International Fund for Animal Welfare



Thank you so very much for your interest in our organization and what we do. We appreciate you wanting to get involved with our team!


IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Mission:

  • Promote the conservation of marine mammal species and their habitat by:
    • Improving rapid response and humane care to stranded marine mammals,
    • Advancing stranding science and
    • Increasing public awareness through education.
  • We approach each stranding from a scientific perspective, trying to gain as much information as possible from each event in order to continually improve the care we provide to these animals.

What is a stranding?

A marine mammal that is….

  • Dead and on a beach.
  • Dead and floating.
  • Alive, onshore, and unable to return to the water on its own.
  • Alive, onshore, and able to return to the water but is in need of medical attention.
  • Out of habitat.

We respond to an average of 261 live and dead marine mammals per year. However, every year our average grows greater and greater.

What we do:

  • Respond to live and dead stranded marine mammals (seals, dolphins, porpoises and whales) in our coverage area, authorized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through a stranding agreement. This includes all of Cape Cod and south to the Rhode Island boarder.
    • 750 miles of coastline!!
    • The star marks where our Rescue Operations Center is located
    • The blue line shows where we typically see most of our cetacean strandings

  • Dolphin Rescue Center - Cetacean Intensive Care Unit
    • Goal: To improve post-release survival for live-stranded small cetaceans on Cape Cod by providing short-term rehabilitation/holding care prior to release.
      • Enhance diagnostics and treatment capabilities
      • Improve understanding of borderline candidate viability through extended diagnostics and post-release monitoring
      • Improve understanding of acute-stranding-related condition pathophysiology and clinical relevance through extended diagnostics and post-release monitoring
      • Evaluate effectiveness of treatment for acute-stranding-related conditions (shock, myopathy)
    • What is rehabilitation/holding?
      • Providing 24/7 supportive care for recovery after a stranding event
      • Supplying nourishment and medical treatment plans to aid in the healing process
      • Offering a calm environment to rest comfortably until release conditions are plausible
      • Evaluating and observing overall condition and prognosis of animal of concern in a more natural environment 

We are only admitting one animal into the facility at a time, but have the capacity to rehab 12 total individuals per year (each under 550 lbs).


Volunteer Opportunities:

  • Stranding Response
    • Assist in data collection of deceased marine mammals via external exams or necropsies (animal autopsies)
    • Monitoring live seals resting on the beach and providing education to the public about their behavior.
    • Assist with the capture and collection of sick/injured/entangled seals that are in need of medical attention/rehabilitation.
    • Assist with the transport of seals to a rehabilitation facility.
    • Assist with providing supportive care to live stranded dolphins in the field prior to staff arrival.
    • Assist MMRR staff with extraction of live dolphins from a stranding site to our mobile rescue unit.
    • Assist with releasing live dolphins back to their environment at pre-determined release sites.
  • Dolphin Rescue Center
    • Assist in data collection for medical, behavioral, and nourishment observations for records
    • Monitoring live cetaceans during procedures, handling, and during rehabilitation process
    • Potential to assist with the restraint and capture of rehabilitation patient
    • Assist with the transport and movement in rehabilitation facility
    • Potential to assist with providing supportive care to live stranded dolphins during rehabilitation
    • Assist Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Staff with extraction of live dolphins from a stranding site to out Dolphin Rescue Center
    • Assist with releasing rehabilitated dolphins back to their environmental pre-determined release sites 

Volunteer Rewards:

  • Meet wonderfully diverse volunteers
  • Help rescue and provide supportive care to dolphins and porpoises
  • Help seals get the rest or the medical care they need
  • Contribute to the emerging field of stranding science
  • Increase public understanding of stranding and conservation issues


Volunteer Requirements

  • All volunteers must be fully vaccinated for COVID to respond with the team. You will need to disclose your vaccination status to a secure email address if you are accepted into the volunteer program. If you are not comfortable disclosing your vaccination status, unfortunately we will not be able to volunteer with us. 
    • Most responses require being within 6ft of one another so this is for the safety of all participants involved.
    • Boosters are encouraged, but not required.  
  • All volunteers must be permanent residents of Cape Cod or the coastline south of Cape Cod to the Rhode Island border.
  • All volunteers must be initially trained in stranding response prior to assisting with the Dolphin Rescue Center in Orleans
    • There are additional trainings that must be completed in order to assist at the Dolphin Rescue Center. More information will be provided to accepted applicants.
  • All volunteers must be eighteen years of age and older.
  • Must have a valid driver’s license and reliable transportation.
  • Field volunteers should be in good physical condition, able to lift 50 lbs., and able to swim.
    • Note: there are some roles a responder can be assigned at a response that do not require as much physical exertion so please do not let the lifting requirement deter you!
  • New volunteers must attend all of the Stranded Marine Mammal Response Team (SMMRT) trainings and pay the one-time training fee of $25.00 to be activated as a volunteer.        
  • New volunteers must read and sign the “IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Volunteer Agreement” and "IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Liability Release and Assumption of Risk" to be activated as a volunteer.
    • You will receive these documents to sign if you have been selected as a volunteer responder.
  • Volunteers are responsible for informing IFAW staff of changes in personal contact information while volunteering with the program.
  • All volunteers are required to attend one training session annually to maintain active status. 





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