Projects Abroad | Marine Conservation

Italy: Whale & Dolphin Conservation

Ischia, Italy


Location: Ischia, Italy

Duration: 1-week placements

Start Dates: Placements are available throughout the summer months, between June and October

Cost: €800+ Euros (depending upon when you go) per 6 day trip – see ‘Costs’ tab for further details


  • Work and study aboard a sailboat cruising the Mediterranean, searching for marine life, conducting research, whilst attending onboard seminars from seasoned scientists
  • Hands-on experience monitoring and observing, acoustic analysis and seamanship
  • Ideal for Marine Biologists and Animal Science, Environmental studies professionals and students
  • Keywords: marine biology, environmental conservation, cetology research, seminars
Costs Explained


For those wishing to jumpstart or further a career in marine biology, or for more casual conservationists keen to enjoy Italy’s ‘dolce vita’ while contributing to important ecological research, this one week Marine Biology Course on the Italian island of Ischia is for you. You will specifically investigate declining dolphin populations in the Italian Mediterranean with a local NGO, living aboard a historical cutter ship of 18 m and contributing to ongoing academic research and conservation initiatives.

The presence of common dolphin populations off the island of Ischia, Italy, has been consistently documented since 1997. The short-beaked common dolphin Delphinus delphis is a small cetacean species with a wide distribution. Literature, photographic documentation, and osteological collections indicate that the common dolphin used to be common – thence its name – throughout the Mediterranean Sea, however the species has experienced a dramatic decline in numbers during the last few decades, and has almost completely disappeared from large portions of its former range including the northern Adriatic Sea and the Ligurian Sea.

In 2003, the Mediterranean common dolphin ‘subpopulation’ was listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. A number of interacting factors may have played a role in the decline of common dolphins in the Mediterranean, ranging from natural fluctuations to the impact of human activities. Some of the human-induced threats – based on the available evidence – are most likely to be implicated in the species’ decline. These include factors as diverse as prey depletion, contamination by xenobiotics, direct killing, fishery bycatch and global climate change. Other potential threats to Mediterranean common dolphins include disturbance by recreational vessel traffic, noise from shipping, mineral prospecting (seismic) and military sonar, and oil pollution.

The research is conducted in collaboration with: ASMS Ocean Care (Swiss coalition for marine mammals), Humane Society, OceanoMare, RSPCA (Royal Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals, University of Naples (Geology Department), Zoological Station A. Dohrn.

Daily Life

On board there will be lectures on cetology: the research of cetaceans in the Italian seas, the key areas for the study of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean, conservation and preservation, evolution, adaptation to the marine environment, classification, insight into the cetaceans of the Mediterranean and in particular of the studied species in particular, bioacoustics, social behaviour and interaction with fisheries.

You will leave every day to sail, according to the project and weather conditions. Your duties onboard consist of helping researchers monitoring dolphins. Dolphin behaviour is recorded together with geographic position, group size, group composition, group formation, surface activity patterns and duration of surfacing intervals. Behavioural sampling is coupled with acoustic recording of dolphin vocalisations, in order to relate the sounds produced by the animals to different behavioural activities. Navigation data are collected in order to estimate dolphins relative sighting frequencies. You will also help record the presence of sea turtles, tuna, swordfish, fish schools, mantas, moonfish and marine birds.

Get on board with this unique project and gain invaluable research, monitoring, and evaluation skills, while enjoying Italian wine (included in the project fee) and the clear waters of the Med.

Book with Confidence

Travel & Accom.

You will be given easy to follow instructions to get from Rome (Fiumicino) international airport to the island, where you will be met by project staff and taken to the ship.

You will live on board the cutter ship. You will be in a shared cabin with basic bathroom and kitchen facilities. Interested volunteers can learn the main riggings to sail such as steering, hoisting and striking the sails, and take confidence with sheets, halyard, compass and courses. You can also collaborate with the crew during the mooring.

Fundraising Help


This placement is particularly suited to those looking to gain a career in marine biology or environmental conservation. You do not need any specific skills, although any you do have will be very beneficial.

  • Min age 18
  • Minimum 6 days commitment
  • Reasonable physical fitness
  • Full travel & medical insurance
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Necessary flights & visas
Premium Support Upgrade


Arrival date 2019 Departure date Project Fee Second turn fee
20/5 26/5 € 800 $950*** € 740 $880
27/5 2/6 € 800 $950 € 740 $880
3/6 9/6 € 800 $950 € 740 $880
10/6 16/6 € 800 $950 € 740 $880
17/6 23/6 € 840 $998 € 780 $930
24/6 30/6 € 840 $998 € 780 $930
1/7 7/7 € 840 $998 € 780 $930
8/7 14/7 € 900 $1070 € 840 $998
15/7 21/7 € 900 $1070 € 840 $998
22/7 28/7 € 900 $1070 € 840 $998
29/7 4/8 € 900 $1070 € 840 $998
5/8 11/8 € 900 $1070 € 840 $998
12/8 18/8 € 900 $1070 € 840 $998
19/8 25/8 € 900 $1070 € 840 $998
26/8 1/9 € 840 $998 € 780 $930
2/9 8/9 € 840 $998 € 780 $930
9/9 15/9 € 840 $998 € 780 $930
16/9 22/9 € 800 $950 € 740 $880
23/9 29/9 € 800 $950 € 740 $880

*All payments incur a 5% bank transfer fee.
** Student and Second Turn discounts available
*** Currency conversions are approximate, check for the latest updates

What’s Included:

Project Fee includes all accommodation, insurance, in-country support, electricity and gas, port fees and petrol, scientific supervision and lectures on cetaceans held by the researchers, Certificate of Participation, orientation and all project-related activities.

What’s not included:

Food and drinks to be divided among the crew consumption (approx. €10 per head), flights, airport pick-up, visas (if applicable) and vaccinations. Full assistance will be provided in if you choose our premium support.

Premium Support Upgrade

We understand there’s a great deal to plan and organise for your trip. When booking a Placement, many of our participants choose to purchase our Premium Support Upgrade to benefit from the expertise, knowledge and experience of our Project Coordinators.

We can provide the personal advice you need to ensure your trip is organised with excellence and planned with efficiency; ensuring the very best experience possible. Read more about how we can help you.

Note: Map coordinates are approximate

Past Participants Say

Celeste Rowe
Celeste Rowe
United States
Nomad Rating
Project Impact
Extra Activities
  "I never thought a simple google search would lead me to one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I’ve wanted to study marine biology for as long as I can remember and I figured, what better way to know for sure that this is the right path for me than to get out there and see and be apart of the work that is involved? Global No...
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Sarah Murray
Sarah Murray
Nomad Rating
Project Impact
Extra Activities
  "I have for many years now harboured a desire to go whale and/ or dolphin watching. So earlier this year, April-May 2015, when I got an email from Global Nomadic offering me this opportunity, I knew I had to do it. It was an opportunity I would not likely get again and a dream come true. As it happens I enjoyed the whole experience imm...
Read More