This project covers several aspects of marine conservation. Below are some of the things that the volunteers will get involved in.
1) Great White Sharks
We research the feeding, migrating and behavioural habits as well as various other aspects of the Great Whites by recording sightings, tagging, dorsal fin identification and taking photos for an ongoing database in conjunction with various national and international academic research institutions. Their superior immune system and wound healing capabilities, parasites found on sharks, as well as their interaction with other marine species, are part of the comprehensive and ongoing research.
Your duties will vary depending on your skills set, for example those involved in the active study of marine biology are likely to be more involved on the research aspects. Volunteers assist with observational data capture and photographic data and may be involved with water sampling, temperature testing etc. If you stay for a minimum of a month and are fortunate enough to go out on the research boat, you may observe tagging of a shark or learn how to track an acoustically tagged shark. On land you can capture data and may learn how to match fins for population counts.
2) African Penguins
Our multi-award winning project to research and curb the worrisome decline in the African Penguin population on Dyer Island (90% decline in 30 years) is aimed at protecting this endangered species indigenous to South Africa from environmental factors and natural predators since the removal of the guano on the island left them vulnerable to the elements and predators. We have manufactured and placed more than 1000 artificial nests on the island and at other breeding colonies to provide them with sheltered homes to protect the eggs and chicks from heat stress and predatory birds such as the Kelp Gull. In addition to this, the African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) has been built 2 min walk away from the International Marine Volunteer Centre and is a true feather in the cap for the Dyer Island Conservation Trust. APSS is a state-of-the-art centre for the rehabilitation of sea birds in distress, with a particular emphasis on conserving the African Penguin, which is endemic to southern Africa and has been undergoing a shocking decline in population numbers. Injured, oiled and sick birds are collected or brought to us for care and recuperation and when they are fit and healthy again we release them back into the wild.
You may be involved in cleaning the birds’ pens, crates and living areas, assisting with preparing medicated fish, recording medical records and data and telling visitors about what we do. If you will be staying a minimum of 4 weeks and you want to volunteer at APSS regularly during your time here then you may be able to learn how to handle the birds yourself, if the rehabilitator feels that you show an aptitude for this. There is also the opportunity to read blood slides on the microscope and enter data onto the computer.
3) Marine Pollution
This project supports recycling and is aimed at involving local schools and the community in beach clean-ups, marine education and placing specially made fishing line bin disposal units along the coast. It was recognised by WESSA and the Blue Flag beach programme nationwide.
You may have the opportunity to work with children´s groups when we do beach clean-ups. We separate and weigh all the garbage and enter the data into a database. You may also be involved in making up our unique fishing line bins or help by cleaning the fishing line for recycling. By removing fishing line and other litter off our beaches you are quite possibly helping save another bird or animal from injury, as well as helping to prevent plastic from entering the food chain, causing animals to starve or become poisoned.
We have a 4-wheel drive vehicle that allows us access to remote sections of the coast where our help is really needed to remove litter from the beaches, attend strandings of dead animals and search for animals in distress such as injured or oiled penguins.
4) Marine Animal Strandings
Sometimes we receive calls from the public about stranded animals in distress, or already dead animals. They may be sick, entangled, oiled or injured. When we are doing beach clean-ups we always keep our eyes open for animals and check that they are okay, and sometimes we do special patrols to look for oiled penguins. Occasionally the animals are dead, in which case we will check for leg rings, flipper bands or flipper tags, and depending on the species we will record data and collect samples.
You may assist to search for and retrieve animals, record data, assist in dissections, record GPS positions, help with body measurements and if it is a shark or dolphin then you will assist in dissecting it and taking samples for passing on to scientific institutions.
5) BRUV Studies
The BRUV is a baited remote underwater video collection technique. Using this technique we collect data on the habitat, species diversity, abundance and behaviour of marine species in the Greater Dyer Island Region.
You may go out to sea to assist in deploying and retrieving equipment. Once back in the office, you could go through the video footage, recording the marine species that swim past the bait station.
6) Endemic Shark Species Project
As the opportunity arises we collect shark egg cases that have washed ashore as part of a larger project in the area looking at the species occurrence, abundance and distribution of smaller shark species. Potential nursery grounds can also be identified in this way.
You will search along the shoreline for egg cases that have washed ashore, collect, measure and identify them and input the information into our database.
7) Environmental Sampling
We use a YSI unit (Yellow Springs International) to sample water temperature (°C), barometric pressure (mbars), dissolved oxygen (%saturation) and oxygen (mg per litre) every day on the shark cage diving vessel, in order to capture environmental data in white shark aggregation sites. We have a second unit which we use to sample adjacent areas in the bay where the cage diving boat is not present, as well as in the estuarine area of the inshore region. These data will be collated with the data from tags deployed on white sharks that sample real time water temperature and depth, providing us with an overall picture of the Greater Dyer Island Region.
You will use the YSI to sample locally at the estuary and possibly a few times a week from the whale watching vessel or research vessel. You will help to record data and carefully maintain the highly sensitive equipment.
We have other projects such as providing wood for heating and cooking to a nearby community, occasionally helping out at old age and children’s homes and the local animal rescue center.
You will load and offload wood, assist with weighing and sorting recycling, help children in the shop, spend time with older people and children from the homes and help to clean and improve the rescue center and spend time with the animals there.