Marine Mammals

Project overview:
One mile north of Appledore Island and the Shoals Marine Laboratory lies Duck Island and its surrounding rocky ledges, which are home to nearly a thousand harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) at the peak of summer. This important haul out site has allowed for ongoing research on seals in the Isles of Shoals since 2011 including: monitoring abundance estimates, photographic mark-recapture studies, individual and species specific site fidelity, incidence of entanglement and injuries, and distributional and behavioral interactions of the two species.

Marine Mammal Undergraduate Researchers conduct 2-3 boat-based surveys of the Duck Island seal colony each week by photographing all seals along a standardized survey route. Back in the lab, researchers analyze and catalog the digital photos as well as associated behavioral and environmental data. Researchers also work with their mentors to design an independent research project based on archived and/or new data. Skills that students will learn throughout this program include photography, basic vessel-based research skills, marine mammal biology, data interpretation, and scientific data presentation. Researchers will be a part of the larger Shoals Undergraduate Research Group cohort and will participate in weekly discussions and lectures.

Appropriate coursework in animal behavior, vertebrate biology, and/or marine mammals is strongly recommended. Interested students should be detail-oriented and comfortable working with data/spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel and other similar programs. Marine Mammal researchers spend several hours each week aboard SML research vessels conducting seal colony surveys, and therefore applicants should be comfortable on boats and at sea. Knowledge of digital photography using high-quality DSLR cameras is ideal. Previous experience at SML is preferred, but not required. Relevant SML courses include: Marine Mammal Biology, Anatomy & Function of Marine Vertebrates, Field Animal Behavior, and the Shoals Research Apprenticeship.

Project Mentors:
Dr. Nadine Lysiak (Assistant Professor, Suffolk University) 
Dr. Andrea Bogomolni (Postdoctoral Investigator, WHOI) 
Lisa Sette (Center for Coastal Studies)

Dates: TBD

SML Research Symposium: TBD

Stipend: $200/week
Includes room & board for 10 weeks, and roundtrip vessel transportation from Portsmouth, NH to Appledore Island. Researchers are responsible for their own transportation to/from Portsmouth, NH at the beginning and end of the program.

Two researchers will be selected.


Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina). All SML marine mammal program surveys and photo-data fall under NOAA/NMFS LOC #16260-01, #16260-02, #20412.


Photo of marine mammal intern taking photos from SML research vessel

Vessel-based survey to collect photo-data.


To apply:

  • 2023 Application coming soon
  • Application Deadline: TBD
  • Applicants should be prepared to upload (as separate files): cover letter, resume/CV, and unofficial transcripts.
  • Request two letters of recommendation. At least one letter must be from a professor/faculty member. The second can be from a graduate student TA or employer.
  • Undergraduates in all majors may apply.
  • Priority is given to students who have previous SML experience.

Email Dr. David Buck