Hello my name is Mrs. James. Please join me as I travel to Greece to study the dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Last day in the Amvrakikos Gulf

Yesterday our lecture was on the sperm whales, they mainly eat giant squid but mistake plastic bags and other items of plastic as food and then their stomach fills up with plastic waste matter that can eventually kill them. The whales are also often hit by large ships that travel very fast across the med. We also watch a film about the illegal use of driftnets. They can be up to 30 mtrs deep and 20 km long, they catch everything that swims into them.

Here is the timetable we follow each day. >

Today,is our last day in the Amvrakikos Gulf, and once again we are going out on the boat to try to find the Bottlenose dolphines. Today we followed C transect, on our way there we saw a dead turtle. We all wanted to know what it had died of and Joan said he thought it had died of old age. Sho, who is training to be a vet, wanted to take it back to base to disect it. We went back to our look-out section on the boat to continue spotting, as we traveled on we saw the dolphines. There were about 8 within our focal group so we followed them making observations at all time about the conditions and continued to look to see if any more dolphines had come to join us.

A dolphine was bow riding - right beside me!

Below is Kimberley, Sho and myself - looking out for dolphines.

Dolphines on the horizon

Joan has been so very patient teaching us all about this wonderful project, at the same time he also is training Ioannis so he will be able to run a similar project in the future. When you step on the boat Joan becomes so very focused calling out instructions when the dolphines are around us.

This afternoon we will be cropping the photos that Joan and Ioannis have taken this morning - then before dinner at 9pm we will have time to pack.

I will complete my blog after I get back to the UK - Joan says he will also send us some more photos that he has taken of our week here and also links to research further on the Bottlenose Dolphines.

This has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. I am so grateful to both The Jane Goodall Foundation and The Earthwatch Institute for the opportunity to take part in this project - thank you

Sunday, August 14, 2011

We spot a newborn dolphin, a calf and a juvenile dolphin

Wow, today it is really hot and as we made our way down to the boat we were all really hoping to see dolphins. The work we have to do in the afternoon is cropping,matching and grouping photos of the dolphins but it would be great to do this with dolphins that we have spotted ourselves today, rather than match photos from a previous times.


Sho and I grouping the dolphin photo's yesterday

Today we are going to work along G transect and after we had been going about 45 minutes and stared along the G transect we spotted the Bottlenose dolphins, we were all so excited especially after a couple of days with no sightings. We all had to count the number of dolphins in our section - altogether there were about 20 dolphins in the group, with a new born a calf and a juvenile dolphin!!! Wow this was wonderful, the young ones stay so close to mum as they swim along. Even I can identify Picco by his dorsal fin as it is so ragged and shaped so distinctly

This is our group of bottlenose dolphins with the juvenile

Well I have to dash now as we have to group and match our photos from this morning - will be in touch later today.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Survying The Transections Saturday

Today is another beautiful day, we set off early once more with our fingers crossed that we might see some dolphines. We are survying the Amvrakikos Gulf - Joan has sectioned this area off as you can see on the plan below.

We started at point D then completed section D,E and F. When we are on our way to the start point, or travelling anywhere other than on the transections, we all have to look down. This is called negative observance - until we reach our start point then he tells us we are on positive observance and we all have our section to observe. While observation is in progress there is no talking or asking any questions. Joan is just waiting for us to shout out dolphines at 3 o'clock etc. Although we were working on this all morning- we did not see any dolphines.

Joan took us to see some other ways that the fishermen are working, below you can see a fisherman high up a tower which makes his look-out point. When the nets are filled he calls for the other fishermen to help close the circle of nets - which captures the fish.

Travelling on our way back to base we see this fish farm where the fish are actually being fed their pellets.

See below a photo of the house where we are staying,

And finally today before I go back to base to carry on with our work, we are matching dolphines from those we first saw to put all the same dolphines in the same file on the computer. We have a lecture by Joan after this work and our duties to do either cooking or cleaning, dinner then is at 9pm

This group photo was taken this morning on the boat - be in touch tomorrow -fingers and toes crossed that we spot dolphines!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Turtle watch

Yesterday we were not lucky enough to spot any dolphines, the conservation problems here are real. Joan talked about how the dolphines were so numerous in the past, this is why Earthwatch are becoming so involved in monitoring wildlife here. As part of our surveying we were taken to the fish farms and Joan explained about them. On the way back to base Joan took us to a beach where we could swim while they went back to put the boat on a trailer. The beach was very rocky, but the water was lovely, very clear, the were lots of fish swimming around with us - there were also lots of sea urchins - fortunately I had my swimming shoes on - so did not stand on any!

In the afternoon we were shown 'The End of The Line" film by Rupert Murray, the problem is that too many big boats are chasing too many little fish world wide, the bottom trawlers draggin along the bottom of the sea is comparable to having a field ploughed 7 times a year, you need only to ask yourself what could grow in this sort of scenario? For example the fishing industries in Newfoundland where they fished for cod was desimated due to overfishing then in 1992 cod fishing was banned and 40,000 fishermen lost their jobs and their livelihood. The biggest trawler net is big enough to hold 13 x 757 planes!

Each afternoon and evening we are given tutorials either about the dolphins or other conservation issues. When we spotted the striped dolphines Joan took 300 photos - 150 of these he kept and we have to 'crop' each of these photos in order to reduce their size, this makes it easier to match the dorsal fins of the dolphin. They have a database of all recorded dolphins, some of which they have seen many times, Joan and his team have given the dolphines names.

Cetaceans are divided into two groups:
Odontocetes (pronounced odontoseats) from ancient Greece (oden = teeth and cetes = monster) - so these have teeth - they are the orcas, purposes and dolphins

Mysticetes - do not have teeth - they have baleen's - eg fin in their mouth, they take in a mouthfull of smallfish and push the water out through their baleens but keeping hold of the fish, these are the large whales except sperm whale.

Here is a picture of a whales 'baleens'
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baleen_whale

Today we get up later at 7am to go out on the boat to the Amvrakikos area. The sea is very rough my area to view when we are in position will be 3 o'clock to 6 o'clock - today it is very hot, I am very grateful for the long sleeved shirts my friend Hilary has lent me! I have bought a Tilley hat (pink) with a lacer to go under your chin so you don't lose it when the boat goes fast. It is a bit like riding a horse, when the waves hit the boat you go quiet high. You have to keep both your feet flat on the floor and hold on very tight with both hands to the correct ropes. The wind and the view is absolutely wonderful, Joan is constantly pointing things out to us and telling us all about the area.

We follow a set of co-ordinates but unfortunately we do not spot any dolphins. We do spot a loggerhead turtle. We move onto an area where there are mussle farms, these have been banned due to the high level of toxins in the mussles and although no longer in use the lines and drum markers are still all in place. Joan tells us that this is a good place to find turtles so, in our 'spotting position' we go up and down the lanes looking for turtles. We spotted three, they are lovely - so graceful - below is a photo of a turtle near one of the marker drums, this was taken by Joan for Tethys Inst.

Have to go back to base now as it is nearly 4pm and we have a lecture on fish farming - be back in touch soon!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First days in Greece

Monday I met up with Kimberley the other volunteer from the UK . She is originally from Canada but teaches in a school in London . We take our five and a half hour bus journey to Vonitsa, the weather here is very hot Tuesday We met the rest of our team of five on the beach at 2pm, there are two ladies, Lynne and Christine both from New York , and Shotaro, a young man from Japan , who is studying to become a vet. Our team leaders Joan, pronounced Jewon and Ioannis pronounced Yannis. We have our first briefing, where Joan tells us that tomorrow we are going to Kalamos an area which used to have bottlenose dolphins, but sightings had been very rare in the past few years in this area. We are shown the recording sheets where information has to be recorded on as we spot dolphins. For example we have to note the time, group form whether the groups is tightly formed, loosely formed, disbursed, widely disbursed. How big the cluster is, the surf mode and direction the dolphins are swimming. We also have another form to complete about the fish farm area if dolphins are also in that area and their behavior. Wednesday, first day out on the boat We had to be up really early this morning to leave our base at 7am. The seven of us drove for an hour to Kalamos keeping along the shore line. The weather was already very warm. We passed a collection of bee hives by the road side. We had tasted Greek orange honey yesterday with our yoghurt it was delicious. We all boarded the inflatable boat we had to sit on the sides and hold onto the ropes especially when the boat was going very fast. We were all given our positive position, which means to keep watch for dolphins. The bow of the boat is 12 o’clock and then people were given areas to be on watch, so to start off with I was between 9 and 12 o’clock. We were told to shout out our coordinates and distance very loudly as soon as we spotted anything. We had been going for just one hour when Shotaro caught sight of a group of striped dolphins, we were all so excited, there were between 15 and 20 all swimming in front of us. Joan told us that these types of dolphins have only been spotted twice in this region in the last 20 years We then had to record how they were performing, arial – jumping full body out of the water, socializing – touching and rubbing together and percussive where only part of the body is out of the water. The most exciting part was where they were Bow Riding this is where they come along side of the boat as if they are swimming with you, and then they would show off by jumping in the air as if to say “look at me!” Joan was delighted with this spotting as it was very rare, let’s see what our luck is like tomorrow! Have a look at these two photos Joan has taken today of us,as part of Tethys research. The first one is of Kimberley, me and Ioannis, the other volunteers and Joan are behind us. I will post some more news and pictures tomorrow.
See the short video I took of the dolphins as they came along side of us - it was wonderful!!

Friday, July 22, 2011