Welcome!

Hello! My name is Bob Spillman (Dr Bob). Join me as I travel to Greece to study Dolphins on an Earthwatch Expedition!


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Friday, June 4, 2010

Dr. Bob with Dolphins -- June 3, 2010

Thursday - we traveled by boat not far from our Vonitsa port and were lucky to have spotted a group of 5 dolphins (all bottlenose), including a baby. They were quite playful and kept surfacing near the boat and then swimming away in a long dive in a different direction. We tracked them fairly well, but not without a lot of shouting and sharp turns. At one point they displayed aerial behavior directly in front of the boat, creating a chorus of wow's. Joan got several fantastic photos of them in mid-air - a very difficult feat since they are invisible until they appear and Joan was busy driving the boat. We followed the group most of the morning and noted their behavoir as other dolphins approached. At one point we left them to move towards a feeding group of dolphins who could be seen frothing on the surface amid a flurry of seagulls. The seagulls track feeding dolphins and will steal the fish that come to the surface.


We spent a portion of last night watching training videos amd discussing the dolphins with Joan. His committment to the dolphins is remarkable and touching. The dolphins are mammals and they actually evolved from land mammals that returned to the ocean. They exhibit intelligent behavoirs such as bonding, social behavior, cooperative feeding and defense. We watched one video in which one dolphin from a group would rapidly swim circles around a group of salmon such that they were frightened into swimming up into the air and eventually the other dolphins would swoop in and catch the confused fish.

The mission of the research group is to save the bottlenose dolphins from extinction. Data such as the type we are collecting is used for reports that document the dolphin's decline and identify the reasons. The two biggest pressures are overfishing and pollution. This portion of the Mediterranean is a beautiful, but remote area, that is seeing increased human use with little in the way of waste management and fishing restrictions. Joan seems to have had good success in working with the local fishermen, but much remains to be done on a very small budget. The purpose of finding volunteers like myself is threefold. First, we do help gather the data, second, it is expected that we communicate our experiences and conclusions to others around the world, and third that this communication and education will promote more donations to their cause. They are already doing a tremendous amount on a very small budget, but need more to accelerate the good progress being made.

As per our previous outings, we continued tracking dolphins until it was time to return for lunch and data processing. There is a very pleasant harborside cafe near the boat mooring, so we stop there for a coffee on our walk back to the station where we have a lunch of breads, olives, feta cheese and perhaps some tomatoes and cucumbers. A short sietsa will be followed by photo cropping and dolphin identifications. The older dolphins all have names and we've identified a number of them from the previous day's data already. This will be followed by another education session. Joan will then move the boat to a new port, and we will head out from this new port tomorrow. Dolphins are less frequently sighted there now.

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