Beau Cutts, an Atlanta writer who had published reports on whale research, founded The Dolphin Project on December 19, 1988, in Atlanta. Two months later, several dozen TDP members participated in a seminar on Skidaway Island, near Savannah. Marine scientists taught classes and were eager to support TDP. They wanted to obtain fundamental facts about dolphin, especially since in 1987 and early 1988 an estimated 50 percent of the inshore dolphin along the U.S. eastern coast died from a mysterious wasting disease. With scientists guiding their work, Cutts and other TDP leaders organized the first dolphin survey in July 1989 for 200 TDP members. Other surveys followed each season of the year. TDP members work from boats on the 110-mile seaboard of Hilton Head, S.C., along the Georgia coast to Florida.
In 1989, 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 behaviour.
P.O. Box 60753
Savannah, Georgia 31420
The Dolphin Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit, all volunteer organization. The Dolphin Project, Inc does not advocate, support or practice unlawful discrimination based on race, religion, age, national origin, language, gender, sexual preference or physical handicap. ©2010 The Dolphin Project Inc. All rights reserved.This includes but is not limited to artwork, photographs and data. Material cannot be reproduced, published or used in any manner without the expressed written consent of The Dolphin Project, Inc.
VOLUNTEERS for RESEARCH ~ CONSERVATION ~ EDUCATION
"The Dolphin Project serves as the eyes, ears and hands of the professionals... " Charlie Potter stated he and other scientists are delighted to have trained volunteers perform the research. "They are citizen-naturalists who play an important role for pure science and wildlife management," he said. "They are the eyes, ears and hands of the professionals.
"Weíve had environmental change all along, but climate change and loss of habitat are occurring very fast now compared to the time, for example, of the last ice age. TDP members and other groups like them-- and not just for dolphin --can collect meaningful data needed by university professors and their graduate students. These citizen-naturalists are helping to educate our next generation of scientists. Federal and state agencies responsible for wildlife protection donít have funding to obtain the research information they need", Potter said. "Thatís even more so with todayís economy. So these volunteers are very much needed".
Ron & Maureen
Jimmy & Crew
Scientific education not required...
Schoolteachers, mechanics, soldiers, lawyers and people from many occupations have joined The Dolphin Project and participated in the research. Retirees are especially welcome. TDP members do not swim with dolphin, feed them or touch them -- no unauthorized person should -- it is against the law. TDP non-invasive research is sanctioned by authority of a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The data and photos obtained by TDP survey teams are entered into the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog (MABDC) and OBIS-SEAMAP (Ocean Biogeographic Information System). This collaboration of research groups along the Atlantic coast means we can better understand resident and transient dolphin populations on a bigger scale -- from New York to Florida.
The Dolphin Project is the longest operated dolphin research program in the country staffed entirely by trained volunteers. There is deep concern for our environment and for protecting wildlife.The dolphin are the sentinel species of their environment, an environment that we humans share. If the dolphin are unhealthy, it holds true that other wildlife, including the water in which they live is also unhealthy. The need is there to monitor and protect the dolphin. The Dolphin Project serves this need.