Join us in 2021!
Protecting endangered species requires dedication. We conduct research with sharks, rays and sawfish in the remote regions of 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? You will be part of a small team working with some of the most endangered species of sharks, rays and sawfish on the planet. You will learn how to conduct this research and how to do fieldwork with these animals. You will also get out into remote areas that you would not likely be able to access by yourself. Be warned, we have a lot of fun on our expeditions. If you are a uni student, see if you can earn uni credits for your participation, as getting this ‘real life experience’ credited towards a course is often possible!
Dedication essentail, previous skills optional.
SARA runs around eight expeditions per year. Most expeditions leave from Cairns and last for 11 to 14 days. Our sampling methods used will include gill netting and setting of drum lines. We use a variety of different tags to gain information on the ecology of our study species. For more information on our research goals see here. 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.
“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.”
Field site information
East coast expedition – Airlie Beach / Whitsundays coast / Mackay In 2021 we will finally commence sampling east coast locations in central Queensland. Over the last few years, we have received many submissions of potential sawfish sightings form the region, and some locations that we are targeting are truly spectacular. Given that some locations have clear marine waters and are crocodile free, we might even add a day of snorkelling with sharks and rays.
Mid- Gulf expedition – Kowanyama – INVITATION ONLY 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), for the fifth year. The expedition is both exploratory (sampling locations that we have not sampled before) as well as targeting sawfish for our “Daily Diary” study. Access to Kowanyama is by dirt road only, which can easily become impassable after heavy rains. During this expedition there are no public campgrounds beyond Chillagoe and we are self-sufficiently camping in the bush near our sampling sites.
As our work in Kowanyama is now partly funded by the Queensland Government (2021-2023), which makes participation in this expedition significantly cheaper for our field assistants, this expedition is invitation only. We will invite participants from our pool of former field assistants, to give back to the dedicated people who have joined us in the field. If you are going to join us earlier in 2021 and want to be added to the pool, please let us know!
Southern Gulf or Pormpuraaw expedition: In 2021 we want to commence work with the Pormpuraaw Land and Sea Rangers, and so this location is our first priority. In case this does not happen in time we will be sampling in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria, where locations 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 have a few choices of locations, including the Norman, Bynoe and Flinders, and Leichhardt Rivers. We will be self-sufficient camping in the bush but may spend a few days camping at the Normanton Campground.
Southern Gulf expeditions – Normanton & Karumba 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. As the expedition is taking place towards the end of the year, we will be renting air-conditioned cabins, as the temperatures in the Southern Gulf at this time of the year soar and make camping uncomfortable. We will be sampling the Norman River and the vast sand flats of Karumba.
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 expedition – Lakefield (Rinyirru) National Park In 2021, we will officially commence our sampling program in Lakefield (Rinyirru) National Park, together with the Rinyirru Aboriginal Rangers, the Laura Aboriginal Rangers and the local Parks And Wildlife staff. This expedition is limited to two field assistants, and the insights you will gain by working with such a diverse team will be quite unique. We have found sawfish in the National Park, and the nearby Laura region is famous for its Aboriginal rock art, and we are likely to see some of the local sawfish rock art. On this expedition we will be camping self-sufficiently in the bush.
East coast expedition – the Daintree Returning to the Daintree for a third time is very exciting, as this is the only location that we work in that is located 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, together with the fact that the Daintree was declared a net-free zone in the 1990s mean that we won’t give up. December in the tropics is hot and so 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.”
Dates and Prices
|Dates||No. of days||Location||Price per person (incl. GST)|
|May 18 – 24||7||Airlie Beach / Whitsundays / Mackay||$ 1300 – 6 assistants|
|June 12 – 25||14||Kowanyama||A$ 700 – 6 assistants – invitation only – FULL|
|July 11 – 24||14||Southern Gulf of Carpentaria or Pormpuraaw||A$ 2100 – 6 assistants|
|Sept 4 – 12||9||Steve Irwin Reserve||$ 1700 + one way flight Weipa – Cairns|
|Sept 13 – 21||9||Weipa & Old Mapoon||$ 1700 + one way flight Cairns – Weipa|
|Sept 4 – 21||18||Steve Irwin Reserve, Weipa & Old Mapoon||$ 2900 – no flights needed|
|Oct 17 – 27||11||Lakefield Rinyirru National Park||A$ 2100 – 2 assistants|
|Nov 9 – 17||9||Mackay & Airlie Beach||$ 1300 – 6 assistants|
|Dec 9 – 18||10||Daintree||$ 1800 – aircon 4 assistants|
* International participants can claim 10% GST back when leaving the country!
Ready to become a Field Assistant?
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
Still unsure? Check out our videos!
Please be advised that we generally do not work from a liveaboard mothership.
COVID considerations: while we are hoping that 2021 will be more predictable and stable than 2020, all participations in field trips may be cancelled at short notice if required by covid regulations. In this case, participants will be able to decide if they want to join a later expedition or get a full refund. It is incredibly important for us that we are COVID safe when travelling into remote communities.