Technology helps marine knowledge

Phil CoulthardSouth Western Times
Following a community report, this dolphin known as Chocolate was rescued and released after stranding himself at the mouth of the Preston River earlier this year.
Camera IconFollowing a community report, this dolphin known as Chocolate was rescued and released after stranding himself at the mouth of the Preston River earlier this year. Credit: Supplied / Dolphin Discovery Centre

The dolphins are returning to Koombana Bay in incredible numbers to coincide with the arrival of summer.

Record dolphin visits within the Dolphin Discovery Centre’s Interaction Zone has also taken the volunteer and staff team by surprise.

Up to 12 dolphins have been spending quality time alongside visitors in front of the soon-to-be-opened facility.

The centre’s research team has also started summer surveys and already confirmed the identification of 80 individual dolphins – both within the bay and along the Bunbury coast.

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This number represents approximately half the entire regional dolphin population and suggests the bottlenose dolphin summer breeding season isn’t too far away.

Of course, studying marine fauna in their natural environment has always been a challenge, particular for those animals that live in the open ocean and travel long distances.

A perfect example would have to be dolphins and whales found along our South West coast.

Scientists and researchers continue to spend millions of dollars and thousands of boat hours trying to collect basic information on their numbers, areas of preference and migration patterns, however the task is huge and they need your help.

Thanks to modern day technology, everyone can now contribute to this knowledge bank and collectively make a huge difference by downloading two fantastic new citizen science apps.

The first one is called Coastal Walkabout and allows the user to record sightings of a wide range of marine fauna throughout the State.

Whether it is a dolphin, whale, dugong, shark, ray, turtle or seabird, the app allows you to capture photographic and video records of wildlife encounters while simultaneously and automatically recording your observation location (GPS) and time.

Your records will be automatically uploaded into a real time mapping system on their website. Via the website, the data is freely accessible to the public, researchers, NGOs, industry and local organisations all over the world.

The second app is an extension of the Walkabout app and is dedicated entirely to Bunbury dolphins.

Owned by the DDC, the Dolphin Watch app is also easy to use and is designed to encourage people (of all ages and abilities) to record sightings of dolphins in coastal and inland waterways.

Like the Walkabout app, it automatically takes note of the time and location (GPS) of dolphin sightings before uploading that data in real time to the Coastal Walkabout website.

Researchers at the DDC are excited about the app and hope that more eyes on the water will help them better manage and protect the Bunbury dolphins in the future.

The app is particularly useful for areas that researchers rarely get access to, especially in shallow areas of the Leschenault Estuary and nearby rivers, or in confined spaces such as the canals where dolphins can lose their way and strand.

Over the past few weeks a perfect example would be a juvenile dolphin that continues to spend time in the canals at Pelican Point.

Thanks to dozens of calls and a number of uploaded Dolphin Watch App sightings from the community, the DDC research team were able to find the dolphin, take identification photos and assess its condition.

The team will now work with the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions to manage the situation should intervention be required.

Both apps are available as free downloads in the iTunes App Store or Google Play store or by going to here for more information.

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