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About The Dolphin Project:
The Dolphin Project (TDP) was organized in 1989 after a mass die-off of dolphins on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. To learn more details of our history, please go to our HISTORY page. Scientists and volunteers came together to count the dolphins and photograph their dorsal fins (comparable to a human fingerprint for identification). These actions help to monitor the health of the dolphins which are the sentinel species of the estuarine environment. Since we share this environment, the well-being of these dolphins impacts our well-being too. TDP adds to the knowledge base of Bottlenose dolphins through the sharing of collected field data. Regular collaboration takes place both formally and informally with many research scientists, universities, other interested organizations and government agencies. The Dolphin Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization.
TDP members seek to contribute to the understanding of marine mammals by expanding the public's knowledge and concern for our marine environment through its Education Outreach Program that brings interesting and fun facts about dolphins into classrooms and to various organizations.
In 1989, Dr. Charles Potter, senior marine-mammal scientist at the Smithsonian Institution, was on the team that helped TDP leaders establish the scientific protocols, training classes and the geographic survey zones in the sounds, rivers and smaller tidal streams of the coast.
Using boats, TDP members travel in precisely established zones to count dolphin and record their behavior as well as photograph them. Repetition in surveying specific zones enables consistency in observations and facilitates comparison of findings over the years. TDP information is helping to document the dolphin population in the survey zones. TDP is able to get a relative abundance of these animals -- a comparison of counts over time -- It is complex to determine population since dolphin travel as they please. The largest concentration of the TDP data has come from the greater Savannah area.
When TDP teams are on the water, a record with each dolphin photo states the date, time, latitude and longitude. In this way we are able to compare multiple photos of a particular dolphin over time and learn the extent of its range and often the other dolphin with which it associates. Some dolphin along our coast are visitors, but primarily local residents are seen. Volunteers are on the water one weekend a month during 11 months of the year to photograph and take a census of the dolphins, also noting behavior.