Contact Us

To contact us, please send an e-mail to Orca Behavior Institute Director Monika Wieland Shields at

Mailing address:
Orca Behavior Institute
573 Westcott Drive
Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Research Internship and Student Project Inquiries

We work with 1-4 student interns and/or field research volunteers each year. Our primary need for field  assistance is between May-September and we require a minimum two month commitment. We need to hear from you by November 15 to be considered for the following year’s summer field season, with decisions being made by the end of the calendar year. In addition to field experience, interns can also receive mentorship for a thesis, school project, or independent research project during their placement.

Successful candidates must be able to live on San Juan Island for the duration of their internship. We can assist with locating housing. Due to the nature of the shore-based components of our research, access to a vehicle is also required. No particular degrees or previous coursework are required, as we are more interested in candidates who are thoughtful, passionate observers of nature than those with a specific background. Everyone who applies loves orcas, but having some specific knowledge about the populations we study can help you stand out. We encourage non-traditional applicants to apply.

We fully recognize the concerns with volunteer internships in the field of marine mammal science. As a small non-profit, we hope to grow into being able to offer paid internships in the future, but we are unfortunately not there yet. Stipends may be available to help cover costs of living, and we can also assist with university or grant applications for internship funding. Part-time internships are also available if a candidate needs or wants to work part-time on the island for the duration of the internship. We encourage candidates to apply regardless of financial status and we can work with successful applicants to make the situation work on a case by case basis.

To apply for an internship, please submit a letter of introduction (2 pages maximum) that includes answers to the following questions:

What is your background and why are you interested in the work OBI does?

What do you hope to gain out of an internship with OBI?

Describe a memorable encounter or experience you’ve had in the natural world. What did you learn from it and/or what questions did it raise for you?

What dates are you available, and if you will be completing a school-related project as part of your internship (e.g. capstone project or thesis) what are the requirements of that project?

In addition to formal internships, we can also work with students on research projects outside of our core field season, including providing access to OBI data. We can collaborate on a limited number of such projects each year and they are considered year-round on a case by case basis. Projects with a research topic of interest will be prioritized over general inquiries; the specific research question can be defined in cooperation with OBI if needed. To inquire about a student project collaboration, please send a short letter of introduction describing you, your background, and the project requirements.

Inquiries for internships or student projects should be sent to