29 March 2009

Ionian Dolphin Project: 2009 research gets started

From April the Ionian Dolphin Project at Galaxidi, Gulf of Corinth, will start its first research season. We are all excited about getting out with our boat and collecting data in this area, which is new to us.

Work in the Amvrakikos Gulf and around Kalamos will start later on, from early May.

The Blog will keep you updated about the developments!

(click on image to expand)

Ionian Dolphin Project

'Delphi's Dolphins' research courses

27 March 2009

Talking about swordfish...

The editorial ‘When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish’ editorial published in Conservation Biology by Tethys president Giovanni Bearzi is receiving considerable attention.

A number of blogs - including 'The Great Beyond' by the journal Nature - are discussing the opinions stated in the essay.

Some of the readers commented:

Giovanni here is talking about a real, widespread issue and he has hit the nail on the head. Being a conservation biologist myself I am appalled at how some ecologists leave their passion for conservation behind at the office. When i have confronted friends or colleagues about their questionable practices, the response has been "oh, just one person can't make a difference". As scientists, we need to distinguish ourselves from flag-waving environmentalists, but we still need to apply the same principles to ourselves that we are preaching.


This essay stands out as more inquisitive and though-provoking than nearly any other.

But not everybody liked it:

This proposal is just absurd. No one looks to scientists for advice on how to live their lives - not even other scientists!

So it appears that the editorial generated some wavelets, and people are at least reading it...

The editorial:
Bearzi G. 2009. When swordfish conservation biologists eat swordfish. Conservation Biology 23(1):1-2.

Some blogs:

26 March 2009

How does one become a cetacean researcher?

READ as much scientific literature as possible, so that you know everything about your own field of investigation (and beyond)

ATTEND marine science and conservation conferences and workshops

GET TO KNOW the key players in person

VISIT cetacean laboratories, universities, NGO headquarters, museums, libraries, research centres, field stations

PARTICIPATE in field courses and expeditions

SUBSCRIBE to e-mail lists such as marmam and ecs-talk

LEARN from your peers

DEVELOP multiple skills that can benefit your work and career

WRITE as much as you can, and develop an appreciation for structure, meaning, synthesis, style... and lack of typos

COMMIT to what you do, and spend much time and effort actually doing it

DO YOUR BEST which probably means: do not get attached to what you did, as there is still much you can do to make it better.

"I have done my best." That is about all the philosophy of living that one needs.
-- Lin-Yutang

How does one become a cetacean researcher?

Photo: the late Kenneth S. Norris, world-renowned expert on whales and dolphins

25 March 2009

Don't feed wild dolphins animation

What is a dolphin doing in front of a fireplace with a brown bear, a seagull, another dolphin and two racoons?

He is telling the others 'patients' about his problems, and how it all started...

For me it started with one hit of sardines.
Oooh... Sardines.

That's when I learned to beg.
It was easy to score free fish.
I mean eh, with this dolphin smile... [clicks].
Yeah, it's illegal but no one cares.

I had a monkey on my back and I was "jonesing" for people food...

Hanging out under boats, dodging props and hooks, doing dangerous stuff that I'm ashamed to admit?
Look... I know that I can kick this, if people would just stop feeding me

This animated announcement was produced by a coalition of governmental agencies and private organisations. Through innovative communication, it reminds viewers that feeding wild dolphins or harassing them is illegal and harmful to both dolphins and humans.

Watch the video

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov

24 March 2009

Advise to a finishing student

This is a message I recently wrote to a student who completed her MSc thesis, which I edited a bit.

It contains some general advise and I thought that this might be useful to others in a similar situation, in addition to the two articles linked below.


We got there, eventually. Quite good this time, but still lots of edits. Style editing is a never-ending process and you are expected to read and read and read, dozens of times, and improve your text every time - something that most people do not do, or do not want to do. Writing well takes tremendous effort, but few realise how important it is. Your written English needs to be improved (as does mine) but what is most important is structure. This is still below perfection, as you note, but quite good considering where we started, your nationality, and the fact that you are still a beginner after all. Personally, I am satisfied with your work and I think that you should be proud of it. What is mandatory now is turning this into something useful (a thesis is not). Whatever you want to do in the future, try to get this published in the best possible journal. The dataset can be improved and more years can be used. Your Summary is certainly the basis of a potentially good publication, and you should go for it. Publications matter, not theses or other unpublished work. So do not stop after the thesis, thinking that you have accomplished something. In science, accomplishing means publishing in refereed journals. Keep hammering the iron until it's hot, as they say in Italy, and start writing your first publication right away. The thesis Summary can be easily edited into an abstract (which you may want to present at the next marine mammal conference). Think about a Title. Write the first sentence of the Methods. Fill in the empty spaces in the Acknowledgements and Literature cited. You will end up with a draft manuscript that can grow and improve every day. And please, never 'like' what you did, at least as long as it isn't truly perfect. The worst offence you can do to your work is falling in love with it, therefore seeing it as something that can't be further improved. Try to see your work as something that can be improved forever, don't get attached to it, and you will become a good writer.


Clapham P. 2005. Publish or perish. BioScience 55(5):390-391.

Surviving Professional Puberty in Marine Mammalogy: Things Mom and Dad Didn’t Tell You - by John E. Reynolds, III

23 March 2009

The Cove

The movie called 'The Cove' features the attempts of a team of activists, filmmakers and freedivers embarked on a covert mission to penetrate a hidden cove in the small vilage of Taiji (Japan). The mysteries they uncover are only the tip of an iceberg...

This documentary on dolphin captivity issues and dolphin meat consumption won the Audience Award at 2009's Sundance Film Festival.

To see the trailer: http://thecovemovie.com/


For more information:

21 March 2009

Synergy and Partnership in Cetacean Science

Between 14-17 March, Tethys researchers Stefano Agazzi and Joan Gonzalvo participated in the workshop "Synergy and Partnership in Cetacean Science" organized by BlueWorld and held in their headquarters on the island of Losinj, Croatia.

The event was organized in the context of the EC project "NGO Capacity Building for Implementation of Natura 2000 Priority Actions".

In addition to Stefano and Joan, other workshop participants included representatives of Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute (Greece), Morigenos (Slovenia) and the entire BlueWorld team.

The aim of the workshop was to present the current research activities carried out by each organization, share methodologies and approaches, explore future collaboration, exchange experiences and problems faced to affectively translate scientific results into conservation action, and discuss the most effective ways to achieve common conservation goals.

This workshop strengthened the friendship among the participating NGOs with the aim of facilitating exchange of students and collaborators and further cetacean research and conservation in the region.

Joan Gonzalvo

14 March 2009

A Conservation Plan is not a conservation success

"A Plan is not a conservation success. A conservation success is when there is more of the things you want to conserve than it used to be. (...) If your Plan does not work treat it as an experiment and change the rules."

-- Dr. Jeremy Jackson

'Brave New Ocean' lecture at University of California at Los Angeles, February 17th, 2009

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fRPiNcikOU (0:50:20)

12 March 2009

Amvrakikos Gulf: new photo-identification data

The research project ‘Dolphins of Greece’, conducted by Tethys in the Amvrakikos Gulf, has recently completed the analysis of photo-identification data pertinent to the whole 2008.

A total of 3,818 selected digital photos, obtained from January to December during sightings along survey transects that cover the whole gulf, allowed to photo-identify 115 individual bottlenose dolphins.

Most of these recognizable individuals are well-known and were already present in the catalogue started in 2001 , but four of them are new animals never seen before.

Ten of the 115 dolphins were sighted together with immature individuals (newborns, calves or juveniles) and this looks like a promising sign for this highly-resident population that lives in a semi-closed eutrophic gulf.

Photographs included a number of non-identifiable animals, i.e. individuals carrying no distinctive marks on their dorsal fins. These, as well as all the subadult classes, should be added to the number of animals sighted in 2008. So, at present, it appears that the total number of animals seen in the Gulf last year is consistent with the population estimate of 150 made in previous years (Bearzi et al. 2008).

Ongoing monitoring will allow researchers to gain insight into the ecology and trends of this unique bottlenose dolphin community.

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information:
Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Bonizzoni S., Costa M., Azzellino A. 2008. Dolphins in a bottle: abundance, residency patterns and conservation of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the semi-closed eutrophic Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 18(2):130-146.


10 March 2009

Brave new ocean re-posted

I am going to re-post this in case some of you missed it. It is 1-hour long but worth watching until the end (when it gets more personal and also global).

Brave New Ocean

Some scientists think that Jeremy Jackson is an "environmentalist", which those scientists do not see as a compliment. You can probably judge for yourself, based on your own experience, whether what Dr. Jackson says makes any sense.

Giovanni Bearzi

08 March 2009

Sardine frenzy

Amazing footage on sardines feast frenzy has been caught by a BBC crew.

Each winter, cool ocean currents drive millions of these small fish northwards along the eastern coast of South Africa. Here, common dolphins, sharks, pinnipeds and marine birds take advantage of this natural migration and feed on sardine schools.

The BBC team used helicopter, boat-based and underwater crews to capture the feeding frenzy in extensive detail. This footage helped to reveal more about the way gannets hunt. They don’t simply dive, catching a fish and bringing it back up to the surface, but they ‘arrow’ down to a depth of 10m, then swim a further 20m and finally they charge around like penguins.

It is really incredible how common dolphins and gannets swim centimetres away from sharks, just ignoring these big predators and focusing only on sardines.

Watch the videos at:



Silvia Bonizzoni

07 March 2009

On the discovery of new species

The discovery of a new mammal species fills us with joy and positive thoughts and we’re curious to see the new ‘arrival’, but most of the time we don’t really think about what this new discovery is teaching us.

In a recent paper, Paul Ehrlich and Gerardo Ceballos, two biologists from Stanford University and Mexico’s National University, respectively, say the assumption that ‘nearly all mammal species are known to science’ is incorrect. They argue that global animal and plant species diversity is badly underestimated, even within well-studied taxa.

"What this paper really talks about is how little we actually know about our natural capital and how little we know about the services that flow from it," said Ehrlich, adding that the diminishment of biodiversity can have very significant impacts on mankind.

"The economy of nature is what allows us to have a human economy. If we let the infrastructure of nature go down the drain, then we just can't make up for it with human infrastructure... It just can't be done."

Watch the interview at: http://news-service.stanford.edu

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information:
Ceballos G. & Ehrlich P.R. 2009. Discoveries of new mammal species and their implications for conservation and ecosystem services. PNAS: 0812419106v1-pnas.0812419106. (Abstract only)


03 March 2009

Pink dolphin

A rare albino bottlenose dolphin was sighted in the Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary in Louisiana (USA). The animal is a juvenile, he’s entirely pink in the whole body and has reddish eyes. This strange dolphin, nicknamed 'Pinky', was first spotted late last year and has become such a tourist attraction that conservationists are warning people to leave it alone...


Foto: Olycom/sipa

For more information: