Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit (CRRU)

Gardenstown, United Kingdom, Europe
Formed in 1997, the CRRU is a small non-profit research organization in northeast Scotland dedicated to the welfare, conservation, and protection of whales, dolphins, and porpoises through scientific investigation, education, and the provision of a 24-hour rescue service for stranded animals.

Volunteering Activities

Animal Care
Conservation Work

What We Need

Located on the southern coastline of Scotland’s spectacular Moray Firth, you will be fully incorporated - as an essential member of the research team - in field studies of these exquisite creatures: monitoring their numbers and distribution; studying their behavior and social dynamics; and identifying individual animals, their status, and their site fidelity. Back at the base, time will be spent identifying the animals encountered; cataloging slides and photographs; analyzing data; and completing other general chores and household duties, including a share of the cooking and cleaning. Under scientific supervision, you will be instructed in the skills and techniques used by marine mammal biologists in their studies of these fascinating creatures.

Your primary concentration will be focused on an individually-identifiable population of bottlenose dolphins that spend a large proportion of the year in the study area. Isolated at the northern extreme of the species range, this population of bottlenose dolphins – one of only two “resident” populations in British waters – is of national and international significance. Other cetacean species you may be lucky enough to encounter include harbor porpoises, minke whales, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, common dolphins, pilot whales, and possibly even orca or humpbacks (as well as many other marine and coastal-dwelling creatures such as grey and common seals, basking sharks, turtles and ocean sunfish).

Furthermore, you'll undertake a number of additional activities fundamental to the aims of the CRRU. We provide the opportunity to receive instruction on marine mammal rescue techniques. Affiliated with the UK Marine Animal Rescue Coalition, the CRRU operates a fully trained, 24-hour marine mammal rescue team. Should an actual rescue situation occur, you might be expected to assist the team on short notice (sometimes even at night). Education and public awareness activities are also an important area of the group’s work, as whales and dolphins provide an excellent medium for educating people about the impact of marine pollution and promoting concern towards the conservation of marine animals and the marine environment in general. With your help, talks can be arranged with community groups, schools, and at the local aquarium, on a weekly basis. Fundraising stalls, PR events, and exhibition work may also be attended, and these are often great fun for all involved.

Working in small teams, you will undoubtedly learn a lot about the whales and dolphins commonly seen in this haven area of Scotland - how to identify them, the conservation issues that drive research initiatives to protect them, and how to help them during a live stranding situation. In short, you can expect an exciting program rich in experience and personal satisfaction and an enjoyable introduction to whale and dolphin identification, data collection, and marine mammal rescue.

When & Who

May to October 2020:

Team I: Mon 8 Jun - Fri 19 Jun
Team II: Mon 22 Jun - Fri 3 Jul
Team III: Mon 13 Jul - Fri 24 Jul
Team IV: Mon 27 Jul – Fri 7 Aug
Team V: Mon 10 Aug - Fri 21 Aug
Team VI: Mon 31 Aug - Fri 11 Sep
Team VII: Mon 14 Sep - Fri 25 Sep
Yes, we require a minimum of 11 Days
11 days
Individuals, Groups

What we Provide

Types: Volunteer House

Detached, shared accommodation.

Types: Vegetarian, Vegan, Accommodate Dietary Restrictions

Healthy, wholesome dishes

Wifi & Satellite
Hot Water
First Aid

Our Fees

$115 daily
$30 One-time

Total cost: 1,295 GBP (about $1,650)
- Initial payment of 300 GBP (about $350)
is required as a non-refundable deposit to reserve your placement, once your dates have been confirmed by the host organization
- The outstanding balance of 995 GBP (about $1,200) should be paid 6 weeks prior to team commencement

4 Reviews

More Services we Offer

May have additional fees
Pretrip Assistance
Pick Up/Drop Off
Social Activities

We provide boat equipment (dry suit, woolly bear under-suit, wet boots, wet gloves, etc.).

This program may sound very hectic, and it often is, but there will also be time to do your own thing too. During the evenings and on days when the group decides to take “time-out”, you are encouraged to initiate your own social program and evening entertainment for the group. There will be no fixed days off as such, but there will be plenty of opportunities for long walks, excursions, barbecues, and to sample the “local spirit” at the Garden Arms Pub.

Contact Person

Dr. Kevin Robinson
48 Seatown, Gardenstown, United Kingdom.

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Additional Info about Us

5 to 10 people

What you will get from the experience:

1. Small, friendly, and relaxed group (maximum of 6 recruits, up to 4 research staff, plus other specialist researchers, students, and guests on an ad-hoc basis)

2. Full board, accommodation, cost of meals (with the exception of alcoholic beverages), all boat equipment (dry suit, woolly bear under-suit, wet boots, wet gloves, etc.) provided

3. Induction and full training program with a professional research team

4. Direct contact with experienced cetacean field scientists and students

5. Seminars and optional guided tours

6. Direct support regarding invaluable research projects and conservation initiatives

7. A vital contribution to research funding

- Fluent in English
- Aged 17 years or up
- The ability to swim is preferable but not necessary - life jackets are provided and full safety regulations and training are undertaken
- Committed to nature conservation and animal protection
- Have a positive attitude towards living and working with a small group of enthusiastic people from different backgrounds and cultures
- The most important requirements for any participant are enthusiasm; the ability and willingness to learn and work under often difficult (but rewarding) field conditions; and the open-mindedness and sense of humor to work, live, and communicate with other people of mixed nationalities and backgrounds

This project is suitable for anyone in normal physical health. However, individuals who have problems with poor eyesight, balance, respiration, or walking will experience difficulties in fully participating in this program. In addition, a maximum weight of 95 kgs is allowable for balancing on the boats, fitting into dry suits, etc. Please note that, due to the nature of the work, participants will need to be both physically fit and healthy and, as a guideline, should be able to walk along steep coastal paths to reach land observation points.

It is important that you contribute to the group dynamic in a positive way. This is not a situation in which to impose your own agenda, but rather one in which your support and commitment to the work and to the team are both necessary and expected.

The research unit providing this opportunity is not a professional tourist organization but a well-organized team of research scientists. Therefore, as part of a working team, you will be expected to participate in all activities of the day, including your share of basic domestic duties. Flexibility is required with respect to sleeping arrangements, as single bedrooms or sleeping facilities only for couples are not usually available.

A small resource library containing scientific literature and information from recent studies is available for your consultation and interest.


Since 1997, trainee volunteers and students have assisted CRRU in the collection, organization, and analysis of data; this information is fundamental to our understanding and current knowledge of the distribution and ecology of whales and dolphins in Scotland and the Moray Firth. In co-operation with universities, research institutions, and international environmental agencies, primary studies focus on the coastal cetaceans frequenting the Moray Firth to provide baseline scientific data for the adoption of long-term management measures and conservation strategies for their protection. Primary concentration is of an individually identified population of bottlenose dolphins that spend a large proportion of the year in the rich coastal waters of the southern Moray Firth and a subpopulation of minke whales that frequent particular sites along the northeast coastline during the fall.

Conducting advanced training courses in marine wildlife rescue, the CRRU also operates the only specialist response team in Scotland for live-stranded whales and dolphins. The fully-equipped team (scientists, veterinarians, and qualified volunteers) are skilled and experienced to act and advise at the scene of a stranding with first aid, veterinary treatment, and re-floatation procedures as required.

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