31 May 2009

Delphi's Dolphins 04, 24-30 May


Our Dream Team were the first ones to have spotted the striped dolphins, ooh yes! And we were lucky enough to spot the first loggerhead turtle in the area as well, very cool! We have had lots of laughs and interesting conversations over dinner and ouzo with the team members, which will be remembered, no doubt! Do not forget to look at the starry night sky! It is truly amazing :-)

Dipti & Agnes, U.K. and China

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What a wonderful week, we were blessed to have seen three sightings and to be the first Delphi's Dolphins team to have spotted the striped dolphins in the gulf. We are from Australia and fortunate to see these beautiful creatures frequently, we enjoyed assisting this great team in research in the Mediterranean. We hope that one day in the future all this hard work will help to increase the population of dolphins to these parts so others can be so fortunate to see them frequently… what cute creatures they are! Thanks to Silvia, Tilen and Giovanni for a great week, you are wonderful. We now don’t eat tuna!!

Jacquie & Luke, Australia

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A very special week in lots of ways - the opportunity to spend time out on the water was good enough, but we were, as Jacqui said, blessed with a couple of experiences which will stay with me for a long time, including the 2 minute scramble at 6:30pm one evening, to find a lone dolphin just off the shore near Galaxidi. Sunset dolphin research is the best! Being a single traveller, I couldn’t have asked for a better or more amusing group of volunteers and Silvia, Tilen and Giovanni made the whole experience educational but fun and very personal. My only regret was not bringing a decent pair of sunglasses to assist in the search for dolphins – I am half blind from squinting at the water for hours on end!! Thank you everyone, you RULE!

Aimee, U.K.

30 May 2009

The hidden allure of recycled wood


As far as I can recall, the first job I was interested in as a kid wasn’t scientist or biologist or cetologist, but carpenter. I have always been attracted by wood, by its smell and texture and feel, as much as by creative manual work.

Still today, I like wooden objects a lot, especially stranded relics broght by the sea or found in old collapsed country houses. My favourites are fragments of wooden boats with traces of paint. Layers and layers of colour scratched away by the rocks or faded by the sun.

In my free time I like to collect that sort of stuff. This behaviour generates abhorrence among my colleagues when I do that while working in the field with them. Not everybody likes recovering old stuff and when I return to the field station from a rescue trip with a carload of ‘garbage’ - possibly old wooden windows or broken chairs - I must fight (in vain) to convince my peers that it is actually artistic stuff. It often surprises me that they don’t seem to appreciate the beauty of rotten wooden logs with rusty nails and the occasional insect hiding in there.

With some of the wood and other discarded materials collected in Greece over the past months I made a series of objects which I called FISHO. Perhaps an attempt of merging my ancient (wood) and present (marine life) passions.

It is nice to alternate computer work with a bit of sawing, scraping and hammering. After a little fisho diversion, admittedly a naive and unsophisticated activity for a grown-up, I can return to my work with a fresh mind.

http://www.mediterraneanconservation.org/fisho/

Giovanni Bearzi

29 May 2009

What is a dolphin 'group'?


That group-living animals mainly exist in groups is pretty straightforward. What is less straightforward is how to define what constitutes a group, particularly for elusive and socially intelligent creatures like bottlenose dolphins.

In areas of high dolphin densities - like the Amvrakikos Gulf - it is common to see plenty of dolphins spread around the boat at various distances. Should all of these individuals be categorised as a single group, even though it is virtually impossible to count those further away? Or should you set a radial boundary with your boat as a reference point and only regard those individuals that move within that circle as a group? Or maybe solely count those animals engaged in the same behaviour? And surely, shouldn’t there be a standardised methodology of how to define a group across research sites? These are some of the questions I am trying to clarify and answer in the context of my Master thesis here in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

Each day that Joan, the volunteers and I venture out in the Gulf I count the dolphins according to different group definitions. The immediate aim is to analyse the discrepancy in group size estimates that they might yield, as well as determine which definition is most appropriate for the Amvrakikos Gulf. The overarching objective is also to bring attention to the conservation and ecological (etc.) importance of using a standardised group size definition, and come up with a suggestion of what such a methodology might entail.

Theoretically it might seem like an easy job, but the field is a different empirical matter. After two weeks of field work, my experience is this - in nature, things are often more intricate and complex than what they appear at first glance, and on philosophical days I’m inclined to agree with Socrates ‘all I know is that I know nothing‘. But, to me that’s also the charm about research - it’s challenging and requires complete immersion of all your faculties. And of course, the curiosity involved in not being able to predict where an experiment might take you.

Christina Geijer

28 May 2009

Narrow Bay Hotel


Yesterday there had been no dolphin sightings and although the overall team spirit was high, on our way back from the supermarket Silvia and I decided to search for bottlenose dolphins from the coastal road, stopping our car from time to time to explore portions of sea.

The surface of the Gulf of Corinth was flat but we couldn't manage to spot any dorsal fin. As a last attempt, we parked on a cliff overlooking a coastal fish farm. It only took a second for Silvia to spot a minuscule dorsal fin in between the fish cages, about one km away.

Although the late afternoon was an unusual time to set up a dolphin survey, we called Tilen at the field station, and we told him to hurry up and get to that place with the boat right away, while Silvia and I were trying try to keep track of the dolphin. Our five volunteers were cooking and showering by then, not expecting such a sudden change in the programme, but they reacted promptly and in a minute they were ready to go. It didn't take long to see the inflatable appear from behind a rocky cape and find the dolphin following the directions we gave from land.

In the meantime the dolphin had left the fish farm and approached the place were we had parked, eventually entering a narrow fjord where he started feeding quietly under our amazed eyes, only a few metres from the coast. Tilen approached very carefully and the dolphin did not react or change his behaviour at all. This was one of the rare occasions when one could tell whether our work causes any behavioural disruption. In this particular case, it was obvious that the dolphin couldn't care less about our inflatable, as confirmed by the respiration intervals that Silvia was recording with her digital watch throughout the observation.

The dolphin went on feeding in the narrow bay for about an hour, moving in circles and performing short dives of about 1.5 min. Then he probably decided that dinner was over (it was around 8 PM) and he moved to the other side of the bay, spending the next hour resting about 10 m from the rocky coast.

At 9 PM the light was rapidly fading and we decided to stop the observation so that the team on board could get back to the port before darkness. The dolphin, however, looked like he was going to spend the whole night at Narrow Bay Hotel.

Giovanni Bearzi

27 May 2009

Our first striped dolphins off Galaxidi


Yesterday has been a special day: my first striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) sighting ever, and the first sighting of this species for the Ionian Dolphin Project in the Gulf of Corinth.

I was out at sea with Tilen Genov and five volunteers. The sea was a little choppy but expectations were high, as the day before we had seen no dolphins. Any buoy, bird or strange wave looking like a dorsal fin caused a little jump into my stomach, but after 30 min we spotted three small fins.

The animals were far from us and I was quite sure they were bottlenose dolphins, as until that moment we had only seen this species, including in that particular area. But as soon as we approached them we could see the distinctive white flanks: striped dolphins!

It was a small group of only three adults, performing short dives in a very quiet way. They were probably resting and didn’t perform aerial behaviour.

Coordination on board was great, and we managed to collect a lot of data. At the end of the sighting, everybody was satisfied about this unexpected encounter and the work we did. We went back to the field station in Galaxidi on the same choppy sea that had opened the day, and immediately downloaded the digital photos: one dorsal fin had distinctive notches, one a small nick, and the third wore no markings at all.

Our striped dolphin photo-identification catalogue had started.

Silvia Bonizzoni

26 May 2009

Dolphin lessons for elementary school children


Following a strong pressure from my son Orso, who attends the elementary school Armando Diaz in Venice, on the 15th and 22nd of May I did a series of lessons about dolphins in coordination with a schoolteacher. The targets were classes of the 2nd and 4th year.

Lessons included a simple description of cetacean features in comparison to fish and other terrestrial mammals, an explanation of dolphin societies and behaviour, a quick look at how we (researchers) work with dolphins, to end with a summary of the main conservation issues. Each subject was slightly modified according to children age and school programme.

An example of dorsal fin matching was also performed, which amused the children a lot, as they were invited to guess which fin could match another.

Kids posed a number of questions, often interrupting the speech (sometimes in a chaotic way). Yet, such never-ending raising of hands denoted their vivid interest in the subject. Children of this age, exceptionally curious and sensitive, are particularly inclined to scientific subjects and most of them care about conservation issues. A hope for our planet’s future?

Elena Politi

25 May 2009

My first week at the Ionian Dolphin Project


My first week at the Ionian Dolphin Project in the Gulf of Corinth has passed.

I came here with two main objectives: 1) to learn from experience of Tethys researchers and 2) to contribute my help and experience to this new research project. I am quite sure (and I truly hope it really is so) that both goals are being fulfilled.

I am really learning so much here. Silvia and Giovanni are both being patient trainers, constantly teaching me and showing me new things about their way of organisation, study design, fieldwork, data analysis and data interpretation.

The project is very similar in many ways to the project I am running back home in Slovenia, and yet it is also very different. The experience I gain here will undoubtetly help me improve our way of work in the North Adriatic, hopefully ultimately contributing to the conservation of cetaceans and marine life in the Mediterranean.

And although I have seen quite a few bottlenose dolphins in several parts of Europe, the dolphins here have shown me things I have never seen before, including the dolphin with a strange tail, the dolphin with a dead newborn, dolphins being less than 10 m from the shore,...

But it is not only about research and science. For me it is a valuable experience also 'life-wise'. Being far from home, experiencing a different lifestyle, meeting interesting people, enjoying new environments (both natural and urban), getting new perspectives on things...for me this is also something very interesting and useful. I am really enjoying my time here, not only for the interesting thing we do, but also for the people that surround me.

My eyes are open and I look optimistically to the days ahead!

Tilen Genov

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Photo: Tilen Genov and Silvia Bonizzoni discussing data collection protocols at the Galaxidi field station

24 May 2009

Delphi's Dolphins 03, 17-23 April


Wow, what a week! Watching dolphins interacting in their natural environment has been a truly amazing experience and especially against such a stunning backdrop. I’ve met a great bunch of people, stayed in a beautiful village and learned a great deal about cetaceans and conservation. What more could one ask for! Thanks to Silvia, Giovanni and Tilen for their kind hospitality and organising such a memorable programme. Just remember to bring your camera!

Tony, U.K.

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Learn and watch dolphins, have some exciting conversations about the world today and just relax in a quiet and beautiful city… I really enjoyed my week in Galaxidi and had such a good time with the volunteers and the Tethys team. More than a holiday, it was a really good experience which will contribute to me finding my way :-)

Clara, France

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A jolt to the heart, a prick of the conscience... A female trying to support on her fin a dead calf, almost decomposed. Habitat decimation in Kalamos reducing dolphin numbers from 150 to 15 in a generation. But also the elation of my first sight of an airbourne dolphin on a flat sea against snow-capped Greek mountains! ... a week with the Tethys Research Institute in Galaxidi.

Peter, U.K.

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A sunny week in the Gulf of Corinth. Watching the dolphins, and on two days we saw a lot of them, was a great experience. These animals are really majestic. Thank you to Silvia, Tilen and Giovanni form the Tethys team, and also thank you to Clara, Tony and Peter for a real good time. And last but not least thank you to Poseidon for keeping the sea flat!

Hermann, Germany

23 May 2009

Facing conservation crises amidst institutional neglect


Tethys funder and honorary president Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara organised on 23 May a seminar titled "Mediterranean Focus: facing conservation crises amidst institutional neglect" at the International Marine Mammal Congress: Making Marine Science Matter currently held in Washington, D.C., between 19-24 May.

The rationale behind this session organised by Giuseppe, in his own words, is copied below:

There is probably no sea on Earth where the combination of unique and universally recognised natural and cultural values characterising the Mediterranean must coexist with extraordinarily intense and pervasive human pressures, which increasingly threaten to send all those values into oblivion.

Addressing threats, finding solutions to conflicts, and ensuring that the Mediterranean’s unique features are not lost is done half-heartedly by the regional governments, and results are frustratingly meagre: success stories hardly come to mind.

In spite of commitments, habitats continue to degrade year after year, and charismatic species vanish under our very eyes. The disappearance from western Greece of common dolphins, among the most threatened marine mammals in the region, is a case in point. The scientific bases of the problem are well-known, win-win solutions are within reach, legal tools are available; and yet, no action is taken by the governing authorities.

A similar feat is threatening sea turtles competing with beach chairs for nesting space, and the few remaining monk seals sharing their dwindling habitat with coastal fishermen; meanwhile, Italian driftnet fishermen and entire fleets targeting bluefin tunas continue their illegal practices undisturbed; and most MPAs in the region are mere paper parks.

Goal of this session is to brainstorm on the development of more local and accountable management systems, in the Mediterranean like anywhere else, to be proposed as an alternative to ineffective top-down governance.

22 May 2009

Bottlenose dolphin carrying dead newborn


Gulf of Corinth, 18 May 2009

An adult bottlenose dolphin was observed carrying a decomposed newborn, possibly her dead offspring.

The observation was made by Tethys researcher Silvia Bonizzoni and by Tilen Genov, President of the Slovenian NGO Morigenos, together with four volunteers participating in the Ionian Dolphin Project.

The presumed mother was observed for a total of two hours, consistently carrying the corpse on her back, in front of the dorsal fin (see photo), also performing dives and resurfacing with the newborn. Occasionally the dead newborn was pushed and carried underwater by her presumed mother with the rostrum.

Other dolphins were seen in the area during the observation, but they tended to stay away from the couple.

The presumed mother was photo-identified based on long-term natural marks on her dorsal fin. On the following day (19 May) she was sighted again in the same area in the company of another adult, but without the dead newborn.

Giovanni Bearzi

Life goes on for "super-mama"


Amvrakikos Gulf, 22 May 2009

Today we saw a very special friend. I was happy to see a female bottlenose dolphin very well know to us. Her photoidentification code in our catalogue is 03046, but since July 2007 I keep referring to her as “super-mama” (super-mom). During the 3rd and 4th of July 2007 we observed her mourning a dead newborn, likely her own offspring.

Our last encounter was on December 2008. This morning we saw her in close association with another newborn. There were three other newborns/calves in that group. Next sightings will confirm whether or not she is the actual mother of the newborn she was swimming with.

Joan Gonzalvo

18 May 2009

Dolphins of Greece, 11-19 May 2009


Nine days in the office, or in the field on the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece? I know which I prefer! As Earthwatch staff, we are here to experience what a project is like from a volunteer’s perspective, and remind ourselves why we do what we do.

Elah, our fellow volunteer, is an avid dolphin lover, with a passion that shines through. Despite our different backgrounds, after the first day at sea, we are all infatuated.

Our first sighting had started following a single dolphin, and ended with a big group. They were socialising, diving and feeding, and demonstrated some amazing aerial displays. They are hungry and feeding on fish that they drive to the surface, and the surrounding seabirds are making the most of the opportunity for an easy dinner.

Each day has given us sightings like this, but the best had to be when we found two newborn dolphins, just a few days old, porpoising alongside their mothers, their foetal creases still visible. We felt so privileged to see them. This goes for the adults too, who have let us into their secret lives – we will all miss Max, Gindra, Koboloi and the rest - whose fin markings we have got to know quite well.

But it is not just dolphin research. To quote Elah, “I’m participating in a program that is actually going toward something useful, with a scientist who knows the answer to any question posed on his subject”. We have also enjoyed the friendliness of the local people, our post-survey cafĂ© freddos, the beautiful surroundings, comfortable house and great food.

All in all, it has been an absolutely fantastic experience!

Emma (Earthwatch Engagement Officer), Debbie (Earthwatch Research Officer), and Elah (dolphin addict).

17 May 2009

Artemis: life and death of a monk seal


Please find below a message by Dr. Spyros Kotomatas, Director of MOm, the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Monk Seal.

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Dear friends and colleagues,

With great disappointment and sorrow I would like, on behalf of all of us at MOm, to inform you that Artemis, the orphan monk seal pup rescued and treated by MOm for a 4 month period, and released in the core zone of the National Marine Park of Alonnisos Northern Sporades in Greece just over a month ago, was found dead on the 14th of May. Based on the results of the necropsy conducted the animal died of drowning, most probably due to entanglement in fishing gear.

Do find below the press release that we have just issued in relation to the particular case, that provides a detail account of the events and the up to date available information.

A sad last message from Artemis

On Thursday 14th of May, our organization received sad and disheartening news: orphaned monk seal pup ‘Artemis’ had been found dead at the port of Skiathos. Subsequent investigations, including the results of a necropsy performed by a veterinary pathologist from the Netherlands, indicate that she had drowned, most probably as a result of becoming entangled in fishing gear.

With a clean bill of health from her veterinarians, Artemis had been released just over a month ago, into the core zone of the National Marine Park of Alonnisos, Northern Sporades (NMPANS) — this following 4 months of treatment at MOm’s Monk Seal Rehabilitation Centre, that had raised her from a vulnerable week-old pup to a vigorous young seal.

After her body was discovered at Skiathos, events unfolded as follows:

- MOm’s response team recovered the carcass and, in collaboration with the local Port Police authorities, managed to transfer it to Athens that same evening.

- Prof. Dr. Thijs Kuiken, a veterinary pathologist specialising in marine mammals at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, travelled urgently to Greece to conduct a full necropsy at the zoology laboratory at the University of Athens. He was assisted by MOm’s own biologists, who are also experienced in performing monk seal necropsies.


- The necropsy established that Artemis was in excellent nutritional condition and overall health, having a normal weight for her age. There was clear evidence that the seal had died as a result of drowning.


“The results of the necropsy,” said Dr. Thijs Kuiken, “led to the clear conclusion that the animal died of acute pneumonic edema, caused by drowning. The fresh food remains identified in the stomach and the evidence of active digestion in the digestive tract substantiate further that death was sudden.”

To further assess the condition of the animal, additional data were utilized, obtained through the attached satellite tag (GPS mobile telephony tag), that recorded Artemis’ movements and behavior during her post-release monitoring, a program conducted by MOm in collaboration with the Sea Mammal Research Unit of UK. Artemis, up until her death, exhibited a gradual and continuously increasing mobility and diving ability, first around her release site and then outside the NMPANS, covering distances of more than 100 nautical miles, and with dives exceeding 150 meters in depth.

The specific conditions in which the death occurred, as well as the exact cause of drowning, may yet be determined through further in-depth analysis, both of samples from the necropsy, and satellite tag data from the last few hours prior to the animal’s death.

At this point, however, interpretation of the accumulated evidence suggests that Artemis may have drowned as a result of becoming entangled in fishing gear.

“Although the young seal quickly adjusted to its natural environment,” says Vangelis Paravas, Conservation and Policy Coordinator of MOm, “the harsh but unavoidable fact is that Artemis ultimately also had to face the reality of surviving in the wild, just as the rest of the remaining monk seals in the Mediterranean Sea.”

Data stemming from MOm’s long-term research — notably from its current European Commission LIFE-MOFI project, that investigates seal-fisheries interactions throughout the country — have shown that the entanglement of monk seals in fishing gear, and especially in nets, constitutes one of the most significant threats for the Greek population of the species, the largest in the EU.

This threat, occurring commonly during spring, is the main cause of death in immature monk seals. In fact, 47% of the mortality recorded in immature animals is attributable to entanglements.

As part of the MOFI project and in consultation with artisanal professional fishermen and their representatives, MOm is formulating specific proposals to the Greek government to mitigate monk seal mortality and promote sustainable coastal fisheries.

“Despite difficult and disappointing times like today,” says Dr. Spyros Kotomatas, Director of MOm, “monk seal rescue, treatment and rehabilitation remains a key priority for MOm in the conservation of Europe’s most endangered marine mammal.”

We will keep you informed of any further developments as they become available.

MOm, would like to thank all people, institutions and bodies that participated, assisted and supported the particular effort and express our commitment to continue with conviction the course towards achieving MOm’s mission to conserve the most critically endangered marine mammal in Europe and to protect the marine environment of Greece.

Dr. Spyros Kotomatas
Director of MOm

16 May 2009

Extreme mammals and augmented reality


A new exhibition on 'extreme' mammals in New York makes use of some new technology that Massimo Demma enthusiastically pointed to me some time ago.

In the exhibition's web site they have a demo of how it works:

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/extrememammals/extreme-3d/demo.php

If you have a webcam and you print out a A4 sheet with a special symbol, you can see in your computer the image of yourself manipulating 'the smallest mammal ever' in 3D:

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/extrememammals/extreme-3d/index.php

The only problem is that you are expected to allow the web site to film you (and therefore possibly record you) while you are doing the trick, with related privacy issues.

Other intriguing examples of this so called 'augmented reality' can be found here:

http://ge.ecomagination.com/smartgrid/#/augmented_reality

http://www.boffswana.com/news/?p=392

This new tech toy seem to have a considerable potential, and not only for educational purposes. I wouldn't be surprised if we see much of that around in the future.

Giovanni Bearzi

13 May 2009

More newborns...


Today we saw the first newborns of the 2009 research season in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

What initially started as a sighting of a single individual quickly evolved into one that will stay in our retinas for quite a while.

After about half an hour with this new group, we were amazed to see two newborns approaching our boat up to a few metres.

Aina, our Catalan research assistant, was especially happy. Finally, today, on her last day in Amvrakikos until next September, she was the one who spotted the group!

As I write these lines, Aina is on her way back to Barcelona. I am sure that she still has a smile on her face while recalling the images of this morning.

Newborns are always good news. Their immature way of swimming, surfacing with their chins up besides their mothers, and their foetal creases on both sides giving them a zebra-like appearance, filled us with joy and optimism.

Joan Gonzalvo

Newborns!


Today we saw the first newborns of the 2009 research season in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

What initially started as a sighting of a single individual quickly evolved into one that will stay in our retinas for quite a while.

After about half an hour with this new group, we were amazed to see two newborns approaching our boat up to a few metres.

Aina, our Catalan research assistant, was especially happy. Finally, today, on her last day in Amvrakikos until next September, she was the one who spotted the group!

As I write these lines, Aina is on her way back to Barcelona. I am sure that she still has a smile on her face while recalling the images of this morning.

Newborns are always good news. Their immature way of swimming, surfacing with their chins up besides their mothers, and their foetal creases on both sides giving them a zebra-like appearance, filled us with joy and optimism.

Joan Gonzalvo

09 May 2009

Dolphins of Greece, 1-9 May 2009


A truly great experience...

Amazing PI, asssistant, dolphin sightings, location, food, weather and team.
Always seeing and learning something new. Spacious airy, clean living, working, eating, socialising and sleeping accommodaton. Different Greek foods – love the lamb, pies, Greek salad, shrimps and moussaka.

Vonitsa – a delightful small very real Greek town – loved the fishing harbour and fishernen – good restaurants for coffee & dinner.


Dolphins – saw so many frenzied and belly-up feeding, porpoising, diving, swimming, socialising – such magical sightings.


Team mates – Mark on his Blog, Richard – a star on the Netpad, Aina learning fast herself and teaching us – Joan firm but fun leadership, with well-balanced, busy and varied days and of course, Posei his well fed and loved dog. Michael and I participated fully too making our contribution, albeit very small, to this most worthwhile research.


A special mention of our PI, Joan who shows such humanity and integrity, great knowledge and love of dolphins and the local community and all with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face. Keep up this amazing work. Thank you for this experience!

Jill, UK

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My first experience of Earthwatch was a project in the Bahamas – Dolphins and Whales of Abaco Island which was an excellent start to a future in voluntary conservation ten years ago. Since then I have found that from time to time working in conservation has a moment when things don’t feel as positive as they should. Setbacks occur and it’s time to recharge the battery. This is my 5th project with Earthwatch now and it has been an excellent way of rekindling the enthusiasm for conservation locally. This effect is due to Joan – who through his own dedication and untiring commitment to ‘getting the message across’ is a great example of someone who seems to be able to be undaunted in his positive approach to the education of the community and us as volunteers. So I will go back to the UK with not only wonderful sightings of dolphins in my memory but a refreshed ‘act locally’ hat on, and try to be a better communicator when promoting my own bit of conservation. Thanks Joan and Aina for giving our team so much of your time and help in understanding the bigger picture.

Michael, UK

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"Sit down, Reshard", "Don’t look out to Sea, Reshard!", "Look out at 12:00 to 3:00, Reshard!" These were just a few of the many directions Joan directed at me as we bounced along in the Gulf in search of the dolphins. This was all before the dolphins were sighted. But, once the dolphins were sighted the words were quickly forgotten and the action came fast and furious. One of us would manned the Netpad, another timed the dives, the others would help spot and count the number of dolphins. We were truly kept busy for the next two or three hours. Our time out on the gulf passed quickly.

Joan was our team leader. He was assisted by Aina. They were very good to work with. They were patient and very informative. I must admit, I needed a little extra help from time to time, especially while using the dreaded Netpad. They both showed great patience at these times. They heard the word oops often!
Our volunteers were Michael and Jill from England, Mark from New Hamshire, and myself, Richard from Kent, Washington. We came together because we all shared a common interest in dolphins and the environment. Being here in Vonitsa this past week was one of the High Points of my life. I am sure Jill, Michael, and Mark would agree with that statement. I believe we share a common concern with the condition of our modern world. There are things about this world we would like to change.

After being here for a week I see hope. Being a teacher I will return and share with my students many of the things we did and witnessed. Perhaps in this small way we can make a difference.
If asked, "Would you go on this trip again?" my response would (will) be, "You Betcha! I would do it in a second!" And perhaps I will!

Richard, USA

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Thank you for a truly remarkable experience. We have seen lots of dolphins doing amazing things. I would like to thank Earthwatch and the Kelly family for their generous gift that made this experience possible for myself and my students. I would especially like to thank Joan and Aina for making this such a positive learning experience. This has re-charged my batteries and my students have greatly benefited as well. I wish Joan, Aina and the dolphin project the best of luck and success preserving these amazing animals.

Mark, USA

07 May 2009

Prince Charles' video to save the rain forests


A campaign to save the rain forests was recently launched by the Prince of Wales, based on a 90-sec video that relies on state-of-the-art software and internet strategy.

Read more and see the video at: www.time.com

The video features pople such as Harrison Ford ('actor, conservationist'), the Dalai Lama ('simple Buddhist monk'), Kermit the frog, and an actual (digital) frog.

GB

06 May 2009

iFin?


Automatic face recognition from photos, mapping of photo location, intelligent automatic filing based on location or portrayed person. You can find all this, and more, on the new iPhoto ’09 for Mac.

Is this a misplaced ad to encourage PC users to choose Macs? Probably yes... but not only.

To a cetacean researcher, the features of this new photo management tool immediately look appealing as they suggest that the very same could be done based on dorsal fins, flukes, and perhaps even some pigmentation patterns. The technology certainly exists, and what is probably missing is a convenient market, cetacean researchers being a relatively small community of potential users.

But imagine if you could have a GPS built in your digital camera (a feature that will probably become standard very soon). You go out to sea and just photograph dolphins and other things. Then you get back to the field station, download the stuff into your computer (wireless, of course) and everything gets nicely catalogued by dorsal fin (please just confirm that this one really is ‘BrokenTip’), by survey, and by location.

A map of your movements is automatically created based on the photos taken during your survey (please just take a photo of the port before leaving it, and another one every time the route or the sea state change).

Animals observed at sea are similarly catalogued by species and by survey (if you can’t manage to actually photograph an animal, please just take a photo of a portable catalogue of animal icons).

Researcher’s life made easy, it seems.

Just have a look at the iPhoto guided tour. Add a bit of imagination, and dream on!

Giovanni Bearzi

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http://www.apple.com/it/ilife/iphoto/
http://www.apple.com/it/ilife/iphoto/guided-tour/

05 May 2009

Asking questions


'Asking the questions at the right time is as important a contribution as giving the answers... and I would like to think so because I have been much better asking questions than giving answers.'

-- Walter Munk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je3QvqNdHl0
(at 25:57)

04 May 2009

Amvrakikos Gulf: first sightings of the year


The season of the ‘Dolphins of Greece’ project has recently started and it seems to be another promising one.

Just as a way to get started, Joan Gonzalvo, the principal investigator, spotted three bottlenose dolphins from the seafront while he was walking with his dog Posi.

Then, despite the unfavourable weather, the first team of Earthwatch volunteers made three sightings in a row, immediately recognising three old friends: ‘Helikas’ (a highly marked dolphin with a big notch behind her dorsal fin), ‘Koboloi’ (a bossy dolphin who likes to show off), and ‘Max’ (a very active and playful female).

And then not only dolphins… the lucky team also met two rare Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus).

Definitely an excellent start!

Silvia Bonizzoni

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For more information:
http://www.tethys.org
http://www.earthwatch.org

03 May 2009

The Whale Galaxy


This is NGC 4631, the Whale Galaxy. It is 25 million light years away from Planet Earth.

Please note the pectoral fin (click on image to enlarge).

Massimo Demma