservation course which is endorsed by the University of Richmond and UNC Charlotte, you will need to complete quizzes & assignments and will be given 4 weeks post program to submit your work.
If you are looking to travel in less than 8 weeks from now, you will still complete the course however this will be done in country and all content will need to be downloaded before arrival.
Health & Hygiene:
The work we contribute to across the globe remains important and new measures allow our participants to continue to join our programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. Changes to our existing protocols have been made by our health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities. Please inquire for more information on the protocols.
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Tenerife is a popular tourist destination seeing up to five million international visitors a year. Many come to experience the biodiversity of this island. The region is known for its large population of whales and dolphins. The presence of sea turtles and other marine species make it an appealing location for tourists.
While tourism is the island’s largest source of income, the influx of tourists can lead to boat traffic, overfishing and excess waste on the island. Our partner works with local whale watching tour providers and other local organisations to monitor the impact of tourism on the marine environment to ensure that it’s managed in a sustainable and ethical way. In addition to tourism, the impact of other human activities on marine life is also monitored. The team in Tenerife collects data, inputs the information into databases and submits reports to local authorities to assist them with making decisions concerning marine resource management.
Whale and dolphin surveys
Our team monitors and collects data on whales, dolphins and other marine species spotted in the waters surrounding Tenerife. Movements and behaviours are recorded and photos are taken of sightings for later identification and cataloguing. The location is also mapped. All data collected is inputted into databases that contribute to ongoing research used by the government of the Canary Islands for local decision-making. Data analysed over time show trends which can be used for making further recommendations on tourism practices, fishing regulations, waste management and other factors impacting the marine and coastal environments of the Canary Islands. Our partner produces quarterly and annual reports to communicate research findings and other relevant updates.
Marine plastic pollution and beach cleanups
The team in Tenerife maintains an ongoing commitment to contributing towards waste management initiatives in the Canary Islands. They work with local communities and tourists to minimise plastic and other waste products. This work includes removing marine debris while on coastal surveys, and organising beach clean-ups.
Sustainable tourism and community awareness
Contributing to sustainable tourism by raising environmental awareness is a critical element of the program in the Canary Islands. Since tourism is the largest industry in the Canary Islands, it’s important that local communities and visiting tourists understand the impact of tourism on the environment and how they can contribute to sustainable practices. One of the ways in which this is actioned is for our staff and participants to join tourists on their whale watching tours and speak to them about ethical, sustainable and responsible ecotourism practices. The team also joins local communities on the beach and gets involved in local beach clean-up efforts.
Community engagement and environmental education
Our partner works with local communities to increase community engagement and awareness regarding local environmental initiatives. The team arranges beach clean-ups with the local community and facilitates environmental education workshops and mobile classrooms. Topics covered in these sessions include marine conservation, science and research; marine mammals and marine and coastal plastic waste pollution and management.
The main United Nations Sustainable Development Goal the Canary Islands team contributes towards is #14, Life Below Water.
Canary Islands long-term objectives
1. Provide a long-term and consistent collection of data, assessing the populations and behaviours of whale, dolphin and other marine species in the waters surrounding Tenerife. This is to be used for local sustainable tourism practices and coastal marine management and for a larger international understanding of changing marine ecosystems.
2. Increase the scientific output and awareness of the project through the publication of findings.
3. Assist with local marine and coastal waste management efforts through data collection, cleaning up beaches and other habitats and raising awareness around the importance of marine and coastal conservation as well as best practices in sustainability.
4. Raising awareness among tourists about sustainable and ethical tourism practices.
Joining a program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer.
Long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Many decide to travel before or after their experience (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.
Wander the streets of this historical town to see the most colourful and well-preserved buildings on the island of Tenerife.
Macizo de Anaga Biosphere Reserve
This reserve has been recognised as a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 2015 and contains the largest number of endemic species in Europe. It’s also a great place to enjoy scenic views.
Recreational diving or snorkeling
There are plenty of opportunities to go for a recreational dive or snorkel in your free time and observe Tenerife’s famous diversity of marine life.
Visit Tenerife island’s many beaches with sands ranging from golden yellow to volcanic black.
Teide National Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Siteboasts the highest mountain in all of Spain, the Pico del Teide volcano. Take a cable car up the mountain during the day or go star gazing at night.
Spain is only about a three-hour flight from the Canary Islands and features warm weather, even more beaches and adventure activities. Enjoy the diversity of the iconic Spanish snacks known as tapas, experience the music and dance of Flamenco and see the artistic expression of Picasso, Dali, Goya and Gaudi on display. For those interested in cultural history, you can visit Spain’s more than 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Outer Island visits
The Canary Islands archipelago is made up of many islands and islets. Besides Tenerife there are also seven other main islands that are well worth the visit. They are: Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Graciosa, El Hierro, Lanzarote and La Palma. These locations can be much more remote and are less popular with tourists. As such, their natural environments are in a pristine condition rarely found anywhere in the world today This gives you the opportunity to observe marine life and wildlife left relatively undisturbed by human activities.
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.
Marine life and wildlife
The waters of the Atlantic surrounding the Canary Islands are home to resident species of whales and dolphins such as short-finned pilot whales and bottle-nosed dolphins. They also act as a passage for other migratory whales and dolphins species such as striped dolphins. These volcanic islands boast a series of distinctive microclimates which has led to the formation of a characteristic biodiversity. There are many endemic species such as the Atlantic Canary bird, the Tenerife Blue Chaffinch bird, the Canary Big-eared bat and the dragon tree.
Crafts and music
The Canary Islands have a strong tradition of creating local crafts, with the different islands often specialising in a particular craftwork. On the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera you can find basketware and pottery made in the Guanche style, as well as Vilaflor lacework. Also on La Gomera and the islands of El Hierro and La Palma you can find woven rugs. On Gran Canaria and Lanzarote islands you’ll find a small ukulele-style instrument known as a timple, that’s a symbol of the musical heritage of the Canary Islands, and can often be heard at traditional parties and dances.
Festivals and celebrations
There are many festivals held throughout the year in the Canary Islands. The most notable is the Santa de Cruz carnival, held on Tenerife in February. A different theme is chosen for this festival each year by a public vote. In January, music lovers can experience The Canary Islands Music Festival and those interested in local traditions and food can visit in November to experience the Festival of San Andrés.
The majority of Canary Island residents speak their own dialect of Spanish known as Canarian Spanish. However, these days, many people also speak English and it’s the second most commonly spoken language on the islands. Many people also understand German.
BONUS! Kick-starter online training for Early Career Conservationists (worth £295)
Feeling lost in your conservation job hunt? Want to work in conservation, but don’t know where to start? Get your career on track with the Kick-starter online training for Early Career Conservationists designed to help you understand the job market, to navigate your career options, and to get hired more quickly.
Whether you’re at university and planning your next steps, a graduate in the job hunt or working in an unrelated job but interested to switch into conservation, this course is designed to help you.
This unique online course has been designed to increase your chances of success, and is being specially organised and run by Conservation Careers.
All you need to do is register your interest in the project below, and if you choose to make a booking we’ll save a place for you on our course when you get back from your placement.
Included in the course is a year’s full-access membership of the Conservation Careers Academy, which includes access to over 8,000 jobs, 1,500 training courses, live training events and many more career-boosting options.
Duration, dates and cost
- 1 week – £1,595
- 2 weeks – £1,845
- 4 weeks – £2,295
- 6 weeks – £2,745
- 8 weeks – £3,195
- 10 weeks – £3,695
- 12 weeks – £4,145
Start dates are as follows:
- 2021: 01 May; 15 May; 29 May; 12 Jun; 26 Jun; 10 Jul; 24 Jul; 07 Aug; 21 Aug; 04 Sep; 18 Sep; 02 Oct; 16 Oct; 30 Oct; 13 Nov; 27 Nov; 11 Dec, 25 Dec