27 December 2008

Dolphins, Photography and Dreams


A recollection


Back in my twenties, when I was moving my first steps as a cetology geek, I was assigned the task of recording cetacean sightings at sea by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, who was my thesis co-advisor. ‘Find a boat and report what you see’, he said. Little was known back then - it was 1986 - about the distribution and ecology of whales and dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea. So I managed to embark on board a mid-size oceanographic ship and set out to defy my own seasickness, looking for dorsal fins and flukes from the upper deck of R/V ‘Bannock’, together with my colleague Benedetta Cavalloni.

Our very first cruise brought us to the Sicily Channel, where on the second day at sea I made one of my best sightings ever. A mixed group of nine common dolphins and one bottlenose dolphin came to ride the ship’s bow for a relatively long time. We had seen a school of striped dolphins on the previous day, but that event has faded in my memory. The early mixed Delphinus / Tursiops group, however, was not going to be forgotten.

The large bottlenose dolphin behaved as the leader and immediately positioned himself right in front of the bow, enjoying the pressure wave generated by the fast-moving ship and not allowing any of the smaller common dolphin group members to gain his apparently privileged position.

For some reason I had loaded a roll of black & white film but I soon realized that this wasn’t a good way of capturing such a colourful moment. I quickly got rid of those photos and inserted a roll of colour slides into my Pentax LX all-manual reflex camera.

Then the magic started. The morning light was beautiful and sharp, the dolphins lively and playful. Common dolphins were swimming fast on both sides of the ship, leaping at unison in golden water spry, gliding in the deep-blue water and showing their ochre-coloured flanks and amazing grace. I was absorbed by the difficult task of aiming, focusing and setting appropriate shutter speeds, but fully aware that I was shooting extraordinary photos. My first good photos of any cetacean species in the wild, something I had been dreaming about for years. I was there, eventually, and the beauty of the moment transcended my expectations.

At frame number 36 I was ready to change roll, but my camera kept going. At 38 I started worrying a little, but I had been hand-rolling my film and it wasn’t unusual to get a few additional photos. After frame number 40 I grew really nervous. What the hell was going on there? All the beauty disappeared and a thick fog filled my eyes. I kept shooting like a madman, telling myself that the roll was about to end, but it did not. In my hurry, I had failed to insert the tip of the film deep into the slit of the manual winder drive, and no image could be exposed. The camera had been shooting on idle. I opened the camera back and frantically tried to re-insert the roll, but the sighting was over. All the dolphins had left and even the morning light now looked kind of grey.

Some months later, Benedetta and I were invited to present our work to a public of specialists at the Milan Natural History Museum. These included Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, the eminent cetacean expert Luigi Cagnolaro and two scientists who had been pioneering field research on cetaceans in the Ligurian Sea: Michela Podestà and Luca Magnaghi. I was proud to be given an opportunity to report on our exploratory cruises and show the photos and data we had been collecting in the central and eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, that was my first public presentation and I felt overly nervous and uneasy. I desperately wanted to show that Benedetta and I had done a good job, but I was much too anxious for making a good impression to anyone. At the end of the slide show, after my disappointing talk, someone from the floor asked if we really had sighted common dolphins, particularly in a mixed group. A sighting of this species turned out to be an infrequent record, even back in the mid 80s. Could I project any slide to confirm our identification?

That was a moment of panic. As I was too ingenuous to find a clever excuse, I ended up confessing my technical mistake with stammering words, something that made me feel ridiculous and unfit. I cannot tell whether mouths really curved into ironic smiles and heads started shaking, or it was just my imagination. I felt horrible anyway. I had been unable to document an important sighting. I couldn’t even manage to use my own camera. Did I stand any chance to ever become a cetacean scientist?

Afterwards, Giuseppe asked me to show him the black & white photos and although these were no Bob Talbot’s, the identification of dolphins in the mixed group was unquestionable. At least our credibility was ok, but that whole experience was going to leave a lasting shade... in my dreams.

Since then, I have been regularly dreaming of extraordinary sightings: orcas swimming up a river, hundreds of dusky dolphins socializing in a beautiful sandy lagoon, sperm whales performing spectacular behaviours meters away from my boat. I was there with my camera, all excited for this opportunity to document something special, but unable to take a single photo. Have you ever experienced difficulty to walk or run in a dream, your legs suddenly turned into lead? I had a similar feeling about taking photos of the animals, and it felt painful.

Eventually, after many years, this kind of dreams stopped bothering me. Perhaps I managed to overcome my frustration, or alternative frustrations and nightmares came to replace that particular one. Today I can laugh at my early experience and tell myself that I should have set aside the camera to simply enjoy the wonderful sighting.


Giovanni Bearzi © 2008

17 December 2008

Are bottlenose dolphin daughters smarter or just more diligent than sons?


Back in 1997, researcher Rachel Smolker and colleagues studied bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Shark Bay, Western Australia, and they noticed that some females often carry sponges on the tips of their rostrum.

At that time they suggested that this behaviour was the first example of tool use by dolphins. Sponges might protect the cetacean that is searching for food on the seabed from the spines and stings of animals such as stonefish and stingrays.

Now, researcher Janet Mann found out that while mothers show both their male and female calves how to use sponges, female calves seem to be more interested in this behaviour than males. ‘The daughters seem really keen to do it, they try and try, whereas the sons don’t seem to think it’s a big deal and hang out at the surface waiting for their mothers to come back up’.

Researchers are still not sure why only part of the females' population is involved in this activity and why most of the ‘spongers’ are females. They are also trying to understand if this behaviour may have evolutionary and other benefits.

Silvia Bonizzoni

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Photo: Amanda C. Coakes

For more information:
Mann J., Sargeant B.L., Watson-Capps J.J., Gibson Q.A., Heithaus M.R., Connor R.C., Patterson E. 2008. Why Do Dolphins Carry Sponges? PLoS ONE 3(12): e3868. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003868

Smolker R.A., Richards A., Connor R., Mann J., Berggren P. 1997. Sponge-carrying by Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins: possible tool-use by a delphinid. Ethology 103: 454–465.

http://www.newscientist.com
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com

16 December 2008

Urgent action is needed to save Mediterranean common dolphins


A week after representatives of 110 governments met in Rome at the 9th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to discuss better protection for migratory species around the globe, conservationists and scientists call for urgent action to prevent the Mediterranean common dolphin from regional extinction. The issue was addressed during the International Summit on the Mediterranean Environment held in Crete, Greece, last week and organised by Essence Consulting with the support of the Hellenic National Commission for UNESCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the context of the “Year of the Dolphin”.

Greek authorities, conservationists, scientists and representatives of the artisanal fisheries sector met to discuss immediate measures to avoid the complete eradication of common dolphins and other endangered marine mammals. In 2003, Mediterranean common dolphins have been listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. This species is also listed in the CMS Appendixes I and II and protected by ACCOBAMS, the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area. However, no concrete action has been taken so far to protect these animals. As a result, the conservation status of common dolphins is now more alarming than ever.

According to representatives from OceanCare and WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, who participated in the Summit held in Crete, immediate management action can prevent a further decline of Mediterranean common dolphins, but Governments must act before it is too late for a species that - despite its name - is becoming less and less common.

The situation is particularly worrying in Greece, particularly in the waters east of Lefkada and around the island of Kalamos, where common dolphins decreased from 150 to only 15 animals over the past ten years. For this reason, a Call for Action to save the last common dolphins around Kalamos was launched by 13 regional and local NGOs and was endorsed by the Summit in Crete. This species is also declining in the Gulf of Vera, Spain. In the northern Adriatic Sea, common dolphins were abundant until the 1960s, but they have now completely disappeared.

The main factor thought to be causing the decline of common dolphins is reduced availability of their prey caused by excessive fishing pressure. Mortality in fishing gear, particularly driftnets, is another major source of concern. Conservationists and scientists demand concrete management action by the Governments, especially to reduce fishing pressure and enforce existing legislation.

“Scientists and conservationists spend much of their life frantically writing documents and recommendations, but little or nothing happens in the real world. Is paper, and then more paper, all that governments really want from us? When will the time for action come?” declared Giovanni Bearzi, President of the Tethys Research Institute and one of the leading experts of common dolphins.

(Press release by WDCS and OceanCare)

05 December 2008

Stop hunting Faroese pilot whales (they aren't safe for human consumption!)


Every year, photos of the pilot whales slaughter in the Faroe Islands are shown in various web sites to condemn the barbarity of this activity.

Every year Danish and Faroese officers reply by claiming that whaling is part of their culture and a fully sustainable tradition.

While NGOs and private citizens have long been trying to stop this practice, advocating respect for highly-evolved marine mammals, their efforts so far have been unsuccessful. However, now there may be a new reason to stop slaughtering pilot whales.

Faroese chief medical officers have recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered safe for human consumption, simply because their meat and blubber contain too much mercury, PCBs and DDT.

Silvia Bonizzoni and Giovanni Bearzi

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http://www.newscientist.com
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grindadrap
http://therotundaramblings.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/danish-pride/

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Danish officers' reply to a complaint:

Dear Sir
The Danish Foreign Ministry has received your letter where you express your feelings caused by some pictures circulating on the internet depicting selected scenes from the catching of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. We take note of the fact that a number of people find the above mentioned pictures disturbing. However, before passing any judgment upon whaling in general or the Faroese pilot whale drive fishery in particular one will need to supplement a possibly negative aesthetic first hand impression with considerations of a number of issues such as:
· General principles regarding use of wildlife;
· Biodiversity: the effects of the catch upon the relevant whale stock;
· Principles regarding the sustainable use of ocean resources, including interdependence between marine mammals and fish stocks;
· Animal welfare issues, including comparisons of a whale hunt with other hunts of large mammals in the wild, with the treatment of farmed animals throughout their life cycle, and of animals which are regarded as a nuisance; one might even consider certain kinds of non-food-related violent treatment of large mammals, found in some cultures.
· Ethics of food production in general. Does a meal of pilot whale meat represent more or less cumulated man-made animal pain than dishes normally eaten in one’s own country?
· Ecological questions, notably the ecological footprint of different modes of meat production, including the choice between local and imported food.
· Geographic and nutritional factors, availability of alternative food sources, notably in islands and remote coastal areas, not least in arctic or sub-arctic parts of the world.
· Cultural diversity, and tolerance/intolerance towards people with different food preferences and/or different attitudes towards different animals;
The Faroe Islands have autonomy within the Kingdom of Denmark. The islands are not included in Denmark’s membership of the European Union. Affairs regarding industry, agriculture, the environment, fishing and whaling, are subject to Faroese autonomy. If you want to address the Faroese authorities regarding pilot whaling, the e-mail address of the Foreign Department of the Faroese Government is mfa@mfa.fo; The e-mail address of the Faroese department of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs is fisk@fisk.fo;
If you, before forming your own finite opinion of the subject, or before addressing the relevant authorities, should be interested in acquiring some factual knowledge about whaling in the Faroe Islands, you may turn to the homepage on whaling of the Faroese authorities:
http://www.whaling.fo/

Kind regards,
THE EDITORS OF DENMARK.DK
EDITORS@DENMARK.DK
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF DENMARK
ASIATISK PLADS 2 / DK-1448 KØBENHAVN K
WWW.DENMARK.DK - THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF DENMARK

04 December 2008

A new bottlenose dolphin species?


Two species were already included in the genus Tursiops: the common bottlenose dolphin T. truncatus and the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin T. aduncus. Now a third species has been described in the waters off southern Australia.

This dolphin looks like the Indo-Pacific species, but genetically it is very different and according to the authors who published this finding it should be classified as a separate species.

Researchers from the Marine Mammal Research Group of Macquarie University, Sidney, say that this species is quite closely related to the Fraser's dolphin Lagenodelphis hosei, which lives in deep waters mostly in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The suggested common name of this ‘newborn’ species would be Southern Australian bottlenose dolphin, but a scientific name can only be given after a formal description.

It remains to be seen whether this species will be formally and unanimously recognized by the scientific community.

Silvia Bonizzoni

Möller L.M., Bilgmann K., Charlton-Robb K., Beheregaray L. 2008. Multi-gene evidence for a new bottlenose dolphin species in southern Australi. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 49(2):674-681.

Photo from Macquarie University

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For more information:
www.wildlifeextra.com
www.pr.mq.edu.au

02 December 2008

Sousa still struggling


The unique Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) found in the strait between Taiwan’s western coast and Hong Kong has long been suffering hardship.

The west coast of Taiwan spans a sea of ‘industrial parks’, which have been seen to dump their waste runoff directly into the adjacent coast. Unfortunately, the adjacent coast also houses Sousa sightings. With seafood occupying the majority of the Taiwanese food market, the coastline and the surrounding waters of Taiwan are also filled with a variety of nets including gill nets and large driftnets.

This harsh environment leaves little chance for the declining numbers of these dolphins who are believed to be less than 90 individuals and, thanks to a recent study from Dr. John Wang, are a distinct population from that of Hong Kong.

Local marine biologists, NGOs and international scientists are working hard to help these remarkable mammals to recover but the way seems to be long. Only a few months ago, this dolphin was listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as ‘Critically Endangered’, the most serious category of threat before extinction!

We hope that the endangered declaration will increase pressure on the Taiwanese government to protect the dolphins' habitat. But this is not enough, much more must be done quickly to help stabilize and eventually bring the Sousa population back to stronger numbers.

Shiva Javdan

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Photo from csiwhalesalive.org

For more information:
IUCN Red List - Sousa chinensis
Taiwan Sousa blogspot
www.cms.int

22 November 2008

Lucky penguins


What is really remarkable here isn't the penguins avoiding orca attacks, but rather the fact that orcas did not attack the inflatable to feast on pinguins and humans...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTLptH63gIs

P.S. forget abut the music...

20 November 2008

Amazing photos


Amazing underwater photos of common dolphins, sharks and birds feasting on sardines off the South African coast.

Absolutely wonderful!

Don't miss them, have a look!

16 November 2008

From a cetacean point of view


Have you ever wondered how it feels being a cetacean?

Some footage taken by swimming whales can be seen on the web site of Dr. Robin Baird

Thanks to a crittercam system attached to the animal with a suction cup, which rotates to face into the direction the animal is swimming, Dr. Baird and his team are studying the diving behaviour of cetaceans in Hawaiian waters.

Have a look at this amazing footage! You will see false killer whales, short-finned pilot whales, and oceanic white-tip sharks.

Silvia Bonizzoni

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For more information:
www.cascadiaresearch.org

15 November 2008

A mini-helicopter for studying whales


Dr. Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse (Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Zoological Society of London), found out a new way to study disease in whales.

Forget about samples taken from stranded, dead or captive animals and think about a 3.5 feet-long helicopter! This small remotely-controlled machine flies over the whale as it surfaces to breathe expelling air through its blow hole. At that time, gases and mucus blown out are collected in sterile Petri dishes attached to the mini-helicopter, and are then examined to see whether the animal is carrying any disease.

The new research method has been tested in the Gulf of California and off the western coasts of Baja California.

Silvia Bonizzoni

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For more information:
Mini-helicopter used to test whale health

01 November 2008

Rare footage of vaquita


Chris Johnson, an acclaimed cetacean filmmaker who worked with Tethys in the recent past, is currently busy in Mexico with the ‘Expedition Vaquita’.

There, he is working with scientists from Mexico, the U.S., the U.K. and Japan to film vaquitas Phocoena sinus, the most endangered and the smallest cetacean in the world.

After some days in the field, Chris was a little ‘upset’ as suggested by his Blog: “I kept thinking how I was probably the only one on the expedition who had not glimpsed a vaquita yet. I was so busy filming the unfolding action...

But... good things come to those who wait!” and, on October 23rd, he managed to film the rare vaquita!

This video is part of Whale Trackers, a series of documentary programmes that journey across the world’s oceans to explore the lives of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Have a look to the first rare footage of vaquita!

SB

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For more information:
The vaquita porpoise
IUCN Red List: Phocoena sinus

28 October 2008

When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish


I wrote a short essay that was accepted as an Editorial in the renown scientific journal Conservation Biology.

This article is now in press and its published version should be out in February 2009. I would like to share it with Blog readers ahead of print.

The essay is meant to be food for thought for people including myself.

Giovanni Bearzi

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Bearzi G. In press. When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish. Conservation Biology (scheduled February 2009).
(84 Kb)

25 October 2008

New Mediterranean monk seal breeding colony in the Aegean Sea, Greece


An island previously reserved for military use turned out to be a safe heaven for the endangered Mediterranean monk seal. Three out of the eight caves are suitable for pupping and in 2004 ten pups were identified, four in 2005 and seven in 2007.

Being off limits for all but the military, the beaches of this island provided a safe place for mothers and pups to rest, a behavior that has not been observed in this species in the Mediterranean Sea recently.

This newly discovered colony, with relatively high natality compared to other breeding sites in the Mediterranean Sea and the rare use of open beaches, is of outstanding conservation value and is in urgent need of effective protection.

Eleonora De Sabata

Illustration: distribution of Mediterranean monk seal, from Monachus Guardian

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For more information:

Dendrinos D., A.A. Karamanlidis, S. Kotomatas, V. Paravas, S. Adamantopoulou. 2008. Report of a new Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) breeding colony in the Aegean Sea, Greece. Aquatic Mammals 34(3):355-361.

24 October 2008

A dark time for scientists in Italy

The grim situation of research in Italy is raising international interest. An editorial recently published on Nature, one of the top science journals, portrays a scary picture (see link below).

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Cut-throat savings
Editorial -- Nature 455, 835-836 (16 October 2008) | doi:10.1038/455835b; Published online 15 October 2008

23 October 2008

Call for the conservation of common dolphins around Kalamos, Greece


Scientific research done by Tethys since 1991 documented ecosystem damage caused by overfishing in the Greek waters east of Lefkada and around the island of Kalamos - a Natura 2000 area.

This resulted in ecosystem collapse and decline of marine megafauna including formerly abundant short-beaked common dolphins.

Local and regional non-governmental organizations have now joined forces to call for urgent fisheries management action that may result in ecosystem recovery, protect biodiversity, preserve fish stocks, and allow for the long-term survival of artisanal fisheries.

To see the Call: http://www.cetaceanalliance.org/call/

Giovanni Bearzi

22 October 2008

An encounter with a dying killer whale calf


Our friend Chris Johnson, while on a vaquita research expedition in Mexico, witnessed and documented an encounter with a lone killer whale calf.

Watch the video at:
http://www.whaletrackers.com/blogs/expedition-vaquita/killer-whale.html

18 October 2008

Delphi's Dolphins


In 2009 the Tethys Research Institute will launch a dolphin research and conservation project in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece, in the context of Tethys' long-standing Ionian Dolphin Project.

The Gulf is a semi-closed area inhabited by three cetacean species: bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins and short-beaked common dolphins.

Surveys at sea with inflatable craft will be conducted between April and September 2009. Detailed information and photo albums can be found online at: http://www.tethys.org/tri_courses/courses_index_e.htm (Select: Ionian Dolphin Project)

Researchers and volunteers will stay in a comfortable field station located in the beautiful village of Galaxidi, a short drive away from the stunning archeological site of Delphi.

Ionian Dolphin Project updated


The web site of Tethys' Ionian Dolphin Project has just been updated and renewed.

It now includes a comprehensive report of some of the work done by Tethys collaborators in the eastern Ionian Sea across 18 years - between July 1991 and September 2008.

Please visit the new site at: Ionian Dolphin Project.

17 October 2008

Bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean


Tethys president Giovanni Bearzi, together with colleagues Caterina Maria Fortuna and Randall R. Reeves, have just published a review paper on bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean Sea.

Bearzi G., Fortuna C.M., Reeves R.R. 2008. Ecology and conservation of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Mediterranean Sea. Mammal Review. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2907.2008.00133.x

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Ecology and conservation of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Mediterranean Sea

Giovanni Bearzi, Caterina Maria Fortuna and Randall R. Reeves

Copyright © 2008 Mammal Society/Blackwell Publishing

ABSTRACT

1. Bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus are amongst the best-known cetaceans. In the Mediterranean Sea, however, modern field studies of cetaceans did not start until the late 1980s. Bottlenose dolphins have been studied only in relatively small portions of the basin, and wide areas remain largely unexplored.

2. This paper reviews the ecology, behaviour, interactions with fisheries and conservation status of Mediterranean bottlenose dolphins, and identifies threats likely to have affected them in historical and recent times.

3. Whilst intentional killing was probably the most important cause of mortality until the 1960s, important ongoing threats include incidental mortality in fishing gear and the reduced availability of key prey caused by overfishing and environmental degradation throughout the region. Additional potential or likely threats include the toxic effects of xenobiotic chemicals, epizootic outbreaks, direct disturbance from boating and shipping, noise, and the consequences of climate change.

4. The flexible social organization and opportunistic diet and behaviour of bottlenose dolphins may allow them to withstand at least some of the effects of overfishing and habitat degradation. However, dolphin abundance is thought to have declined considerably in the region and management measures are needed to prevent further decline.

5. Management strategies that could benefit bottlenose dolphins, such as sustainable fishing, curbing marine pollution and protecting biodiversity, are already embedded in legislation and treaties. Compliance with those existing commitments and obligations should be given high priority.

15 October 2008

How to sex a dolphin


Assessing the ratio of males to females in endangered populations is important for conservation work. Sexing a dolphin at sea is tricky, not least because the genital area of the mammal is usually concealed beneath the water. Researchers generally have to rely on time-consuming observations, either inferring a female's sex from its close association with a calf or taking sharp photos of the genital area (and the dorsal fin). The alternative is a biopsy sample, potentially unpleasant for the animal, again combined wih photos allwing for the individual identification of that individual.

Lucy Rowe and Stephen Dawson, marine biologists at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, found an alternative. They recently published a paper reporting how photographs of dorsal fins were used to determine the gender of bottlenose dolphins in a well-studied population in New Zealand's Doubtful Sound. This technique allowed to sex the animals from features measured solely from dorsal fin identification photographs, routinely collected as part of non-invasive population monitoring.

The pair teamed an over-the-counter digital camera with a pair of laser pointers, which project two reference spots precisely 10 cm apart onto the dorsal fin. This procedure allowed an accurate determination of dorsal fin size. The digital photographs were then compared with existing fin and sex records for the population.

Applying this technique, the two researchers found that dorsal fins of males had significantly more scars than female's, probably as a result of aggressive behaviour among males. Fins had a median of 15% scar tissue, whereas in females this was just 3.9%. Conversely, the dorsal fins of females tended to have a greater number of patchy skin lesions, with a median of 12.1% coverage compared with males' 6.8%. Rowe and Dawson then used a statistical analysis of number of fin nicks, fin size and scarring to correctly predict the sex of 93% of 43 dolphins.

This laser technique could potentially be applied to other populations of dolphin or even to other species with slight sexual dimorphism. The authors are currently testing their technique to another population of dolphins in the nearby Dusky Sound, and "initial signs are good".

Annalise Petroselli

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Rowe L., Dawson S. 2008. Determining the sex of bottlenose dolphins from Doubtful Sound using dorsal fin photographs. Marine Mammal Science doi: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2008.00235.x

More information: Nature.com

10 October 2008

Dolphins of Greece, 1-9 October 2008


The Dolphins of Greece is not only an absolute wonderful experience, but it allocates for one a time to reflect upon the environmental conditions we live today. Each day was a new experience. Each day in the Gulf was a new way to look at the life of not only the dolphins but all who interact within this environment. Joan and Mauro were excellent mentors who challenged us to critique all that was observed. I can think of no one else I would rather have to lead this group! The team was great and the interaction was extremely beneficial. This was a big addition to my 11 week trip throughout Europe. Keep up the good works and education to us all!

Dale, Texas

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The Dolphins of Greece expedition provided through Earthwatch was an absolutely AWESOME and AMAZING experience!!! Joan and Mauro were wonderful as a Principle Investigator and research assistant. They taught me so much about in-the-field research and the video documentaries were very educational. The accomodations were truly amazing, the food was incredibly delicious, the views was awe-inspiring, and the dolphins were breath-taking. I had such a wonderful time and learned more than I had ever hoped to. I know that I will be able to use this experience to help raise awareness and educate others about all of the important issues that relate to this expedition! Thanks so much!

Amanda, Florida

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This was my first Earthwatch trip and it was worth every penny. I appreciated Joan’s sarcasm and forthright communication style. We were very lucky to have two people on our trip who were dolphin trainers and educators from the Sea World environment. Their experience allowed Joan to delve a little deeper into the science and the methodology and we all benefited from this. The food was really tasty throughout the week, the accommodations very nice, and Posi the dog was a highlight. I learned from the videos and lectures as well as from the doing the actual surveys of dolphin behavior. We were fortunate enough to see dolphins each time we went out so we had varied experiences. There were times that it was a little stressful on the boat but seeing the dolphins made it all worthwhile. Mauro was the assistant during our trip and he was really an asset to the group. His sense of humor and intelligence made the excursions fun and interesting. Overall, this was a great trip with great people, a great place to visit, and great animals to study. I can’t wait to share what I learned with everyone back home.

Jana, Colorado

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Since this was my first Earthwatch trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a GREAT trip and I’m definitely interested in taking other Earthwatch trips now. I really enjoyed getting to see the dolphins, learning about the research processes and seeing Greece. Joan’s personality made it enjoyable. His sarcasm and frankness was refreshing and made his occasional grumpiness bearable ☺. The banter between Joan and Mauro was a lot of fun. It was clear to see how much both of them care about dolphins and the environment. It was fun sharing geocaching with the group and I’m glad we finally got Joan to the castle! I learned a lot from the documentaries and I have a lot to teach people back home. Thanks for the great experience.

Suzanne, Colorado

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The Dolphins of Greece was my first Earthwatch expedition, and it has exceeded my expectations. I work for Sea World and the Sea World/Busch Gardens Conservation Fund sent me on this expedition, and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. I work with dolphins on a daily basis and it was such a good learning opportunity to see Joan’s work with the dolphins in the gulf and to be able to observe the animals in their natural habitat. Although I had a base of knowledge about dolphins, Joan and Mauro were exceptional teachers and I learned more than I antcipated. I really enjoyed the emphasis on conservation and I now feel like I have a large amount of knowledge that I can pass on to my fellow co-workers and guests of Sea World. This trip has also strengthened my desire to pursue more education and to work in the field of marine consevation. My fellow volunteers were wonderful and much of our time was spent laughing with each other. The group dynamics with the volunteers, Joan and Mauro were excellent and we all shared a similar sense of humor. The accomadations were great and I really enjoyed the time we spent sight-seeing and eating together. I cannot say enough good things about this trip and feel so fortunate to have been able to participate on this expedition.

Mary, California

07 October 2008

Emptied Oceans


A short video on YouTube, worth watching:

Emptied Oceans

Everybody who spent their childhood near the Mediterranean Sea coast, snorkelling, diving, fishing, or just walking along the coast, can probably tell a similar story.

I myself am shocked by the degree of devastation and loss. Only 30 years ago I have seen a diversity of marine life that does no longer seem to exist, and fish in numbers and sizes that just aren't there anymore.

Giovanni Bearzi

05 October 2008

Kalamos' Last Team, 29 September - 4 October 2008


“4 O’clock Out, Out… 5, no, 6, 7 sighted!” Five pairs of eyes swivel as one over to the right of the boat and peer expectantly over the clear blue water. I can feel the level of the excitement in and around me rise as the details of the sighting become clear. If I don’t see anything except water straightaway I feel so disappointed. Then a few seconds later, the glorious sight of a dorsal fin arcing out from the waters surface and then through the air releases all the tension and I could swear the beautiful dolphins were grinning at me before they glide back out of sight. The sun is behind me warming my back and nature is putting on an acrobatic display for me before my very eyes. I feel so spoilt.

If that wasn’t enough then, as soon as I return to the cottage hidden away in the islands hillside, a feeling of relaxation overwhelms me. Seven year-round residents, a few visiting boats, Stefano and Zsuzsanna form the Tethys team, the other volunteers Marta and Ruth... and me. It is not an island of sights and manicured prettiness, but there is the most amazing peace and quiet. This is not 5-star luxury... the treatment I receive from the Tethys team is far simpler and far better than that. I realise that hospitality should be measured with hearts and not stars. From Susie’s early morning call, to beautiful music and a breakfast of simple food, locally sourced. Coffee if it’s needed, and nothing is too much trouble to ask for. I have never felt at home so quickly anywhere. Including home.


I soon realised that the team look after you better than any waiter, butler or maid, because they treat you (and in turn you treat them) just like a family. There is a complete respect and a feeling of support. The team ethic here is strong too. It needs to be for Tethys to run such a tight, professional operation, but one that opens its doors to complete strangers every week. I am completely absorbed into the research team. I clean and cook with them. I sail, spot dolphins and record the results with them. I work on the results with them and I feel like I am doing good to the world with them. And then, at the end of each day, I eat and relax with them. This is not a holiday for loners, or a place to come to have your entertainment pre-packaged and served up to order. The satisfaction of a job well done and the smiles that I share from the natural fun of a close-knit group are more than enough for me.


It is amazing too to see the people I was laughing with, just the night before, transformed into a highly focussed crew on a boat. Orders are barked because they need to be. Discipline is high, but every rule is in place for a reason. I know when I’ve done something wrong and I soon realise that when they are at work, their business is taken very seriously.

Everything that they and I do is explained clearly and with care, and this brings my visit to Tethys to life even more. Now I understand why the ropes on a boat must be tied just so, why the settings on a camera are important to get the best images for recognition and why accuracy in all activity is paramount. And I also understand a little why the ecology of the sea is changing, and what just a few of the causes and impacts of this might be. And maybe, just maybe, how a few things that I do can change it. There is no preaching here, just simple logic, backed up by fact and research. It is much more powerful than any other message I have ever seen. Nothing is shocking, just well presented by people who love what they do and their passion for their work is infectious.

And then I’m back on the boat. Dolphins are nearby and my heart is racing because I know I must perform my task well to help record their activity. And I understand why the smallest details are important, and it all makes sense. When the work is done for the first sighting I know there will be time to relax and enjoy watching the creatures we’ve recorded play. To take photos, to marvel at their beauty and their personality. And because I now understand just a little more about why they do, what they do and what it means for the world, I feel closer to them than I could ever have imagined and I can smile back at them with all my heart.


Andy, U.K.

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The Ionian Dolphin Project is neither a dolphin-watching-program nor a pure holiday. It is much, much more than this – and it is something completely different. I joined as a volunteer primarily because I have been travelling to Greece for some years now and I wanted to see a different side of this country I so fell in love with. I was always aware of the fact that there was more to it than Ouzo and Sirtaki, but this week on the Kalamos island was more than I had thought it would be.

I experienced true international teamwork in the best possible way. I spent more time outside in a week than I usually get in a month. I enjoyed some brilliant home made (Italian!!!) food. I learned a lot about cetaceans in the Greek seas and about the problem of over-fishing. And yes, I did see dolphins in the wild. But the amazing thing is that the days we did not see dolphins were not even the least bit less interesting, fun or informative as the days we actually saw them.


A big fat THANK YOU to the incredible staff, Stefano, Zsuzsanna and Mauro for making it so easy to feel as part of the project. And thumbs up for Marta and Andy, probably the best roommates I ever had.


Ruth, Germany

30 September 2008

Kalamos, 21-27 September


When arriving at Mytikas, a small fishermen village, the first sensations that you feel are the calm, the piece of mind of the places. The beauty of the landscape completely catches your attention! Even if not speaking English, charming, smiling and friendly people welcome you, trying to help you and give you advices.

While I wait for the boat that will bring me to the island of Kalamos, the other volunteers arrive one by one and we begin to chat and know each other. In the meantime, I start questioning myself and the anxiety is coming: “Why did I decide to come here? Will the atmosphere be good in the group? Did I choose the right program? For me, it is like a bet.” I will get the answers soon…
I chose to be a volunteer in this program to discover how the project is managed by the researchers and what are the impacts of their surveys, to have a human-being relationship experience, and of course to see the dolphins. And now, today, I can say: “Yes the bet has been won”.

The week spent in Kalamos was really nice and unforgettable.
All-important subjects of the project have been discussed and the atmosphere was really funny and friendly. The harmony in the group was real, everyone participating in the daily activities. It was really pleasant to live in Kalamos, a beautiful island untouched by mass tourism. And dolphins… it is difficult to explain what you feel when you see them, you have to live this experience to understand it. On the boat, we were like children, shouting each time we saw one of them! We tried to count them: one, two, three, four, five, six! We realized that we were surrounded by them, far away or just near the boat, and also below the boat. We participated in the data collection necessary for the survey of the researchers, which was really exciting. Then we followed the dolphins, and we were simply spectators of their life in their environment, in freedom, and tried to not disturb them. It was really fantastic and dolphins are fabulous animals.

Many thanks to the three researchers Stefano, Susanna and Mauro, passionate people engaged in cetacean research. They took the necessary time to explain us their project, their message, their work, and involve us in the activities. It was a pleasure to meet people so involved in a beautiful cause, having such interesting, exciting and useful job. They were understanding, patient and respectful. Many thanks to the volunteers: Suzanne, Bridgette, Françoise and Gabriele for their cheerfulness and discussions. Thanks to all for the good recipes and funny dinners!


Isabelle, France

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Vorrei ringraziare Stefano, Susie e Mauro per l’impegno, il rispetto dell’ambiente, la professionalità e la simpatia. Nella mia seconda esperienza in Tethys il tempo (meteorologico) non è stato dalla nostra parte, ma nonostante ciò torno a casa con un’altra esperienza piena di belle sensazioni. L’ultimo giorno madre natura ci ha regalato una giornata piena di sole e l’avvistamento di numerosi delfini, davvero meraviglioso! Sarà vera la teoria dei desideri che diventano realtà soltanto se ci si crede davvero? Mi convinco sempre di più che sia vero e, in base a questa convinzione, credo che tutti coloro che lavorano e aderiscano a Tethys (e a tutte le idee e i coraggiosi progetti che valorizzano la vita) contribuiscano a un mondo migliore. Auguri a tutti, continuate così!

Gabriele, Switzerland/Italy

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What did I expect from a week spent with the Ionian Dolphin Project? 1) a chance to learn about dolphins and their conservation, 2) a chance to meet new friends, 3) a chance to get involved in a research project that could benefit the environment and 4) a chance to experience a different country. Did the week fulfil these expectations? Yes and more...

We did see dolphins – although, due to weather conditions, we had to wait until the last day for a 'proper' sighting. The weather restricted our chances on the other days. But it was worth waiting for.
The house is basic but comfortable. Our group got on extremely well, contributing to the team effort both in the house and on the boat. I was sad to leave at the end of the week.

Bridgette, U.K.

27 September 2008

Origami whale


If you want to say “stop” to whaling carried out by the Japanese fleet, go to the dedicated Greenpeace web site. You can send a message to the Japanese Prime Minister to ask him to stop 'scientific' whaling and the cetacean meat trade... and express your creativity.

You can make your own ‘origami whale’: choose the paper you prefer, add details and a voice to your animal, write a message on top and let it swim in the ocean. From the coasts of Australia - a major whaling antagonist - to the waters of Japan, your whale will travel to bring your important message. After some days you can even check where your animal is on the map.

Don’t forget to send invitations to your friends asking them to embrace the cause, as nearly 50,000 people have done so far.

Francesca Zardin

26 September 2008

An unusual flying encounter


It was my first week for this season, and I was really happy to be back on board of the Tethys research vessel ‘Pelagos’. Thinking that a second year team member should work very carefully, I was trying to do my best in every task, starting from the sighting shifts. So during the winter I studied bird identification, too, since we also collect information on their presence during the navigation.

Herring gull, shearwater - ok, these are easy. Cormorant, puffin - too rare, I’ll never be so lucky. Audouin's gull, tern… ok I’ve got it!

I was feeling pretty confident about the species names, and during my shifts I was eager to report any flying fledged... Encounter: two adults herring gulls... Encounter: three shearwaters...

The principal investigator for the week was teasing me, but I was playing the ornithologist with conviction, so I persisted. Encounter: one tern...

Then, while I was on my sighting shift again, something strange appeared flying through my field of vision. Small, orange head, black and white dotted wings… Hoopoe! I suddenly screamed.

However, that one wasn't quite within its typical habitat. Upupa epops is a typical bird of cultivated grounds... what was it doing so far from the coast?

Francesca Zardin

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Photo by Vezon Thierry / photo.net

24 September 2008

Whale Trackers


Whale Trackers
, a series of the five educational documentary films, is going to be officially presented at the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Whale Trackers examines the threats that individual species face, and focuses on the people who are making a difference to preserve the animals, by connecting their fate to the health of their respective habitats.

It is based on five episodes about 1) the unique natural history of the Mediterranean Sea and the whales and dolphins that live in this area, 2) the amazing images of the elusive and endangered sperm whales that live along the Hellenic Trench, 3) the foolish illegal driftnet fishery that is putting marine life at risk, 4) the reasons of the disappearance of the wonderful Mediterranean common dolphins, 5) the importance of establishing marine protected areas.

The first and fourth episodes have been done in collaboration with Tethys researchers working in the Ligurian and Ionian Seas.

The video by Chris and Genevieve Johnson (earthOCEAN) will be shown on October 8th, during the IUCN conference, as part of Conservation Cinema, a selection of about 50 movies that showcase examples of successful conservation projects and depict stunning wildlife images and scenery.

If you are not going to attend the IUCN congress you can still watch the videos online... don’t miss them!

Silvia Bonizzoni

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More information about the IUCN congress in Barcelona

Watch the videos

23 September 2008

New paper on cetaceans and global warming


A new paper about the possible relationship between global warming and cetaceans is now available. Tethys researcher Arianna Azzellino, together with other colleagues, published "Biological consequences of global warming: does sea surface temperature affect cetacean distribution in the western Ligurian Sea?".

The work focuses on three cetacean species - striped dolphin, fin whale and sperm whale and is based on research done between 1996 and 2000 in a study area of 20,000 Km2.

The authors conclude that in the western Ligurian Sea sea surface temperature represents a key factor for the habitat selection by these three cetacean species and recommend further investigation to assess how global climate change may affect the structure of cetacean communities living in this area.

Silvia Bonizzoni

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Azzellino A., Gaspari S.A., Airoldi S., Lanfredi C. 2008. Biological consequences of global warming: does sea surface temperature affect cetacean distribution in the western Ligurian Sea? Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 88(6):1145–1152.

22 September 2008

Autumn in Kalamos


Autumn has arrived in Kalamos. This week was not the best in terms of weather and sea conditions, but we could try out something new.

The rough sea did not allow doing the surveys in the first days, so we were forced to stay in the island, which was not a punishment at all. This was a good opportunity for a long walk to Kalamos village and to discover the beauty of the island.

After the rain, the air was filled up with the scent of pines, so the walk was pleasant and refreshing. The nature was pretty much alive, lots of insects and birds came out after the rain to get some sunshine. We even spotted a pair of peacocks! We did not realise that time was passing because the view was exceptional and nature was shining in its original colours. The time was just perfect for taking photos, and this day has been a gift for those who - like me - enjoy nature photography.

Despite the sea conditions, we were scanning the sea surface from our land observational point and spending peaceful moments listening to the songs of birds. We saw cormorants drying themselves on the rocks of Episkopi harbour and we could identify some forest birds and pheasants based on their songs. In the backyard of our house there has been a continuous flow of visitors: goats, roosters, pheasants and wonderful butterflies. Living in Episkopi really feels like being a part of nature.

Our hope to spot dolphins increased and finally, on the last day, we had a great sighting with bottlenose dolphins and the group could try out their data collection skills. At the end of the sighting, everyone was ready to take their own photos... and realize that taking photos of dolphins in the wild is not so easy ☺

Overall, this week was full of surprises. Rain, sunshine and strong wind, but there was a good mood and the time we spent together was very pleasant, cooking a lot and listening to the ‘unforgettable’ music of the 80’s during dinner preparation, which created a special atmosphere.

Zsuzsanna Pereszlenyi

Kalamos, 14-20 September


“Ready?” “Ready!” “Hold on” e siamo partiti. I quel momento ho sentito che tutti i miei pensieri rimanevano lì sulla terra ferma, mentre il resto di me andava verso quell’isola sconosciuta che ho subito sentito come casa... In questi giorni non ho dovuto pensare a niente, mi sono rilassata tantissimo e soprattutto ho imparato un sacco di cose. Anche se siamo state un po’ sfortunate con il tempo, direi proprio che l’ultimo giorno abbiamo recuperato. Credo che descrivere le sensazioni provate in compagnia dei delfini sia inutile, non saprei esprimermi adeguatamente. Voglio solo dire che se potessi, starei qui ‘a tempo indeterminato’! E’ stata un’esperienza profonda che spero proprio di poter ripetere. Un grazie speciale a Susie e Stefano che mi hanno fatta sentire perfettamente a mio agio. Grazie a tutti.

Aurora, Italy

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Che bello trovarsi tra amici e condividere la stessa passione. Formidabile, ci siamo conosciuti da poco ed è come se ci conoscessimo da sempre. La pace che il mare ti sa infondere è tangibile anche qui alla base di Episkopi, a casa. Sì, la mia casa per una settimana, il luogo dove si imparano cose molte importanti, ma soprattutto dove si impara a convivere con persone che provengono da vari paesi e culture, con abitudini e comportamenti diversi. Una palestra di vita molto importante che insegna che la condivisione e la tolleranza sono il segreto per un futuro migliore, un futuro di sorrisi e di pace. Grazie a Tethys e ai volontari che hanno condiviso con me questa settimana. Un sincero augurio di gioia e serenità.

Anna, Italy

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I have really enjoyed my time in Episkopi. I did feel a little down-hearted at the beginning of the week with the rainy weather, however this extra time did enable us to enjoy a long walk to Kalamos and thus explore some more of this beautiful island. We also had more relaxing days and ate very very well!! I enjoyed the lectures we had each day (sounds strange eh!); it was very interesting as a Vet to find out more about dolphin behaviour and ecology and discover about the risks of overfishing. The last day was definitely the high-point of the trip. Lovely sunshine, calm seas and finally a dolphin sighting!!! It was very interesting to get involved in data collection, the theory of it is very different to doing it in the field! Dolphins are very addictive animals to observe, you could watch them all day and never get bored. I would definitely be interested in doing a research project like this myself in the future! What a job!! Thank you to all involved!

Rebecca, U.K.

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Due to bad weather conditions, unfortunately we were unable to go and look for dolphins for the firsts days. We tried so many times, but the sea just would not let us look for the dolphins. Instead however, we were able to walk to the village of Kalamos and investigate the main part of the island seeing stunning scenery and beautiful beaches as we walked. The disappointment was soon cleared on the last day. We saw many dolphins, which was an amazing experience as we were able to see them in the wild, watching them eat, play and rest. It was fascinating to see how Susie and Stefano collect their data and it was good to be able to help them to do so. Each day Stefano would give us a lecture about the different aspects of dolphin life including behaviour, data collection and the increasing problem of over fishing (something that I was not really aware of before!!). The lectures were not only informative, but enjoyable as well. I did find the experience thoroughly interesting and definitely I am glad I have done it! Thank you to everyone, especially Stefano and Susie

Siobhan, U.K.

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The sighting we had was the highlight of the trip. I didn’t realise we would see so many dolphins in one group, probably about 20. It was really interesting to see their different behaviour and watch how they interact with each other. I also enjoyed seeing different wildlife in the sea such as Cindy, the sea turtle that lives in the harbour! It was frustrating to wake up on the first days and see the rain but today has definitely made up for those times. The lectures and work have been informative and given me a lot to think about. I feel the experience has increased my ability to understand why sustaining the oceans is such an important issue. It has been nice to meet people from different backgrounds and share new recipes and ways of living. The cats were a welcoming addition to the house as well

Chloe, U.K.

20 September 2008

Dolphins of Greece, 11-19 September


We were 5 ladies from the West Coast of the US, yet we all had the pleasure of meeting in the beautiful town of Vonista, Greece. Even though we had to miss 3 days of going out do our research due to weather, I believe the sightings we did have made us all have a greater appreciation of dolphins and the research taking place here. I am so grateful my company, Mitsubishi International Corp., gave me this fantastic opportunity to not only visit Greece but to learn about dolphins,marine life and their associated ecosystems. I felt the lectures greatly added to the experience and increased my knowledge concerning these subjects. I also greatly appreciated being a part of such a great team : Gigi and her quest for her “Greek God”; Stevie with her calm attitude and very vast travel experiences plus her inborn GPS abilities; Dianne, my teammate and our struggles in attempting to use the computer and determining if we had a match with certain dolphins pictures; Rosie,our “younger sister” who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time at LAX and our “Amazing Race” quest to reach Vonitsa in time after the closure of Newark airport on the day of our departure to Greece; Mauro, with his fantastic meals plus his assistance with our computer assignments; Posi, the greatest mascot ever. But, I believe my greatest thanks should go to Joan for all I learned from him during this trip even though I was a novice in this field. I know this may have tried his patience at times but I definitely will leave this experience with more knowledge in this area. I also enjoyed the talks and friendship we shared trying to come up with meals to cook every night plus trying the Italian and Greek red wines at dinner.

Lija, USA

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Good accomodations, well organized training for project, knowledgeable and passionately committed P.I. Beautiful setting, great interaction with the dolphins. Compatible team members. Mauro and Joan both great cooks! More than met my expectations.

Dianne, USA

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Fantastic views, not only of dolphins but of the area, Greece is beautiful! I would recommend this project to others looking for an education in dolphins and in fishing practices.

Gigi, USA

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Participation in this project was a very positive experience for me. It has left me wanting to participate in more Earthwatch Projects in the future. I appreciate Joan and Mauro’s patience and willingness to share their knowledge.

Stevie, USA

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This was my first Earthwatch project, and it was an exceedingly positive experience for me. Although the youngest of the team, it was quite a pleasure being part of this extensively traveled group. The food was great -- I have never had quite so much pasta over such a short period of time... I laugh of course; the preparation of the meals became a daily discussion among the group. The faciltiy was great – very clean and cozy. Our research assistant Mauro made me laugh on a daily basis, with his Italian charm and sweetness. Joan, our PI was a good “task master” and kept our group together throughout our journey. I acquired such affection for him... he was my friend and a great guide on this journey. I would recommend this expedition to those seeking a better understanding of not only ocean conservation and the dolphin species, but the oceanic Greek culture itself. It is breathtakingly beautiful here, and I am leaving with a greater sense of environmental awareness, which I will carry with me as I travel back to my home in California.

Rosalie, USA

19 September 2008

Monbiot on climate change


"If the biosphere is wrecked, it will be done by nice, well-meaning, cosmopolitan people who accept the case for cutting emissions, but who won’t change by one iota the way they live."

George Monbiot

http://www.monbiot.com/

Monbiot on green consumerism

"No political challenge can be met by shopping."

George Monbiot

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Eco-Junk - Green consumerism will not save the biosphere
http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/07/24/eco-junk/

15 September 2008

Unexpected common dolphin sighting


That morning did not start in the usual way. Annalise came into my room all excited saying “Bottlenose dolphins in the channel! Hurry up! We are leaving in a few minutes!”. Everybody was thrilled and we left the port hoping to find them soon.

The sunrise seemed magic as sunrays penetrated the clouds above Kalamos. Silent everywhere, even nature had not woken up yet, but our attention was focused on the duty to find the dolphins. A tiny little white spot in the distance “Look at 11! Could it be dolphins? Let’s check!” As we got closer, our assumption had become a fact. Yes, dolphins! A big group porpoising at high speed. But wait a minute… these are not bottlenose, but common dolphins! It was unbelievable. We quickly set up the equipment, and data collection had started. Soon we were surrounded by the group. This was my the first time with common dolphins, and it just felt great.

Annalise started manoeuvring in a way that could facilitate the photo-identification. I picked up the tape recorder and started recording behavioural data. Everyone was counting the animals as they surfaced. Six, twelve, sixteen, eighteen! Around twenty common dolphins! There were juveniles in the group. Moreover, one… no, two calves, and a very small newborn. It was unbeliavable to see such a tiny dolphin, always surfacing with its mother and almost attached to her.

As they approached the island of Meganisi, we noticed a flock of birds. Maybe some surface feeding was going to occur? Quickly we prepared the equipment for the collection of fish scales. But then we realised that the feeding animals were not dolphins but large tuna! They were feeding near the surface, chasing a school of fish with seagulls joining the frenzy. They were around one meter in length, occasionally jumping out of the water. But we needed to follow our dolphin group, so we recorded the position and left the big predators.

In the meantime the dolphins had become calmer and seemed to be looking for a place to rest along the coast. Annalise manouvered very carefully to avoid any disturbance. Some dolphins where resting at the surface while others started to socialize, particularly the juveniles. Then the whole group got active again and started travelling.

We could collect a large amount of data, which definitely makes a researcher happy and satisfied. However, this sighting was more then just data collection. The fact that some of these rare animals are again around Kalamos filled our hearts with joy. These animals are so important for us.

Zsuzsanna Pereszlenyi

14 September 2008

Kalamos, 7-13 September


I have had an amazing time here in Kalamos with the Tethys team. We have been such a lucky group, seeing a common dolphin, two different sightings of bottlenose dolphins and a sea turtle swimming along the surface of the water within the first three days of our week! Even on the days when there have been no dolphin sightings, it was brilliant riding around on the boat and spending some time in the tavernas in the different villages. Carrying out the research on the boat has been valuable experience for the future, and the work back at the house although hard at times (identifying the dorsal fins!) has been very enjoyable. The social atmosphere of the house has been a very happy one with a lot of time snorkelling in the sea, playing volleyball and talking into the night over dinner and drinks. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and would love to come back and do the project again in future years. You cannot help but smile when you are spending time on such a beautiful island and working with such amazing animals. Thank you to Stefano and Susie for making my week so enjoyable. I hope to see you again and that all of your hard work continues to be successful.

Rachael, U.K.

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Non è semplice spiegare in poche righe una settimana trascorsa sull’isola di Kalamos, ma è stata sicuramente un’esperienza unica. Vivere a stretto contatto con persone straordinarie per una settimana può solo lasciarti un ricordo indelebile. Abbiamo formato un team di 5 ragazze niente male direi e, anche se la lingua risulta un ostacolo per chi come me non è abituata a parlare in inglese, siamo riuscite a collaborare, ridere e scherzare per tutto il tempo trascorso insieme. Posso scrivere un grazie enorme a Susie e Stefano, innanzitutto per la loro professionalità e per tutto quello che ci hanno trasmesso, ma soprattutto per la generosità e la capacità di farci sentire a nostro agio come in una grande famiglia. Il secondo giorno mi sembrava di essere qui già da una vita! Una casa accogliente, tutti con compiti distribuiti e tutti che collaborano in pulizie e nella preparazione della cena... neppure a casa mia collaboriamo così bene! Non posso certo dire che sia stato tutto semplice, anzi, si lavora parecchio, sveglia presto, occhi puntati sul mare alla ricerca di qualsiasi cosa si muova, ma le soddisfazioni sono talmente tante che tutto diventa un piacere! Straordinario, straordinari i delfini, straordinario (e cervellotico!) tutto il lavoro che si nasconde dietro quello che sembra soltanto una ricerca in mare! Taglia, confronta e identifica i delfini… c’è da impazzire! Ma poi c’è il tempo libero che ovviamente si passa sulla spiaggia e con un mare così non puoi certo tirarti indietro… un mare talmente limpido e calmo che invoglia a nuotare all’infinito! E poi bagno notturno con il plancton illuminato dalla luna che fa brillare tutto quello che si muove!

Erica, Italy

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It has been a very exciting and eventful week for everyone as we had lots of encounters with the marine life in the area. This includes the rare common dolphin (on the first day!), several bottlenose dolphins, swordfish and even two sea turtles. I found the experience from working on a research project extremely interesting and rewarding. It was eye opening to see how much effort and dedication the team put in to collecting the data, and just how passionate they were about it. The atmosphere in the evening after all the hard work from during the day was very relaxed, giving you the chance to really appreciate the beauty of Kalamos Island and to enjoy the company of the other volunteers. Thank you, I have had a wonderful week and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in a demanding but rewarding conservation project.

Samantha, U.K.

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Just an emotions' river:

There aren’t word to describe how I feel…
I have to live the place were I found happiness and rest
I have to live the place where paece and quietness rules…

Into a mirror I saw the power of nature, behind a glass I saw the sands beating with the waves, under the fog of the myth I saw the islands rising from waters.
Into a breath I saw a dolphin whispering his freedom,
in a turtle’s eyes I saw all the life of the sea.

This morning a swordfish was cutting the sea and like a knife he reached my heart to remain.
In just a week I heard birds singing at the sunset, waves rise with the wind and saw fishes jump out of the water, riminding us how powerful a little creature can be, dolphins reach the sky and shine under the sun. Fish fly over the sea’s line…

For all this things I have to be thankful. First of all to Susie and Stefano for guiding me in this amazing adventure, to the other people here with me sharing with me the many emotions of the week, to the nature, the only thing I believe in and that never disappoint me, and to dolphins, to exist, to make me feel alive with only a breath, to give me so many and deep emotions, to make me hope and to made me learn that, maybe, life with them has an aim…

So thanks to this amazing project that made me feel alive once more, because there’s nothing more beautiful than the sea, if you really live it, as we've done this week!

I really think that I'm gonna cry every time, while opening my eyes I will found the world where I live so grey and so distant from all this… the sea and the peace…

Thank you so much to everybody.

Ramona, Italy

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It is so difficult to write about this days in Kalamos with the Ionian Dolphin Project, I felt so many emotions that I could never imagine when I decided to come here… I really feel like at home here, there is a special atmosphere, ‘our researchers’ Stefano and Susie treat us like friends in the free time and are very patient with us during the work. I feel as I have known them and the other girls who are here with me (Ramona, Erica, Rachael and Sammy) for years, but I staid with them only a few days. Yes, I don’t speak a lot, but this is my nature and my English is not so good… but I really feel well here and with them.

Irene, Italy

12 September 2008

The king of sushi


A nice 13min documentary by CBS News on tuna fishing and fattening in the Mediterranean.

The King Of Sushi - Growing Demand For Sushi Is Having A Big Impact On The Bluefin Population

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/11/60minutes/main3700644.shtml

11 September 2008

Discards, discards and discards


A UK trawler filmed throwing five tonnes of fish overboard has caused international outrage.

Watch the video and read article by John Vidal / Guardian at:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/aug/13/fishing.endangeredspecies

07 September 2008

Kalamos, July, 31st - August, 6th


I would like to thank all the people who made “Premio di Laurea Rossana Majorca” possible, thanks to which I could participate to this wonderful experience with Tethys. In few days I saw bottlenose dolphins doing acrobatic jumps out of the water and coming to have a look at our boat, then a big group of common dolphins moving fast to the coast and then rest for a while… and they were so close to us... I had never seen dolphins in the wild so close before! It was fantastic! We saw also several newborns trying to swim as adults, and jumping as well, they were really cute! It was very exciting helping the researchers to collect data during the sighting, everybody tried to make its best, I took also some underwater videos from the boat and I hope they could be useful for the dolphins identification! I had really good time during this week, the place where we stayed was awesome, the sea here is fantastic, the weather was fine and the group was really amazing!! ;-) I thanks a lot Annalise, Susie and Silvia of Tethys that are carrying on the project with extreme passion and they were professional as well as very nice with all of us! I suggest to everybody who loves the sea and its creatures to try this experience!

Jessika, Italy

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Questo posto è indescrivibile, il panorama è fantastico, l’acqua è cristallina ma soprattutto... in cinque giorni abbiamo sempre visto i delfini, siamo stati il gruppo più fortunato di questa estate... ‘the luckiest girls’. Già dal primo giorno siamo riuscite a fare due avvistamenti: qui nel canale tra Episkopi e Mytikas, e poi ad Amvrakikos, quindi, nonostante la sveglia all’alba, ne è valsa veramente la pena! Dopo tre giorni di avvistamenti di tursiopi, un gruppo di una ventina di delfini comuni ci ha regalato grandi emozioni! Vi ringraziamo di averci dato l’opportunità di fare questa esperienza, per averci insegnato un po’ di inglese e i nomi di tutti i delfini avvistati. Non dimentichero’ mai la mitica ‘jelly fish’ e la prima volta abbiamo visto un pesce volante! Davvero tutto ‘very exciting’!

Ilaria and Arianna, Italy

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This conservation holiday was truly an incredible experience. Observing wild dolphins in their natural environment was amazing – so much better than I could have ever imagined. Not only was I able to observe the dolphins’ behaviour, but also, thanks to the Tethys’ researchers, I was able to understand what it might mean too. It was a great privilege to be allowed to help Tethys with their research. Collecting data enabled me to learn so much about dolphins, and only increased my admiration for these beautiful and intelligent creatures. My group was particularly lucky, because we got to see common dolphins as well as bottlenose dolphins. I saw first-hand bottlenose dolphins glide effortlessly beside our boat only to then leap spectacularly in the air. And I got to see a group of common dolphins socialise with each other and race through the water. However, it was not just watching the dolphins that made this trip unforgettable. There was also the added bonus of seeing other marine life too. I got to see massive tuna jumping into the air, flying fish skim the surface of the water, and big jellyfish float gracefully passed our boat. What topped off the whole experience for me was the fact that I got to see quite a few Greek islands. We were able to stop off for a quick break on these islands. The island on which we actually stayed is particularly stunning – a real undiscovered place of great beauty. What’s more it is great for snorkelling, and has some really scenic beaches. I would recommend this holiday to everyone, and would just like to take the opportunity to thank the Tethys’ researchers, Annalise, Susie and Silvia for teaching me so much and making this trip so special.

Rita, U.K./Italy