Marine Mammals Internship

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. These seals are important ecological and ocean health sentinels in the Gulf of Maine, giving insight into the ecosystem for which they are an integral component. 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 (Research Scientist, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at New England Aquarium) 
Dr. Andrea Bogomolni (Northwest Atlantic Seal Research Consortium) 
Lisa Sette (Center for Coastal Studies)

Dates: June 3 - August 11, 2024

SML Research Symposium: Saturday, August 10, 2024

Stipend: $2100
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.

1 - 2 undergraduate researchers will be selected.


To Apply

  • Application Deadline: The application deadline for this internship has passed. Please consider applying for next year!
  • Applicants should be prepared to upload (as separate files): cover letter, resume/CV, and unofficial transcripts. Please use the following naming convention for all files: Last_First Name_file title (example: Smith_John_resume).
  • 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. Letters must be submitted by the February 9 deadline.
  • Undergraduates in all majors may apply.
  • Prior relevant field/lab experience preferred but not required.
  • All applicants will be notified of their application status by email no later than March 15, 2024.

Note for international students: International students studying in the United States under an F-1 visa are eligible to work as a research intern at SML. Before applying, we encourage students to confirm with their academic institution about their eligibility for off-campus employment through a Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or other comparable program. Students not currently studying in the United States can also apply for a research internship but will be required to secure their own J-1 visa. Information on third-party assistance for J-1 applications can be found at the following website: