Tech­nol­ogy helps ma­rine knowl­edge

South Western Times - - Faces & Places - Phil Coulthard

Thanks to modern day tech­nol­ogy, ev­ery­one can now con­trib­ute to this knowl­edge bank.

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.

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 (www.coastal­walk­a­bout.org) 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 www.ga­iare­sources.com.au/project/bun­bury-dol­phin-dis­cov­erycen­tre/ for more in­for­ma­tion.

Pic­ture: Dol­phin Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre

Fol­low­ing a com­mu­nity re­port, this dol­phin known as Cho­co­late­was res­cued and re­leased after strand­ing him­self at the mouth of the Pre­ston River ear­lier this year.

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