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November 2015 marked the second anniversary of the Dolphin Research Institute’s ‘Community Dolphin Monitoring Program’ where citizen scientists have contributed nearly 2000 hours to provide a ‘snapshot’ of the activity of dolphins, birds and humans along eastern Port Phillip.

Key findings show that the dolphins and birds are more active and consistently closer to shore in the cooler months of the year.

Dolphins were seen during three quarters of the surveys conducted from land-based locations from Mornington to Mt Eliza on the second Sunday of each month during the two years.

“This eastern region of the bay is clearly very important to the two resident species of dolphins that make Port Phillip their home” said Sue Mason.“We now have data that reinforces the remarkable values of this part of the bay and a proven monitoring tool to pick up change in the years ahead.”

This program forms a crucial part of DRI’s core conservation-focused research program that now spans 25 years, making it one of the world’s longest on-going studies of dolphins.

The volunteer scientists are trained to use special binoculars with inbuilt compasses and grids to record the position and movement of the dolphins. Interactions with other species such as seals and birds are also recorded. The presence of vessels and their behaviour around the dolphins are also noted and cases of harassment are logged and reported to Wildlife Officers.

Volunteers for the program include nurses, teachers, students, environmental managers, psychologists, retirees and even a three-month old baby! There is currently a waiting list to become involved.

We reinforce the rules about respecting our dolphins by not approaching closer than 100m in boats (300m on a jetski) and 30m for paddlers and swimmers.

DRI is planning to expand the program to more locations and to involve volunteers from businesses as well as the community in general.

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