Earthwatch volunteers tracked bottlenose dolphins in Mediterranean waters of Greece to help scientists understand and combat the main threats to them and their ecosystem.
Earthwatchers experienced traditional Greek life the charming village of Vonitsa on the Amvrakikos Gulf. Every day, they joined researchers to conduct surveys of bottlenose dolphins from a small research vessel.
The team scanned the waters of the Mediterranean for signs of dolphin activity. Once dolphins were found, the team followed the dolphin groups, recording information on their numbers, group composition, behavior, movement patterns, and interactions with the area’s fishing industry. The team identified individual dolphins by looking at distinguishing natural marks such as scars, bite marks, nicks, and notches on their dorsal fins.
Often volunteers found themselves in the middle of a dolphin group, occasionally including calves or newborns. Dolphins often approached the research boat to “bow ride” (be carried along with the boat in the water just below its bow), even when the boat was moving slowly, so volunteers were able to see them up close and, on occasion, hear their echolocation clicks and whistles.
Back at the field station, volunteers helped enter data and prepare digital images of dolphins’ dorsal fins to identify which individuals were seen in the field. The day ended with time to relax and enjoy the quiet beauty of the Mediterranean coast.