Over the past five decades, the bottlenose dolphin population in the Adriatic Sea has declined by almost 50 percent. This is primarily due to the deliberate killings of these majestic marine animals in the 1960s when dolphins were perceived as pests. Though the practice is now illegal, a further decline is expected mainly because of the rise in anthropogenic pressures, including activities such as overfishing.
In 2002, an organization was established in Slovenia to protect and conserve these remaining bottlenose dolphins. While its efforts began in Slovenia, the organization has since expanded into Croatia where researchers work tirelessly in order to aid conservation efforts and protect these animals. The research area, which is administered in part by Natura 2000 (an EU-wide network of nature protection areas), is an important feeding and calving ground for over 100 dolphins. They are the last constantly present marine mammals in the northeast Adriatic sea and play a vital role in reflecting the seas ecological state. Through the conduction of dolphin research in the region, researchers are able to understand the contributing factors influencing the local dolphin populations as well as enabling detailed eductaion for the local communities regarding preservation of the bottlenose dolphin. The organization is also focussed on preserving the overall marine environment in ordre to benefit all other marine life, including turtles and sharks, who regulate the ecological balance of the marine ecosystem.
As a volunteer on this exciting and worthwhile project you will be helping to protect the dolphin population living in this area. During the first few days, you will attend morning lectures on topics such as marine mammals and marine ecology as well as learn how to read and understand research data and actively help with dolphin conservation. While on the project you may be involved in some of the following tasks:
- Dolphin observation
- Data analysis
- Entering data directly into the catalogue, including observation notes
- Educating the local public on dolphins and their importance for the entire marine ecosystem
- Learning how to distinguish between dolphin species
Duting your time on the project you will volunteer for about 4-6 hours a day, for 8 days out of 11. Your days will begin at 9 a.m. with a briefing of daily tasks during breakfast. After, you will analyze data from the previous day and enter the information into the main catalogue. In the early afternoon, you will depart for dolphin research and spend the rest of the day out at sea. Weather dependant you coul dbe out at sea as late as 20:30 p.m. following which you will return to the research base. In the evening, you will help cook a light dinner with the rest of the team after which you can choose to relax or particpate in social activties with the other volunteers.
If you are passionate about the ocean and all it has to offer, this project is the perfect opportunity for you to play a role in its conservation.