Gain experience in marine science and conservation by joining our marine biology internship based on the tropical island of Tenerife. Learn how to collect data on populations of cetaceans and analyse it for trends. Find out how individuals are tracked using dorsal fin photography. Your work will contribute to efforts to understand how these marine mammals are affected by whale and dolphin watching tours, fishing and other local or global human activities.
Want to gain experience in marine science research and conservation? Need to complete a marine biology internship as part of your degree program? Interested in cetacean research and conservation?
Join us to intern abroad in the southern Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands, just off the coast of Morocco. The Canary Islands are the ideal location for conducting research on cetacean species because they are numerous here. The area is also popular with tourists looking to view these marine mammals. This means marine biologists can study the effect tourism has on these animals too.
Your main role will be to help solve the data deficiency issue in cetacean studies. You’ll also be contributing to studying the effects of tourism on these and other marine species, as well as other threats to marine life such as unsustainable fishing, tourism, climate change and marine pollution.
You’ll observe the animals, taking note of their numbers and the interactions they have with other animals and marine vessels. Photographing the dorsal fins of the animals, for later photo-identification, will also be part of your role. You’ll also be surveying coastal areas and recording information such as weather conditions, fishing activities and boat traffic.
After you’ve collected your observations and photographs, you’ll learn how to correctly input them into a database. You’ll learn how this data is analysed to test hypotheses about cetacean migration patterns and other behaviours, and how human activities affect these and other marine mammals. Importantly, you’ll find out how this data is used by the local government to make decisions about environmental policies.
You’ll also gain experience in engaging tourists in conservation activities, by participating in programs that encourage visitors to select ethical whale and dolphin watching tours. Participating in beach cleanups is also part of this internship, allowing you to gain insight into coastal pollution in a popular holiday destination.
Please note that this is not a diving program, although you can go for a recreational dive during your free time.
- Gain experience in marine biology and conservation.
- Master technical skills such as data collection and analysis in the context of marine science and research.
- Develop people skills that are important in the field of marine biology such as intercultural collaboration and leadership.
- Learn how data is used by local and international organisations to make decisions about environmental policies.
- Work alongside professional marine biologists and conservationists.
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.
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.
Long-term project 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.
Teide National Park
Outer Island visits
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 £195)
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
- 2 weeks – £1,695
- 4 weeks – £2,145
- 6 weeks – £2,595
- 8 weeks – £3,045
- 10 weeks – £3,495
- 12 weeks – £3,945
Start dates are as follows: