Published: January 6, 2023

Location: Yorkshire, United Kingdom


Closing Date: February 9, 2023

Sea Watch Observer Volunteer

About the organisation

For over 13 years the North Sea Wildlife Trusts have worked to conserve our marine wildlife and habitats, with the aim of contributing to achieving The Wildlife Trust’s national vision for our seas. Our vision is for:

  • Marine wildlife to recover from past decline as our use of the seas’ resources become environmentally sustainable
  • The natural environment to adapt well to a changing climate, and ocean processes help to slow down climate change
  • People to be inspired by marine wildlife and value the sea for the many ways in which it supports our quality of life

Sea Watch Foundation (SWF) is a national marine environmental charity working to improve the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the seas around Britain and Ireland. SWFs aims are to:

  • Involve the public in scientific monitoring
  • Raise awareness and understanding of marine mammals and the threats they face and
  • Educate, inform and advise for better environmental protection

About the role

Are you passionate about protecting marine wildlife? Do you have a special interest in cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises)? Could you help us to learn more about the regions cetacean populations by regularly carrying out surveys? Cetaceans are a common sight in UK waters, with regular sightings of minke whales, harbour porpoise, white beaked dolphins and even humpback whales, off the Yorkshire and north east coastline. Despite this, cetaceans face numerous threats from human activities. If we are to protect cetaceans in our waters then more information on their numbers and locations is required. The North Sea Wildlife Trusts (Durham, Tees Valley, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) and Sea Watch Foundation are teaming up to improve data collection in this area and would like the help of passionate volunteers to become dedicated Sea Watch Observers to help us achieve this.

By becoming a Sea Watch Observer you will provide important information about how, where and when cetaceans use our coastal waters, enabling us to better protect these animals using conservation measures. Anyone can be an Observer; all you need is enthusiasm, a pair of binoculars and a little patience. If you enjoy spending time by the coast regularly, why not take time to record what you see – and what you don’t?!

We will provide full (mandatory) training on how to undertake dedicated cetacean surveys for all volunteers. Liaising with the project co-ordinator, you will decide on a ‘watching station’ on the coastline from which to regularly conduct surveys. Although any information on cetaceans is useful to us, it is essential that Observers regularly collect “effort related” data. “Effort-related” data means that observers time their watch and collect environmental data every 15 minutes during the watch. There is no set time/date for a watch period, as long as time, date and location are carefully noted, along with any sightings information.

What will you be doing?

The volunteer will contribute information to a national database on cetaceans by conducting land-based sea watch surveys from your local coastline. Tasks the volunteer will undertake include:

  • Recording cetacean sightings data (and relevant environmental data) from a designated ‘watching station’ on the coast You will use paper data sheets. We will work with each volunteer to agree on a watching location that works for us and the volunteer
  • Submitting your survey data to the regional co-ordinator on a regular basis
  • Reporting your sightings, particularly unusual ones, to the regional co-ordinator as soon as possible (various platforms available including phone, email and dedicated Facebook group)
  • Helping with outreach events (optional)


  • Passion for conservation of the marine environment
  • An interest and knowledge of British cetaceans or the enthusiasm to learn
  • Attendance at Sea Watch Observer training course is mandatory
  • Ability to record sightings information accurately and in detail (recording forms provided)
  • Ability to survey outdoors for approximately 1 hour
  • Proactive with the ability to work independently and unsupervised
  • A mature and responsible attitude
  • Flexible and adaptable approach as you may volunteer outside of normal office hours
  • An understanding of health and safety and the risks involved with working by the sea

Desirable or willingness to learn:

  • Knowledge of the marine environment
  • A basic knowledge of cetacean identification
  • First aid qualified (if helping with events)
  • Close proximity to watching station
  • Interpersonal communication skills

Volunteers should be 18 or over, or if 14-18 should be supported and supervised by a responsible adult and have parental/guardian consent to take part.

Attendance at Sea Watch Observer training course is essential. The next online course will take place on Saturday 4th March 2023 and will be a half day course from approximately 9am until 1pm.

Salary and benefits

By joining the network of Sea Watch Observers in this region and across the country, you will be contributing to the national database of information held on cetacean species in UK waters and so have a direct part to play in their conservation. You’ll learn about the cetaceans frequenting the north east coastline and gain experience in field work, plus:

  • Relevant training for the role e.g. Risk Assessments, Health and Safety, Observer training
  • Become a valuable member of a professional team
  • Experience of working within a large conservation organisation
  • Opportunity to learn more about cetaceans
  • Opportunity to get involved in a national citizen science project
  • Access to our internal volunteer training programme
  • Dedicated equipment provided
  • Opportunity to meet with other Observers in the are

Start date

There is plenty of flexibility in this role as you can choose when you would like to carry out your sea watches. Ideally you will undertake at least one survey per month but you can complete as many as you wish – the more data we receive the better! As a regular volunteer you will also be invited to attend optional volunteer thank you days throughout the year.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying, please send in a completed application form which can be downloaded from our website by the closing deadline being Thursday 9th February 2023. Please then send your completed application to your local Wildlife Trust:

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust –

Durham Wildlife Trust –

Tees Wildlife Trust –

Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust –

Applications for Yorkshire: Due to the large geographic area of Yorkshire and the popularity of the Sea Watch Observer volunteer role, in the first instance preference will be given to those living within 50 miles of the coast (roughly equivalent to a 1 hour drive).