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Student Researcher Program

Student researcher header



Through its Student Researcher Program, Sharklife aims to augment its research goals by connecting with a global network of upcoming scientists. The program has projects suited to both Bachelor and MSc-level students looking to write their thesis or internship report on a marine subject. Students may choose an available topic from the ‘Working Titles’ below that best aligns with their degree and interests. Project concepts are designed to be conservation-focused, fill knowledge gaps, and inform management policies. 

You will have the full support of our experienced team to help develop your chosen working title into a well-structured research project. In addition, it's a great opportunity to gain legitimate field experience during the data collection process.

We understand that degrees vary widely around the globe and that each university has different requirements for its students, we are happy to discuss and accommodate these requirements where possible. 




Projects fall under the broader scope of the Sharklife Elasmobranch Assessment Study (see the full outline here), there are numerous studies for development, so depending on your area of interest a project topic can be outlined and available data assessed. 

 Current Projects: 

 Working Title: Student Name:  Level: Institution: Primary Method: 
The incidence of Humans Whaler Shark C.humani on the KZN coast  Nico Booyens Honors ukzn logo.width 800 Mono Bruvs

Stereo-BRUV survey of Elasmobranch diversity in ISWP (Area 1)

Laylaa Sampaio MSc/Thesis ukzn logo.width 800 Stereo Bruvs
Stereo-BRUV assessment of the seasonal diversity, relative abundance, and distribution of sharks and rays in a shallow sandy habitat Jessica Ferrera MSc/Thesis aveiro Stereo Bruvs

Distribution patterns of pregnant, Carcharias taurus in the ISWP

Sara Cerqueira MSc/Thesis aveiro UVC/Stereo DOV

Describing the ecology and population dynamics of non-nesting sea turtles in the ISWP

Natalie Dos Santos MSc/Thesis NMU UVC/RUV

Sightings and population dynamics of manta rays in the ISWP

Michelle Carpenter PhD UCT Logo UVC/RUV

Wintertime assessment of elasmobranch diversity in the ISWP using stereo-BRUVs (Area 2)

Julie Alberts MSc/Thesis Logo University of Miami Stereo Bruvs

 A wintertime assessment of Elasmobranchs and Osteichthyes species in the ISWP (Area 3)

Sarah Head MSc/Internship Report  northeastern university boston logo Stereo Bruvs

An assessment of the diversity and abundance of benthic rays in the ISWP

Silvia Leva MSc/Internship Report  Milano Stereo Bruvs
Assessment of spatial distribution & demography of Elasmobranches in the ISWP Henry Garber MSc/Thesis University of Edinburgh Stereo Bruvs
Seasonal comparison of abundance and diversity of elasmobranchs (Area 4) Carlo Gargioni MSc/Thesis Milano Stereo Bruvs
Elasmobranch spatial ecology in a global biodiversity hotspot (All Areas) Steve Gerber PhD NMU Stereo Bruvs/eDNA

Assessment of environmental factors influencing arrival times of elasmobranch species using Baited Remote Underwater Video surveys (BRUVs) (iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Area 1) 

Molly Tarling BSc thesis  plymouth Stereo Bruvs
Small-scale habitat characterization of four potential seasonal aggregation sites of Spotted ragged-tooth shark (iSimangaliso Wetland Park) Eleanor Gillion Webb Internship Report cardiff UVC
Seasonality, habitat use, and demography of new species Carcharhinus humani in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Beatrice Terracciano Internship Report University of Padua Stereo Bruvs
Influence of teleost fish on the abundance and distribution of sharks in the ISWP Felix Hinsch MSc/Thesis universitaet rostock logo 2009 Stereo Bruvs
Comparing target teleost diversity and relative abundance with elasmobranchs in different management zones in the ISWP Anna Buchwald MSc/Thesis University of Gothenburg Logo 700x521 Stereo Bruvs
Assessing the influence of a sub-marine canyon on elasmobranch diversity and relative abundance Frida Persson MSc/Thesis University of Gothenburg Logo 700x521 Stereo Bruvs
Assessing the influence of recreational shore angling on elasmobranchs along the South African coastline Josefin Lindell MSc/Thesis University of Gothenburg Logo 700x521 Stereo-BRUVs/Social Media
Demography of Rhynchobatus djiddensis and the use of non-invasive methods for photo-identification Niall O’Reilly MSc/Thesis Dublin Stereo-BRUVs/RUV/UVC
Assessing the influence of divers on Spotted ragged-tooth sharks (C.taurus) at well-known aggregation sites Jacob Hammargren  BSc/Thesis  University of Gothenburg Logo 700x521  RUVs
Soundscape Analysis and Characterisation of Sodwana Bays Coral Reef System Shahir Ramndit MSc/Thesis  ukzn logo.width 800 Hydrophone/RUV 
New Projects:
Currently, we are looking for students to begin working on the following project titles, however, many more areas need development. If you have a particular area of interest or skill set please contact us to discuss it in further detail.
 Working Title: Student Name:  Level: Institution:

Primary Method: 

Comparing elasmobranch and teleost diversity between a marine sanctuary and adjacent sites exploited by the small-scale fishery in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (MPA) (Area 4 vs Area 5, Summer)

TBC MSc/Thesis TBC Stereo Bruvs

Assessment of diversity and abundance of sharks and pelagic fish using mid-water BRUVs in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (Area 1, Winter/Summer)

TBC MSc/Thesis TBC Stereo Bruvs

Program Dates: 2024/2025

Depending on your project scope and data collection requirements you will need between 1 - 6 months, 9-12 month placements are also available.  

Calendar SR 15.03.2024

* 4 months or more will require a Volunteer Visa, which we can help you with.  If you can't make these exact dates let us know and we can discuss the options.



This program is aimed at early career marine biologists looking not just for an internship or training program, but rather for the opportunity to produce a scientific report or thesis that they can use to kickstart their careers, publication of the work is desirable. As with many training and experience-building programs, there are costs involved. Sharklife is a non-profit organization and all funds are used to further the aims of the organization, your involvement directly supports the research components.  

  • 1 Month - $2 295 USD ($573 p/w)
  • 2 Month - $3 595 USD ($449 p/w)
  • 3 Month - $4 895 USD ($407 p/w)
  • 4 Month - $6 195 USD ($387 p/w)
  • 5 Month - $7 495 USD ($374 p/w)
  • 6 Month - $8 795 USD ($366 p/w)



  • Airport transfers 
  • Accommodation - Private room
  • Dive gear
  • Project Development Support (e.g. sampling design, data analysis, stats guidance, etc.)
  • On-site fieldwork supervisor and mentor
  • Access and training on software (e.g SEAGIS Event Measure, I3s, and QGIS)
  • Office and communication expenses
  • Data collection field trips and support
  • Research equipment (Go Pros, bruv stations, temp loggers, current meters, etc)


  • Scuba Courses: (PADI OW $350 or PADI ADV $250) 
  • Flights 
  • Travel Insurance
  • Meals *
  • Vaccinations 
  • Weekend Activities: These can be scuba diving or field trips

*Meals - The research accommodation has a fully equipped kitchen to prepare your meals and there are daily trips to the supermarket where you can purchase food.  Alternatively, there is a restaurant on site where you can order lunch and dinner from a large menu. 

Some FAQ's

  • What do I get from the program?
    1. Through the program you will gain bona-fide field experience with sharks and their environments.
    2. You will receive freediver training and gain water confidence
    3. Examining real shark and ray specimens is a rare opportunity and will greatly enhance your understanding of elasmobranch anatomy.
    4. By being involved in our research projects you will be exposed to varied research processes and methodologies. 
    5. Sodwana Bay is a remote rural town alongside South Africa's first world Heritage site and has some of the best diving in the world.
    6. Optional Big 5 Game Park tours. 
    7. Your participation in our program directly supports the shark conservation efforts of the organization. 

  • Who is the program for?

    Over 18’s, in good health, good swimming ability and an affinity for the ocean. If you are considering a career that involves being in the ocean or are just passionate about marine conservation, then this program will benefit you.


  • Do I need a Scuba qualification?

    No, but it would be beneficial. Many of the research trips are all snorkel based but some projects do include scuba surveys.  

    If you would like to complete one of the following courses whilst you are here, please specify it in the application form.

    PADI Open Water Course - $350
    PADI Advanced Diver Course - $350
    Freediver Level 1 - $230
    Freediver Level 2 - $300

    You will receive basic freediver coaching from an accredited freediving instructor. This will enable you to improve your freediving ability, if you would like formal training then select the level 1 freediver course.  

  • Arrival & Departure Day - Flight Details?

    If your  program starts on the 1st of January you need to arrive at the airport on the 1st of January, not before. If your program's last day is the 2nd of December you need to book your flight for departure on the 2nd of December.

    You need to fly into King Shaka Durban via Johannesburg O.R Tambo Airport. Please try to arrive no later than 2pm as it's a 4hr drive back to Sodwana Bay.

    If you need assistance with travel arrangements please let us know in the booking form.

    A Sharklife staff member will pick you up from the airport on your arrival day.

    If you are unsure please do not hesitate to ask for help.

    Sharklife World Flights

  • What is available in Sodwana Bay?

    There are most products and services available within walking distance of the accommodation.

  • Do I need a Visa?

    Nationals of the following 48 countries/territories who hold valid national passports are not required to obtain South African visas for visits of up to 90 days: If you are coming for longer than 90 days we will work with you to get the appropriate Visa. 

    But please double check this as changes can occur at anytime. visit http://www.dha.gov.za/index.php/immigration-services/exempt-countries

    African Union Laissez Passer
    Angola (ordinary passports 90 days per annum  visits not to exceed 30 days)
    Chile (only ordinary passport holders)
    Czech Republic
    Germany (except in diplomatic staff due to assume duty at the Embassy and Consulates of Germany in SA)
    Namibia (only ordinary passport holders 90 days per annum)
    Russian Federation     
    San Marino
    St Vincent & the Grenadines
    Tanzania (90 days per annum)
    Trinidad & Tobago (only ordinary passport holders)
    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (only ordinary passport holders) 
    British Islands Bailiwick of Guernsey and Jersey, Isle of Man. British Oversees Territories namely: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, St Helena and Dependencies (Ascension Island, Gough Island and Tristan da Cunha), Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the Turks and Caicos Island.
    United States of America (except in respect of diplomatic staff due to assume duty at the Embassy and Consulates of the USA in SA, as well as service passport holders)
    Zambia (90 days per annum)

  • Deposit and Cancellation?
    • A non-refundable 50% deposit needs to be paid within one week of being accepted into the program to secure your spot.
    • The remaining fee must be paid in full 3 weeks prior to the arrival date.
    • All cancellations within 3 weeks of arrival are non-refundable.

  • When is the best time?

    Although seasonal changes in Sodwana Bay are mild there are changes in the sea conditions and mega fauna during the year.

    Generally the best weather months are between Dec-July, but its not imperative.

    Some noteworthy species seasonality:

    • Ragged-tooth Sharks, Sep - July (peak Dec - May)
    • Humpback Whales, June - Nov (peak July - August)
    • Turtle Nesting, Nov- Feb
    • Turtle Hatching, Jan - April
    • Big Five game viewing, Year Round

    Feel free to reach out to us if you need more info on seasonality :)

  • A typical day?

    Typical Day: 07:00 - 15:00 

    After preparing the boat and equipment for sea we head to the beach. Interns and volunteers are an integral part of the team and assist directly with all beach and boating logistics.  We launch through the surf and make our way along the coastline to the designated study area where we conduct in water surveys, record sightings data and change out equipment. Interns get the opportunity to develop seamanship and diving skills whilst encountering a wide variety of marine life. 

    On returning we rinse, de-kit the boat and diving equipment and break for lunch. 

    After lunch we meet in the research office where interns and volunteers are tasked with the daily data management functions or or maintenance tasks. 

    We end off with a debrief and planning session for the next day's research activities. 

    If we are unable to go to sea due to inclement weather we conduct theory sessions in our auditorium using graphics, videos and models to enhance your theoretical understanding of sharks. Interns and volunteers use this opportunity to ask questions and discuss prevalent conservation topics. 

    We also use this time conduct various examinations of the shark and ray specimens we have preserved, either frozen, dried or in solution. These specimens enable participants to get a feel of the various anatomical features of each animal. 

    The rest of the day may be allocated to extra activities happening in the center at the time such as; assisting with school groups, museum display development, boat maintenance etc.

  • Typical day off?
    • The most popular free-time activity is a day trip to the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Big 5 Game Reserve. The park is home to Africa's big five game: elephant, rhinoceros (black/hook-lipped and white/square-lipped), Cape buffalo, lion and leopard. 

    lion umfolozi

    • You can just relax on the pristine beaches of Sodwana Bay.
    • For the more adventurous, you can embark on a microlight flight over the coastline.
    • There are also quad bike tours of the local lake systems and forests.
    • You can scuba dive on the world renowned reefs of Sodwana Bay.

    sodwana beach

  • Do I need vaccinations?

    Depending on where you are coming from there are a few vaccinations that you may need. Check the link below for more information.



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    Sharklife Ocean Center

    Sodwana Bay, KwaZulu Natal
    South Africa 3974

    Email: info@sharklife.co.za
    Ph/WhatsApp: +27 (0) 82 935 9427