Join us in 2019!

We conduct research with sharks, rays and sawfish in the remote regions of Far North Queensland, the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York. For this, we need dedicated field assistants. 

Do you want to join a small team and get hands-on experience in working with aquatic predators in remote locations?

SARA runs around eight expeditions per year. Each expedition leaves from Cairns and lasts for 11 to 14 days. You will be part of a small team working with some of the most endangered species of sharks, rays and sawfish on the planet. For more information on our research goals see here. The aims of our expeditions are mixed: Some are exploratory, sampling rivers in which sawfishes have or have not been documented before. Other expeditions have specific goals, like deploying daily diaries and live-tracking sawfish. The sampling methods used will include gill netting and setting of drum lines. Our equipment and fieldwork protocols ensure that capture and handling stress for each animal is minimized. Any shark, ray and sawfish captured will be tagged and released.

Prices for assistant positions are adjusted to account for your qualifications relevant to our work. People with no or little fieldwork and boating experience should apply for the ‘general stream’. This stream suits people who want to gain experience in fieldwork, animal handling, and remote region work.

You might qualify for a team leader position (1-2 per expedition)! Do you have a boat driving licence (e.g. Australian boating licence), and experience in boat driving (compulsory – no exceptions!), working in remote locations (including 4WDriving) and also animal handling (large fish preferably shark handling experience as well as tagging experience)? Team leaders will receive training additional to the research induction and be taking over some of our sampling sessions. In order to be considered for a team leader position, please indicate this in your application form and attach a CV and cover letter to your application. Please be advised that applicants for team leader positions will receive preference if the applicant can commit to joining two expeditions within the same year.

“I would just like to say another massive thank you for the trip to Burketown! It was by far one of the funniest trips I’ve done and one I’ll never forget. What you’ve got going on up there is absolutely brilliant and perfect for up and coming scientists who have a hunger for hands on experience.”

Lachlan George

student @ JCU Townsville

Field site information

Southern Gulf expeditions – Normanton region  Our fieldwork locations in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria are more accessible than those up north, as Cairns and Normanton are connected via a bitumen road. The drive typically takes 7 – 8 hrs, and there are several outback towns along the way with campgrounds. Once in Normanton, we generally head out west, to work in the Norman, Bynoe and Flinders, or Leichhardt River. Which river we access depends on accessibility and research goals.The southern Gulf of Carpentaria might represent a hot spot for sawfish. The country that we work on are private cattle stations that are also under non- exclusive Native Title. Once on location we camp in the bush and are self-sufficient. During the expedition to Normanton/Karumba towards the end of the year we will be renting air-conditioned cabins, as the temperatures in the Southern Gulf soar and make camping uncomfortable.

Mid- Gulf expedition – Kowanyama  This Indigenous community is located about half way along the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The country that we will be accessing is under exclusive Native Title and so we will be working closely with Indigenous Land and Sea Rangers as well as Traditional Land Owners (TOs). In We will once again return to the Mitchell River and its tributaries, for our third time. The expedition is both exploratory as well as targeting sawfish for our “Daily Diary” study. We will also be visiting the Kowanyama Cultural Museum, which is currently not officially open to the public. The curator has collected a multitude of artefacts in one of the largest collections in Australia that create a deeper understanding of Indigenous cultures in the area and the impact of white settlement. Access to Kowanyama is by dirt road only, which can easily become impassable after heavy rains. We therefore always maintain the right to change the research location without notice. During this expedition there are no public campgrounds beyond Chillagoe and we are self-sufficiently camping in the bush near our sampling sites.

Northern Gulf Expedition – Old Mapoon  This expedition targets field sites like the Wenlock / Ducie Rivers near Old Mapoon and rivers immediately south and north of it, all the way to the tip of Cape York Peninsula. Getting to our field sites requires a long drive from Cairns, most of which is along the unpaved Peninsula Developmental Road. The road conditions can vary throughout the year, which is why we take the drive easy and allow 2.5 days for it. We camp in campgrounds along the way. When working in the Wenlock River, we are likely to sample upstream and camp in the Steve Irwin Reserve for part of the expedition. During all expeditions, we will be self-sufficient camping in the bush.

East coast expeditions – Laura and Daintree  In 2018/2019, we will be targeting two different river systems on the east coast, the Daintree (in December) and the Laura River (first expedition to this location). In Laura we will be working with the local Indigenous Ranger group. The region is famous for its Aboriginal rock art, and we are likely to see some of the local sawfish rock art. While in the Laura region, we will be camping self-sufficiently in the bush. Returning to the Daintree for another sampling season is very exciting, as this is the only location that we work in that is in the Wet Tropics rainforest. We have encountered many crocodiles here and tagged and released many bull sharks. We have not yet caught a sawfish in the Daintree, but the continuous reports about sawfish even far upstream mean that we won’t give up. While sampling the Daintree, we will be staying in air-conditioned cabins.

“This might sound silly but it really was a dream come true for me to do something like that. I really do hope I contributed to the cause.”

Liz Xanthopolous

A Visitor To This Time

 Dates and Prices 


All prices include GST.




Price – General Field Assistant

Price – Team Leader Assistant

April 7 – 18, 2019

Northern Gulf (FULL)

12 days

A$ 2200

A$ 1250

May 8 – 19, 2019

East coast – Laura

12 days

A$ 2200

A$ 1250

June 5 – 16, 2019

Southern Gulf – West of Normanton

12 days

A$ 2200

A$ 1250

July 2 – 15, 2019

Mid Gulf – Kowanyama

14 days

A$ 2200

A$ 1400

August 2019

currently no expedition planned




September 3 – 16, 2019

Northern Gulf

14 days

A$ 2400

A$ 2400

November 2 – 13, 2019

Southern Gulf (Normanton & Karumba)

12 days

A$ 2400

A$ 2400

December 4 – 12, 2019

East Coast – Daintree

9 days

A$ 2100

A$ 1250

Ready to start your Field Assistant Application?


“Firstly i wanted to tell you how much i enjoyed the research trip and getting to know you. I’m not sure if i thanked you but i really did value the time we got to spend in the field. That part of the country is nothing short of amazing, so thank-you.”

Laura Bradbury

Australian Reptile Park

“It’s also great that some of the things I saw and learned in my short time with SARA have come in handy too. A few little things like organisation of the work up gear and data sheets, specific gear to use for certain things etc. so thanks for that!”

Rebecca Bateman-John

Divemaster @ Rodney Fox Great White Shark Expeditions, Founder @ Fin Focus Research

“The Sawfish fieldwork program has to be one of my top fieldwork experiences that I have had in the field of ecology. The field trip had it all; setting drum lines for sharks; checking gill nets at night while being watched by crocodile eyes and the satisfying feeling of watching an animal swim away upon release. I have found that the SARA reference on my CV has been an excellent conversation starter with prospective employers. The variety of experiences during the fieldtrip makes for a great catalogue of examples that can be drawn on during interviews. Most people would never really have the opportunity to engage with marine science in such a way. Even those with a tertiary science education regret not taking the time to try various fieldwork opportunities, like this one, before settling down to a careers. I highly recommend joining the SARA team for a professional marine ecology fieldwork experience.”

Kieren Searle

student @ Uni of Wollongong

Still unsure? Check out our videos!

Please be advised that we generally do not work from a liveaboard mothership.