Bottlenose Dolphin Research Internships - Alumni Network

This program is no longer offered. View more programs from Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute.

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This BDRI page is dedicated to the BDRI's new research program located in the north-western coast of the Iberian Pensinsula (Galician waters, Spain).

BDRI is dedicated to long-term research involving Bottlenose dolphins and as an intern, you're involved with on-going research the Institute carries out. You also have the opportunity to observe dolphin behavior and assist researchers.

Check out their new program by clicking on "Visit Site" above. In Galicia, Spain, the BDRI takes a step and increase the quality of not only the research performed, but also of the centre locals and vessels.

This a long-term project analyzing dolphin-human behavior and interaction, you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with bottlenose dolphins! Interns will gain valuable experience in research, marine science and communication patters.

Some of the posts here are referred to the past location sited in Sardinia, Italy.

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Questions & Answers


based on 16 reviews
  • Growth 8.4
  • Support 8
  • Fun 8.1
  • Housing 8.1
  • Safety 8.8
Showing 1 - 15 of 16
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Yes, I recommend this program

Internship with the BDRI

I participated in the BDRI´s program in August 2017 as an intern and it was an incredible experience that I seriously recommend to everyone.
This has been my first experience studying cetaceans in the wild and I have learned a lot.

If the weather was Ok we usually went out on the boat where we were looking for dolphins and almost everyday we saw a lot of them and right after leaving the harbor. Depending on your position on the boat (the front, back or top) you had to do different things. However during the day the positions on the boat were rotated so we had the opportunity to perform all different tasks during boat based surveys. Every 20 mins it was survey time and we had to collect different data.
When we were on presence we studied their behavior.
We did not just studied the behavior of Bottlenose dolphins, also of all the cetaceans we saw, like harbour porpoises and common dolphins.
Moreover, we did Land based field work in Rons, which is similar to boat surveys, but in land with scopes and binoculars. In every survey we had to count and identificate all the birds species (L,Lf,Lr,P,Ss...), boats etc.

At the lab we usually worked on Photo ID, transcribing all the data, working with GIS or in acoustics! Here in the lab we usually worked in pairs and for me that´s better because you learn to work with different people and it is also helpful because, for instance, in photo ID if you don't identificate one individual your partner can do it, so 4 eyes see more than 2.
Also in the lab they tried to change the people we worked with so we could get to know everyone and they tried to put us in different tasks everyday so that we learnt how to do everything, so at the end of the internship you have worked al least once in everything. In the lab everything was very well organized, so it was very easy to continue with the work that other people had started. I've learned a lot about being organized with my work.
At the end of the internship we had to do a presentation about a topic related with cetaceans and it was a good chance to learn doing research and also while listening to the others. Mine was related with my thesis, and I have to thank Bruno for all his help with the statistics and everything.
All the BDRI staffs very profesional, and you learn a lot from them. They don't hesitate to answer all your questions and if you are very interested in something and you ask, they usually let you do it.

We usually had the weekends off and we used them to relax and visit other places like Cies or Ons islands, going to the beach... On the free time there are plenty things you can do in O Grove like going surfing to La Lanzada or going into the catamaran to try mussels and wine that is a lot of fun!

Another thing that I found very interesting about this experience is that I feel I have grown as a person, because I haven't learned just about dolphins, also about life. It has been my first time living outside and for example I learned to cook and many more things! I've also met people from all over the world and I've learned things from different cultures and I´ve improved my english talking with them. I made a lot of new friends that I will never forget and for sure I will keep in touch with them.
I want to thank all the "Literns" because this time without them wouldn't have been the same, and to Séverine and Bruno for all their help and sharing all their knowledge. And, of course, the intern coordinator Oriol for all his patience, teaching us the birds and how to clean, and helping us with everything.
It was an incredible experience and I hope to be able to go back soon! Doing this internship also have helped me to know that I want to orientate my future to the marine biology!

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Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience

Great experince working at the Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute for 6 months.
You can learn and understand the real and amazing work behind the research of marine mammals behaviour and ecology in their natural envoirnment not only working at sea but also at the lab. You will also have the chance to meet people from all over the world and make new frindships.
From time to time different species of marine mammals will strand alive and you can help in the returning of the animal to the sea or death and you can help in the autopsy to see what was the cause of death.

You will have an amazing personal and educational growth.

Sara Simões
Yes, I recommend this program

Internship experience in BDRI - O Grove, Spain

Before going to Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute I never had any experience with marine mammals. It was there that I saw my first real life dolphin and and whale, which was incredible. You never get tired of watching them.
In the institute you learn all about PhotoID and others, such as: how to analyse acoustics, to identify species of marine birds in the area and to identify the dolphins on the field, ... I have learned so much from this experience. It made me grow both in professional and personal ways. I've learned that field work sometimes is not easy but in the end it is rewarding. A very important point of the internship is to be able to leave with people from other nationalities and different cultures. For that you need to be open-minded and to respect each other. I've met amasing people and made very good friends.
One of my favorite memories is one that happened in open sea. We were there waiting for something to appear and finally we saw two whales (minkewhales) and later on the same day we saw a huge group of common dolphins passing. It was so overwhelming and such a rare event to see.
At the end of the intership I decided to get a master in Marine Biology, which before was not my first option for the master.

I absolutely reomend this place to do an internship or even to volunteer.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience!

I participated in the BDRI 's program in winter of 2017.It was a great experience. Everybody's nice , they explain to you how the system works with patience. You will realize that even you don't have any biological kownlege, you can still join this programme and learn many stuffs you can't learn from school.
And O grove is a beatiful village , you can discover many amazing stuffs after work and maybe just take a walk on the beach.
Thanks to Bruno and Severine that gave me all the supports during my volunteer project and guided me during the work.
I hope to see everybody again in the future it sounds like a good thing to come back when i have a chance.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Fantastic intership at BDRI!!

I participated in the BDRI 's program in the spring of 2015. It wasn't my first experience with ceteceans but it was certainly the best. During my two months i worked with very professional staff , I worked with a lot of different programs and increased my knowledge about dolphins, especially bottlenose dolphins . I had the opportunity to spend a lot of days working on the boat thanks to perfect sea conditions and always with dolphins . It was amazing : for most of the time you can spot dolphins after just a few minutes and so close to the harbour! Allowing you to collect a lot of important data . I also participated on some landbased field work and again we were very lucky with seeing dolphins.
About the town; O grove; it's a beatiful village with a lot of things to do , during the day off ,usually we organised fantastic trips to discover Galicia or to do other activities with everyone.
It was a very good experience and i suggest to everybody that want improving the knowledge about marine mammals and how works a research institute, to intern to this program.
Thanks to Bruno and also to Victoria and Severine that followed me during my stage and helped me during the work.
I hope to see everybody again in the future and,why not, maybe coming back here in Galicia for another experience or for my future thesis.
Thanks Davide

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Yes, I recommend this program

Outstanding internship and experience

I interned at the BDRI during the summer of 2013 in Golfo Aranci. I did not have the opportunity to study abroad during the school year at my university and I really wanted the experience of living and researching abroad. This was my first experience studying wild dolphins and I was very impressed with Bruno's patience and trust in me to complete the tasks that needed to be accomplished, as well as his willingness to help me learn. Bruno is very knowledgeable and was a great resource for learning during my internship. I can honestly say that this experience taught me more about marine mammals and ecology than I could have ever learned in school. Bruno was always willing to answer any question I had because he is very dedicated to helping his interns learn as much as possible. He was very accommodating about completing forms for the career center at my university and he was very helpful and supportive of my learning objectives and the project I completed for school based on what I learned from this internship. When working in lab, Bruno would often show us informational documentaries and teach us about other marine conservation issues, besides just dolphins, which was very helpful.
There often would be several days or even an entire week that we would not be able to work in the field due to poor weather conditions. This takes patience on the part of the interns because working in lab all day for several days may not be ideal. However, our safety was always put first and that's what was most important. We would always be given several breaks during the day and given different tasks in order to keep the work from getting monotonous. Although lab days were not always as exciting as working in the field, I enjoyed doing photo i.d. or transcribing data because I could see all of our previous work coming together.
This internship was also an outstanding cultural experience for me. Golfo Aranci is a small town and everybody was very kind and accepting of us. The majority of the interns did not know Italian but it was easy to communicate because many of the people knew Bruno and tried to be as helpful to us as possible. Aside from the village people we met, this was an amazing opportunity to meet and work with other students from around the world. I still remain in contact with several of the interns I worked with during my time at the BDRI. I have also remained in contact with Bruno and he continues to be an outstanding resource for helping me pursue a career in ecology. Although I do not plan on pursuing a career studying marine mammals, this internship experience and everything I learned about ecology and ecological interactions have shaped my future as a scientist. I would definitely recommend this to anybody who is seriously interested in marine mammals, ecology, and conservation.

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Yes, I recommend this program

A very fulfilling internship

I interned at the Sardinia location for three months during the fall of 2013. I had just completed my BS in biology and was looking for internships in marine mammal research. Although I had previously worked on a few projects monitoring gray whales through my university, I was interested in finding a program where I could be more immersed in research and conservation efforts.

My three months was split between the busy late-summer season and the barren late-fall season in terms of boat and street traffic from tourists and residents. The weather was surprising similar to my hometown of San Diego and we were able to go out on the water up to 4-5 times a week during my first two months. Bruno and his assistant were very professional and it was immediately apparent that they were both very dedicated to their research and conservation of the bottlenose dolphins. The most interesting aspect of the internship and location was the direct impacts of commercial fish farm right off the harbor. Being able to witness first-hand some of the direct impacts of commercial farming on dolphins was an incredible opportunity, especially as commercial fish farming becomes more and more prevalent worldwide.

Because I had previously done work surveying for marine mammals, I already had an idea of the amount of work necessary and the long hours required to collect and transcribe data on a regular basis. Some of the interns I worked with were displeased with volume of work asked of us as they were more interested in watching dolphins rather than collecting data. However we all had a shared passion for ocean conservation and I made strong friendships that continue today with girls from four different countries.

Overall I was very pleased with my internship. The housing was small but comfortable and enough space for 5-6 young women. The town, Golfo Aranci, is gorgeous and I felt very safe walking around on my own. The beach is down the street, the market is a few blocks away, and the locals were all very nice even despite my limited Italian. Bruno is remarkably smart and knowledgable on marine conservation and bottlenose dolphins and I learned a great deal during my time. Prior to my internship I was only slightly comfortable recording marine mammal behavior, however now I can say with confidence that I am competent in marine mammal field work.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Excellent internship!

I volunteered with the BDRI for three weeks in August 2013 while it were stationed in Sardinia Italy and after enjoying my experience so much I returned to intern with the BDRI from March to May 2014.

I loved my time with the BDRI. I learned so much ranging from research techniques to behavioural observations to the use of various data and mapping programs. Boat based surveys are nearly done on a daily basis - of course this is weather dependent and done not only for the safety of the interns but also for the effectiveness of the work since choppy waters make it near impossible to spot the dolphins. During boat based surveys, interns rotate in all positions and jobs on the boat, allowing for a balanced and fair spread of work among all interns.

If it was not possible to go out to sea, either land-based surveys or lab work is undertaken. Again here there are a variety of jobs that need to be done in the lab which after a couple of hours are rotated between the interns so that the work does not become mundane as well as to allow everyone to learn everything.

The new location of O Grove, Galicia is no comparison to Golfo Aranci, Sardinia. The town, though quite small, is buzzing with life and has plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and cafes. The intern apartment is magnificent! It is new and has a washing machine.

Additionally the people I met during both of my times spent with the BDRI are friends I still keep in contact with today. The BDRI is able to bring together people from all over the world with this unique project. Also Dr. Bruno Diaz Lopez (Chief Biologist and Director of the BDRI) is extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Not only was he very, very willing to answer our questions and explain tons of things about the dolphins, he was also very helpful when it came to exploring the town and problems that we may had.

I can't wait to go back to the BDRI (hopefully extremely soon!) and would recommend this project to anyone who would like an insight into the behavioural research of bottlenose dolphins in the wild in an absolutely beautiful location with a top researcher of the field!

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Yes, I recommend this program

BDRI Internship

The BDRI internship was nothing short of a life changing experience. The team I interned with was filled with some of the most amazing people I will meet in my entire life. Each participant is willing to engage fully in a 2(or more) month experience researching bottlenose Dolphins and their behavior. We took 5-6 hour boat trips each day the weather allowed. This was often during the months of May, June and July in Galicia, Spain. This internship offered variety and the area offered many opportunities for the interns on their days off each week. We participated in boat and land based work, and necropsies of stranded marine mammals from time to time. We also had the amazing opportunity to cooperate with a stranding research group in a turtle release off the coast of Galicia. I wouldn't trade anything for this experience, it was well worth it and gave me so many great insights into the world of biological research. If I had the chance I would do it all over again.

What would you improve about this program?
I would add internet to the housing accommodations, as it was difficult for interns working on their thesis to assess internet in the apartment.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Great internship

One day I found BDRI on the internet and desided to participate there as a volunteer in july 2014. I set for myself several tasks- to observ dolphins in their nature habitat, to learn scientific data about them, to get new expirience in my life and meet with good people who really care about dolphin's fate.
I had a separate accomodation because I came with my family but i heard the positive reviews about BDRI's hostel from the others participations. Every day there was a big surprise for me because of the weather and Bruno's mood.- he is the main in the staff. When we could, we put to the sea on the good research boat. It was comfortable two-deck boat, stable on the waves, with a toilet and nice chairs. So we could stood on the bows a lot of time. Bruno changed our position from time to time and we didn't feel boring. Also there is were enough equipment for our team. Bruno always worried about our safety and we checked all details on the boat before leave post every time.
Bruno speaks on English good but not as a native-speaker, and this fact really helped me to understood him totally.
When the wheather was bad, we worked at the office. It was a comfortable office with a nice sea-view. There are several rooms: work-room with computers, hall for film screening, small lad and two toilets. Bruno changed our positions at the office many times a day too! So it fueled our interest to work and made us feel as united team.
After work Bruno offered us different interteinment, like: go to the surfing station with him to get lesson of surfing (spesial price of us), or enjoy excursion to the summel-farm by tourist boat (...he payed that time), I was so surprised of it all! Work time was over for him but he still stayed with us and spend a lot of his own time! He always smiled, was so kind and considirate with all research team.
After my internship, I got all movie and photos from Bruno immediate.
Result- only amazind recallections, great expirience, new friends.
I'm real thankful to BDRI for gave the chance to be in so interesting research program in O'Grove, Galicia, Spain ! I wish prosperity and lucky to BDRI

What would you improve about this program?
to add internet in the hostel
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Yes, I recommend this program

Very good learning experience

My stay with the BDRI in Italy as an intern where I did my Master thesis was a very fruitful and great learning experience. All in all, I was involved in the programme for a period of a bit more than 3 months and learned a lot about the ongoing research of bottlenose dolphins. The institute is very professional and takes their research very serious so I felt in good hands while working on my thesis.

During the stay you have to live and work in close quarters with many people from all over the world who have different life styles and experiences so it can be also a time where you grow and have to learn to be flexible and show patience with things you would otherwise never be bothered.

For the programme as I experienced while staying in Italy, there was always one day off during the week , normally it was a Saturday. In good weather conditions we worked out on the boat (which means also the swell of the sea because it makes no sense to go out with high waves as you would not see any dolphins) performing different tasks to conduct surveys. When the weather was poor we stayed in the lab to enter all the data or prepared a new dolphin catalogue, worked on the thesis and many more things.

I would recommend this programme to everyone who is really interested to be involved with the research of marine mammals and if you have the opportunity to work even on a thesis while you stay there I believe strongly that you found in Bruno and the institute BDRI a great supervisor.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Brilliant internship!

I took part in the internship September-December 2012 and went back for another season February-April 2013 in Sardinia. I then went to complete my master's dissertation June-August 2014 at the new study site in Galicia.

I loved my time at the BDRI, and learnt so much about research techniques and recording behavioural observations. All interns are given equal opportunity to perform all tasks during the boat based surveys, since positions on the boat are rotated. Boat based surveys are conducted when the weather conditions are suitable. This is both for safety, and because sighting the dolphins becomes difficult if the weather conditions are poor. If we were lucky enough to be on the boat several days in a row, we were given plenty of breaks to relax and recover.

When weather conditions weren't suitable, we spent time in the lab. Again, jobs were shared around the interns and was a brilliant way to learn skills that are essential to the research. We spent time doing photo identification, using GIS, analysing stomach contents of stranded animals and writing up the data that we collected on the boat. There was a good wifi connection in the lab.

We were given plenty of time in the evenings to socialise with the other interns. We usually got at least one day off at the weekend, but if the weather conditions were good we would go on the boat and get another day off during the week. There are plenty of shops in the town and two supermarkets very close to the apartment, as well as many bar, clubs, restaurants and cafes (many with free wifi). The apartment is quite new, nicely painted and very clean! There is a washing machine in the apartment and space to dry your clothes.

Overall, I had a brilliant experience, which is why I kept going back! I had a lot of support during my master's dissertation, and all of the interns were made to feel appreciated. Together with the research side of the internship, I also really enjoyed the social side. It was a great opportunity to meet people from different nationalities and cultures, and I have made friendships with many of the interns, who I am in regular contact with.

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Yes, I recommend this program


The new BDRI project in O'Grove, Galicia, Spain has nothing to do with the old institute in Sardinia, Italy. As i volunteered in Sardinia with BDRI, i decided to participate at the project once again when it moved to Spain. Although it's a new project in a new area, the quality of the research is very high. Ría de Arousa sustains one of the biggest population of bottlenose dolphins in the area, having an average of 15 individual reaching even the number of more than 50 individuals. Many times, we could spot dolphins even before leaving the harbour. You can study behaviour, photo-id, acoustics, diet of the animals and more. You also have the opportunity to work on your own project under Bruno's supervision, director of the institute. There is a well organised network for stranded animals. We had the chance to participate in necropsy of various animals including risso's dolphin and pilot whale. The facilities are brand new. The office is in front of the sea side having a great view of La Toja island. I really liked the apartment of the interns where i was living as well, it was located in a new building. Everything was new inside (furniture, kitchen, bathrooms, washing machine). As we were trying to be as sustainable as possible, we were using the washing machine only the night hours. I have to admit that we didn't have internet in the house and that was something i missed there, but we could use the internet in the office. The people in O'Grove are very friendly and kind and the food is amazing.The area is a unique place for sports. You can practice any sport and hobbies you can imagine, from climbing to surfing!! Many times Bruno was organising lessons with a surfing school in a very cheap price having a lot of fun with the waves. I would definitely recommend this program!!

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No, I don't recommend this program

WORST Internship Program

I interned at BDRI for 2 months. I have done many internships, and I can with out a doubt say that BDRI has the absolute WORST internship program I have EVER experienced! DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY.

First off, I personally experienced a language barrier with their staff and found it extremely hard to understand in my case.

I personally felt that the boat was not sustainable for the amount of people we had on our particular program. We are required to stay on a small motor boat, with no life jackets for up to 5 hours. Did I mention there are no restrooms on the boat?

The living facility claims to have internet, however the connection is so poor that most of the interns have invested in their own internet stick. An additional cost to the VERY expensive internship. There is no laundry on site. The living space is completely unlivable (for example mold on the walls). There is no hot water in one of the bathrooms, so all 7 interns are required to share ONE bathroom versus multiple. Also, we are required to pay for our own maintenance such as de-clogging the shower drain. The main lock on the front door is falling off the hinges and does not lock securely. The entire place is falling apart.

As far as the leadership, we are expected to work up to 10 days in a row. We barely go out on the boat, even when the weather conditions are good. Lab work consists of mundane work such as organizing journal articles on the main computer. Thesis students are not given a chance to actually work on their thesis! I didn't feel like I felt any appreciation was given for the hard work that we do.


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No, I don't recommend this program

Worst volunteer experience

I was a volunteer here a few years ago and I can honestly say it has been one of the worst volunteer experiences of my life. The staff were unhelpful, rude and obnoxious and although it prides itself as a 'research' institution, free thinking or scientific questioning was not encouraged.