Volunteer opportunities

To cover such a vast coastline effectively, a corps of trained volunteers is critical.  IFAW's Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team offers many volunteer opportunities from field response and necropsy support to gear cleaning and community outreach. 

Please read the descriptions below and then note your area(s) of interest on the Field Volunteer Application

Field Volunteer
These volunteers have been through the Stranded Marine Mammal Response Team (SMMRT) training (which now includes Level A Data Collection). Their duties include assessing seals on the beach to determine if they are in need of assistance, assisting staff with responses to stranded dolphins, whales, porpoises, and seals, cleaning gear and equipment, and collecting basic data and samples from stranded carcasses in the field. (IFAW is required to collect data from every stranded marine mammal as part of a larger effort to understand trends in marine mammal strandings and populations in general.)  These volunteers should be able to withstand extended periods in extreme conditions, be able to walk in difficult terrain, and able to lift 50 lbs. 

Phone Tree Volunteer 
Phone Tree Volunteers are called upon by staff members to activate (call) other IFAW MMRR volunteers during a large scale stranding event.  This role is crucial in facilitating a faster response, by enabling the staff to focus on other tasks but still ensuring that enough volunteers will arrive at the stranding site.  Phone Tree Volunteers can also be field volunteers, or individuals who want to help our team but are unable to participate in the physical aspects of the work.  All Phone Tree Volunteers must attend the SMMRT training. 

Transport Volunteer
Transport volunteers are those who are willing to drive seals from the IFAW overnight holding pen at the warehouse in Yarmouth Port to the appropriate long-term rehabilitation facility. Rehab facilities in our region are the New England Aquarium in Boston, University of New England in Biddeford, ME, Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, CT, and the Riverhead Foundation in Riverhead, NY. Transport volunteers ideally have a pick-up truck with enclosed cap that can fit the seal kennel in back and are willing to use it for that purpose. IFAW can supply money for tolls and gas. In some instances, drivers may be needed to transport animals in an IFAW truck, and should be comfortable driving a large vehicle. Any volunteer who has attended the SMMRT training can assist with animal transport.

Office Volunteer
Office volunteers have attended the SMMRT training and are interested in assisting IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue and Research in the office in Yarmouth Port with tasks as they arise. Tasks may include assisting with fundraisers, data entry, mailings, and any other administrative tasks. Office volunteers do not make a specific commitment of time, but are called upon when necessary to help with office work.

Necropsy Volunteer
Any volunteer who has attended the SMMRT training and is interested in assisting with necropsies (animal autopsies) on marine mammal carcasses can attend the Necropsy Training to become a necropsy volunteer. These individuals are called upon to assist when IFAW is performing a necropsy. Assistance includes sample labeling and organization, data recording and clean up. Necropsy support can often involve heavy lifting as well.  Almost all necropsies are conducted at a shared lab at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s Marine Research Facility on the Quissett Campus in Falmouth. 

Community Outreach Volunteer
Outreach volunteers have attended the SMMRT training and participate in community outreach events such as the Wellfleet Oysterfest, IFAW night at the Cape Cod Baseball League and the Cape Cod Wildlife Festival.  These volunteers are wonderful ambassadors for IFAW and the Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Division, helping to educate the public about marine mammals at these special events. 

First Responder
First Responders have attended the SMMRT training, and are volunteers who have built upon classroom training with increased one-on-one beach response with staff members and specialized instruction in small groups. These volunteers have been invited by staff members to attend the Advanced Cetacean Response Training to further their knowledge and skills.  The result of this experience and training is the development of a core group of volunteers across the coverage region; each of these volunteers is qualified to serve as the initial responder to live cetacean stranding reports.

Seal Disentanglement Volunteer
Seal Disentanglement Volunteers have attended the SMMRT training, and are experienced field volunteers with specialized skills that are invited by staff members to participate in IFAW’s Seal Disentanglement Program.  A team of 12-18 staff and volunteers make scheduled boat-based attempts to disentangle hauled-out seals with entanglements.  These attempts occur primarily in Chatham Harbor during the summer and early fall months.  In order to participate in this program, invited volunteers must attend a Seal Disentanglement training session.   

Office Internship
Office Interns are required to commit to being at the IFAW office for at least one day a week for a minimum of three months. Duties include data entry, database management, administrative assistance, photo archiving, and supply organization. Depending on need and ability, office interns may also assist in field response. For more information on becoming an office intern, see the Office Internship Description. 

To apply, please fill out the Intern Application Form and return it to:
Intern Coordinator
Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
International Fund for Animal Welfare
290 Summer St.
Yarmouth Port, MA 02675

On–Call Stranding Support Volunteers
This program is designed to provide IFAW staff with additional, reliable, daily support in order to further improve stranding response and live animal care. Any volunteer who has completed the SMMRT training is qualified to act as a Stranding Support Volunteer. A Stranding Support Volunteer commits to being on-call for a minimum of one day a month. During his/her on-call day, the Support Volunteer must be readily available to assist with any and all stranding-related tasks. The Support Volunteer is not required to be at the IFAW office, but must be ready to respond at any time on that day. Duties include assisting with:

  1. Live marine mammal health assessment, collection, transport, handling, and clinical care
  2. Carcass recovery, data collection and necropsy support
  3. Gear cleaning and organizing; and 
  4. Any other tasks as needed. 

If you are interested in participating in this program, you must first be accepted as a Field Volunteer and attend the SMMRT training.  Please note your interest in this program on your Field Volunteer Application