Marine Animal Response Society (MARS)


Welcome to the Marine Animal Response Society!

MARS is dedicated to marine animal conservation through response, research and engagement.

All around the world, dolphins, whales, seals and other marine animals are threatened by human activities. Entanglement, vessel strikes, ocean noise, chemical pollution and marine debris are among the many hazards that can result in serious injury - and sometimes even death. With close to 25% of marine mammals threatened with extinction, we urgently need to find ways to reduce the impacts human activities are having on life in our oceans.

Based in Atlantic Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prine Edward Island) and driven by a small team of deeply-committed staff and hundreds of passionate volunteers, MARS strives to make positive conservation impacts and inspire people to become stewards of our oceans. Over the last 20 years, we've trained over 400 volunteers across Atlantic Canada. MARS volunteers provide critical support by visiting sites, confirming reports of dead or distressed marine animals or by collecting data including photos, measurements and samples.

If you are interested in joining our MARS team as a volunteer, please fill out the application form on this page or email us at volunteer@marineanimals.ca. We look forward to having you join us!

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General Interests

Communications

Are you interested in the behind-the-scenes volunteer opportunities? We always welcome volunteers who are willing to share their skills whether it be photography, social media, journalism and more! Let us know what skills you have and we can work to find the best fit for you in our volunteer program.

Initial site visit

Before any intervention is made to assist an animal, it is important to conduct a site assessment in order to gather important information on the animal(s) and their surroundings. This vital information helps MARS response coordinators determine an appropriate course of action. We often will ask trained volunteers to help conduct site assessments.

Data & sample collection - dead animals

While not every marine animal that is found dead can be examined, it is a priority for MARS to perform basic documentation, measurements and sample collection from every incident we respond to. In order to examine trends over time, particularly related to species occurrence, general health and incident of human interaction and disease, it is important that all carcasses are examined. This work is often done with the help of trained volunteers aiding a MARS response coordinator.

Volunteers interested in this work are trained in species identification, how to take proper photographs and look for signs of injury, illness or human interaction and how to conduct sample collection and basic measurements. 

 

Necropsy

A necropsy is a complete examination of a dead animal, both external and internal, conducted by experts. This procedure is used to collect valuable internal samples and attempt to determine why the animal died. MARS works directly with a network of partners including pathologists from the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conduct these necropsies on large marine animals in the field. In order to carry out such a monumental task, many hands are required for a variety of different tasks and volunteers are an essential component of necropsies. 

Volunteers interested in this work are trained in how to assist with a necropsy, human health & safety and sample collection.

Live animal response

Live strandings include any incident in which marine animals, primarily whales, dolphins, porpoises and sharks come ashore. Strandings have been recorded on all coasts across the Maritimes and may occur as a result of a variety of different factors. Human safety and animal welfare are always our top priority when responding to any incident, and we strive to find the best outcome for every animal we respond to.

As a MARS volunteer, you may be asked to assist with live animal response. There are a number of ways that volunteers are utilized during these incidents, such as directly related to the care of the animal, data collection or safety monitoring. Volunteer involvement in these activities will depend on volunteer experience and any involvement is at the discretion of the MARS response coordinator. MARS currently offers training courses on live animal response for those interested in helping with this work.

Community Engagement

We at MARS believe that informed and engaged communities can make a difference. Events such as World Whale Day and World Oceans Day offers opportunities for MARS to engage the public on the important work we do, and how they can help on a variety of levels. We are always looking for volunteers to help with these events and provide information to those interested.

Other

Interested in supporting MARS in ways other than response activities? There are many different ways to get involved and depending on your interest, capacity and availability, there may be opportunities for you to lend a hand! Additional opportunities include working with schools to deliver education on marine animals, data entry and special projects.

Do you have a special skill you'd like to put to work for MARS pro bono (ie. accounting, business owner, lawyer, graphic designer, filmmaker, photography, write/ editor)? We can always use help, so let our volunteer coordinator know - volunteer@marineanimals.ca!