Thesis – Dissertations – Reports at BDRI

The BDRI offers advanced undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to undertake a thesis / dissertation project. Each year, the institute supervises numerous master's and bachelor research projects; and a list of previous projects is available here. While the BDRI does not confer degrees, Dr. Bruno Díaz López and Dr. Séverine Methion, principal investigators, provide mentorship and supervision to student interested in pursuing this endeavor. This opportunity is well-suited for students contemplating advanced degrees in marine mammal science, ecology, marine biology, ocean science and related fields.


Different thesis can be carried out in a dynamic, international, and competitive research environment (i.e. we use the term “thesis” synonymously with “dissertation” and “report”). The BDRI's primary research topics encompass ecology, ethology, and bioacoustics, focusing on dolphins, porpoises, baleen whales, marine birds, sharks and otters in Atlantic waters. The institute places particular emphasis on the study of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in various regions, including the Mediterranean and Atlantic waters. Highly motivated bachelor and master students in fields such as zoology, marine biology, veterinary science and related disciplines are encouraged to apply for a thesis project at the BDRI.


A thesis is usually undertaken when completing an internship at the BDRI facilities in Galicia (Spain). However, a thesis can also be carried out remotely.


Learning at BDRI Oral presentations at BDRI Data collection in the field Studying marine mammals at BDRI


Onsite Thesis Project

While participating in an onsite internship at BDRI, students have the unique opportunity to write a thesis, whether for their bachelor's or master's degree or out of personal interest. BDRI provides a conducive research environment, complete with lab and field training under the guidance of experienced marine scientists. Interns focus on analyzing data from the BDRI's extensive long-term research project dataset.


Thesis project integration

Our interns are linked with a BDRI research project to write their thesis (see research themes below). BDRI offers research materials and guidance to students participating in our internship program. Considering the preferences and skills of our trainees, we collaborate to tailor an appropriate internship topic for each individual.


Interns undertaking a thesis project engage in the same fieldwork and lab activities as other participants in the program (6 working hours / day; 5 days / week) (more information on the schedule of our interns here). Thesis writing is conducted during personal time as interns have extra time every day (interns only work 6 hours per day at the lab to have 2 extra hours to work on their thesis). All thesis contribute to ongoing BDRI research initiatives. The BDRI provides all the material, research equipment and supervision when a student comes to write a thesis. Data collection procedures at the institute are already established, and all resulting project topics are proposed to students depending on their background and preferences.


Thesis Project Data: An Exclusive Opportunity at BDRI

To ensure robust data, interns work with field data collected during previous research seasons. For instance, if a student joins the BDRI in a given research season, he/she will participate in the current field data collection, but will use field data collected during the previous research season to initiate thesis writing from the beginning of the internship. This provides a unique opportunity to alleviate concerns about data collection during the internship. In many other research institutions, students are required to both collect and analyze data during their internship, consequently limiting the amount of data available for analysis. At BDRI, field data collection methodology and design are established and consistent over the years. BDRI interns actively participate in field data collection, gaining a comprehensive understanding of the entire research process.


Data Collection and Research Equipment at BDRI

BDRI is dedicated to establishing baseline data on marine mammal and bird species in the coastal and pelagic waters of Galicia. Our focus involves studying the ecology of free-ranging cetaceans, primarily common bottlenose dolphins, through observations conducted via both boat-based and land-based platforms. Additionally, we gather information on various marine life such as birds, sharks, large fish, sea turtles, and otters. Our data collection methods comprise boat-based surveys employing photo-identification sampling, as well as land-based surveys. Field data collection involves gathering environmental factors (e.g., sea state, wind, swell, depth, tides, slope, water temperature) and anthropogenic variables (such as marine traffic, fisheries activities, etc.). To facilitate these endeavors, BDRI utilizes a range of research equipment including two fully-equipped research vessels with sonar, GPS, and cartographic plotters. Other tools encompass binoculars, scoping views, anemometer, Secchi disc, plankton net, microscopes, thermometer, compasses, cameras, clipboards, datasheets, and an office space outfitted with computers installed with relevant software (e.g., Office package, GIS, photo-ID, bioacoustics, statistical programs), a comprehensive library of scientific articles, Wi-Fi. We supplement our data collection efforts by gathering information from various platforms, including satellite data capturing supplementary variable such as chlorophyll-a levels, sea surface temperature, plankton biomass and pollutants. Additionally, we acquire supplementary data from GIS software, which includes measurements such as distance from the shore. Furthermore, we collect tide and sun-related data to enrich our comprehensive dataset.


Expectations for Writing a Thesis at BDRI

It is crucial to recognize that the responsibility for making substantial progress and producing high-quality work towards the completion of the thesis primarily lies with the intern. The thesis project should reflect independent effort and initiative. At BDRI, we value providing interns with responsibilities and experiences akin to those they might encounter in future marine science roles. Consequently, interns are expected to exercise critical thinking, work diligently, apply theoretical knowledge acquired at university, and actively acquire new insights through their work process. The role of the BDRI supervisor is to offer guidance, shaping, refining, and directing interns in their decision-making and various stages of their thesis.


A well-executed thesis should demonstrate the following:

✓ Awareness and comprehension of significant developments in the field
✓ Capability to plan a research activity
✓ Proficiency and dedication in conducting the planned research
✓ Competence in analyzing research findings
✓ Ability to draw sound conclusions based on the research
✓ Proficiency in presenting the work in the form of a well-structured and articulate thesis.


Thesis Proposal

When applying to write a thesis with the BDRI, students are required to discuss a research topic with their assigned BDRI supervisor. Upon topic approval, students should conduct preliminary research on the subject and study area, culminating in a concise proposal consisting of a literature review and project objectives spanning between 5000 to 10000 words. The proposal serves as a roadmap, elucidating the envisioned data collection process, data utilization methods, processing, analysis strategies, and most significantly, the thesis' objectives. Detailed and accurate delineation of these aspects is crucial, not only for our comprehension of the student's intentions but also for the student's effective planning and organization of the project. Following submission, the proposal undergoes review, and students are subsequently informed about the feasibility and adequacy of their proposed work with us. BDRI possesses an established methodology for field data collection, encompassing various environmental and anthropogenic variables pertinent to understanding the studied animals and their habitat. Nevertheless, students might identify additional variables of interest for their project. In such instances, students are expected to explicitly specify these variables and the methods required for their data collection.


Eligibility & Requirements

Highly motivated bachelor and master students in the fields of zoology, marine biology, veterinary science and related disciplines are invited to apply for a thesis project at the BDRI.

Carrying out a research project requires a minimum commitment of 4 consecutive weeks. We suggest a minimum of 12 weeks on onsite internship for a master's thesis.

It is imperative for every intern to bring their personal computer for thesis writing and data analysis purposes.


Additional information

Read our Use of Research Data Policy and Thesis Policy.

Funding opportunities: Students carrying out these projects are encouraged to apply for extramural or university funding to offset these costs.

Academic credit and arrangements: If the student intends to receive academic credit, he/she will be responsible for making all arrangements with their educational institutions.


Frequent Asked Question

Do I need to complete my thesis during my internship at BDRI?

- We highly recommend completing your thesis while undertaking your internship at BDRI to benefit from better supervision. However, if you're unable to finish writing your thesis on-site, you have the option to enroll in the Remote Thesis Program for additional supervision (details provided below).


Application guidelines

  • Students must first be admitted into the BDRI internship program.

If you're interested in undertaking a thesis project, visit the internship page, read the steps, and follow the application process. Once accepted as an intern, we will discuss potential projects, and you'll be expected to produce a suitable project proposal prior to your arrival.


We look forward to your participation and a successful research experience at the BDRI and we thank you for your interest.


Upon emailing, an automatic response with instructions for the internship program application will be sent to you. If the email does not appear in your inbox, kindly check your spam folder.


Feel free to send us an e-mail to: for any further information about the program.


Humpback whale in Galicia Studying whales in Spain Bottlenose dolphins and aquaculture Blue whale in Galicia


Research topics offered at BDRI

  • CETACEAN ECOLOGY - This research topic involves spatial analysis and the development of models using cetacean distribution data collected in Atlantic waters, specifically in Galicia, Spain. The outcomes of these studies aim to provide insights into the distribution of cetacean species in Galicia and to assess the impact of the environment (including human activities) on their distribution. For example, the Galician firths, known as Rías, located on the North-western coast of Spain, have been identified as areas where bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) are consistently present throughout the year. Therefore, these regions are ideal for investigating the potential locations of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) as per the EU Habitats Directive. Applicants interested in this research should possess a strong inclination towards GIS or modeling.

  • CETACEAN BEHAVIOUR - This research entails the analysis of behavioral data from various cetacean species, including bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), baleen whales such as the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), and harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) recorded in Atlantic waters, specifically within the region of Galicia, Spain. The outcomes of these studies are aimed at providing crucial insights into the individual and group behaviors exhibited by these species. Additionally, the research aims to assess the influence of the environment (including human activities) on the behavioral patterns of marine mammals. Applicants for this research should possess a strong interest in ethology and conservation.

  • BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN COMMUNICATION - The research topic involves the comprehensive analysis of bio-acoustical data sourced from different study areas (Galicia, Spain, and Sardinia, Italy) using various platforms such as hydrophones and passive acoustics monitoring devices. The primary objectives of these studies encompass a diverse range, including the assessment of bottlenose dolphins' sound production characteristics, exploration of social vocalizations by bottlenose dolphins across different contexts and environments, and the utilization of passive acoustic monitoring devices to detect the presence of cetaceans. The outcomes derived from these investigations are multifaceted. They aim to provide deeper insights into the social vocalizations of bottlenose dolphins, delve into the impact of environmental factors on these communication patterns, and examine how these factors influence the presence of dolphins in specific habitats. Prospective candidates with a keen interest in bioacoustics are strongly encouraged to apply.

  • DOLPHIN SOCIETY and MARK-RECAPTURE studies - This topic includes analysis of mark-recapture data from bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin and harbour porpoise groups recorded in Atlantic waters (Galicia, Spain). Outcomes of these studies will provide more information about population abundance, dolphin society and, in some cases, the impact of human activities. Applicants should have a strong interest in photo-identification, modelling, and social studies.

  • SKIN PIGMENTATION AND BODY MARKS IN CETACEANS - This specific topic includes analysis of photographic data of cetaceans recorded in Atlantic waters (Galicia, Spain). Outcomes of these studies will provide more information about cetacean external body conditions, taking into account intra- and inter-specific interactions, infections, diseases and in some cases the impact caused by human activities. Applicants should have a strong interest in ecology and photographic analysis.

  • MARINE BIRD ECOLOGY - This topic includes spatial analysis and creation of models from data about marine birds recorded in Atlantic waters (Galicia, Spain). Outcomes of these studies will provide more information about marine bird distribution (seagulls (Larus spp.), cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis), waders, auks and more) and the impact caused by human activities. Applicants should have a strong interest in GIS, marine birds, and modelling.

  • OTTER DIET - This topic includes data about the feeding ecology of  otters (Lutra lutra) in the Ría de Arousa (Galicia, Spain). Outcomes of these studies will provide more information about European otter ecology by studying the spraints and foraging behaviour. Applicants should have a strong interest in otters and laboratory analysis.

    BDRI 2024 thesis titles (non-exhaustive list):

    1. Using GIS to identify suitable sites for marine protected areas for cetaceans/marine birds in Galicia*
    2. Cetaceans distribution and use of habitat in Galician waters*
    3. Bottlenose dolphins’ habitat preferences in the Ría de Arousa
    4. Impact of human activities (aquaculture/fisheries/marine traffic) on cetacean distribution in Galicia*
    5. Spatio-temporal distribution of marine birds in the in Galician waters*
    6. Co-occurrence of cetaceans and marine birds in Galician waters*
    7. Marine debris and dolphins’ distribution*
    8. Influence of environmental variables on cetacean/marine bird distribution*
    9. Modelling cetaceans/marine birds’ habitat and distribution in Galician waters*a
    10. Determining the importance of cetaceans in marine ecosystems through the use of mass-balance models*a
    11. Abundance estimations of cetaceans in Galician waters using mark-recapture techniques*a
    12. Distribution of blue sharks in Galician waters
    13. Influence of fish abundance and distribution on cetacean behaviour behaviour/presence/distribution*


    1. Determining critical areas (foraging/nursing grounds) for cetaceans in the Ría de Arousa*
    2. Influence of anthropogenic activities (marine traffic/fisheries/aquaculture) on cetacean behaviour*
    3. Diving behaviour of cetaceans*
    4. Impact of marine traffic on cetacean behaviour*
    5. Social structure of bottlenose dolphinsa
    6. Site-fidelity and habitat use of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in South Galicia through the use of mark-recapture methods
    7. Site-fidelity and habitat use of fin whales (Balaenoptea physalus)


    1. Whistles production and characteristics in bottlenose dolphins
    2. Acoustic communication and associated behaviour of bottlenose dolphins
    3. Diurnal activity of bottlenose dolphins through the use of passive acoustic monitoring


    1. Description of natural body marks in cetaceans*
    2. Occurrence of anthropogenic body marks in cetaceans*


    Marine mammal diet
    1. Diet of the Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) of the Ría de Arousa


    Data are collected on wild cetaceans, marine birds, sharks and otters in Galicia (NW Spain). The BDRI has a research permit delivered by the Spanish Government in order to approach and study these animals.


    * The BDRI collects data on more than 10 species of cetaceans and 30 species of marine birds. These topics will therefore be based on one or several species of cetaceans or birds, depending on availability and candidate’s preference.
    a For long-term project only (>3 months internship).


    Many other projects can also be developed such as impact of human activities on marine environment, veterinarian, mass-balance modelling, ocean sciences, and more. For further details on the research projects being carried out at BDRI, go to our Research Projects page. Consult with the BDRI to explore the possibilities ( The BDRI is a very international environment and supervised dissertations can therefore be written in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish.


    Humpback whale in Galicia Bottlenose dolphins and aquaculture Studying dolphins and whales in Spain Bottlenose dolphins in Galicia


    Remote Thesis Program

    We also offer the chance to carry-out a thesis project remotely. Remote thesis projects are supervised by Dr. Bruno Díaz López and/or Dr. Séverine Methion. We provide student with weekly supervision and review of manuscript/data analysis. We can provide students with BDRI data but we also supervise students with their own data (students choosing to complete the project with BDRI data have to agree to and sign our data use policy before receiving any data). The minimum duration of a remote thesis project is 4 weeks. Thesis topics will be agreed based on data/project availability and student background and preferences.


    Remote thesis project fees:
    - Weekly supervision/training fee: €50/week including one 30-minute online meeting (via Zoom or Whatsapp) + 2 emails
    - Review fee: €50 for every -manuscript/data analysis- review. Feedback is provided via email or during the following online meeting (if any)
    - Administration/management fee: €100
    - BDRI data preparation/extraction fee: €100 (if the project includes BDRI data)

    - Extra online meetings: €50/meeting


    How to apply?

    - Read our Use of Research Data Policy and Thesis Policy.

    - Send us an email to with your resume and a cover letter stating your topic and project duration preference.


    For further information about our Remote Thesis Program feel free to email us at


    Upon emailing, an automatic response with instructions for the internship program application will be sent to you. If the email does not appear in your inbox, kindly check your spam folder.



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