14 June 2011

Great start in Kalamos (II)

With our last team of Earthwatch volunteers we spent the first two days surveying the waters surrounding the beautiful island of Kalamos (Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago). The spirits were high after the short-beaked common dolphin sighting we had on our last day with the previous team. This time we did not find common dolphins, but we had an incredible encounter with a group of six botllenose dolphins that were socializing very intensively just a few metres away from our boat. We stayed with them for more than two hours collecting valuable data on their different behaviours while carrying out continuous photoidentification effort and taking back home over 200 photos. Josh, Jet and Ioannis (my brand-new Greek research assistant) did a great job, once back at Vonitsa’s field station, and identified all six group members based on natural marks on their dorsal fins. Four of them were well-know individuals that have been repetitively seen in the area for more than a decade. Particularly active during the sighting was “Similmoon”; a female constantly accompanied by her young, which was first seen as a newborn back in 2008. Last but not least, special mention must be made to the sixth group member, which had never been seen before in the area and has been a new addition to our photo-Id catalogue.

Of about 100 bottlenose dolphins photoidentified in the Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago during the last two decades, about one quarter have shown high levels of site fidelity, while other are transients. The situation is quite different in the Amvrakikos Gulf, our main study area, where about 150 dolphins inhabiting its waters show a high degree of residency despite the increasing degradation of this semi-enclosed ecosystem.


Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 7-14 June 2011

Understanding that nature is unpredictable, I never expect much from any expedition. Despite the fact that we didn’t see any dolphins in our first day at Kalamos, we witnessed the amazing social interaction (e.g. leaping) of bottlenose dolphins in our second outing near the a local fish farm. Other activities like photo-id matching, watching documentaries and presentations have deepened my understanding of the relationship between marine mammals and human beings. If you want a close encounter with bottlenose dolphins, this expedition is definitely for you!

Jet (USA)


This expedition is great, Joan  has a great passion for dolphins and the marine environment and it is very easy to see.  This enthusiasm makes the trip much more worthwhile and you can see that he appreciates you being there to help. I would recommend this to anyone interested in anything to do with the marine world. I saw dolphins more days than I didn’t, I saw them socialising, feeding, resting and I even heard them playing. As long as you understand it's not just a holiday and there is science and work to be done, you will have a great time as the balance between the work and experience is very good.

Josh (UK)

06 June 2011

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 29 May-4June 2011

Wonderful experience.  Each day was different and special.  The first day we saw up to 50-60 total dolphins; a wonderful way to begin.  The second day we saw only 2 but got to stay with them for about 2 hours to see a large variety of behaviors.  The last day was special as we left the Gulf and got the rare opportunity to watch the behavior of 3 common dolphins, which is very rare because this species has almost vanished from its former paradise. This experience was very special for me. I have been on three other cetacean studies and this one had by far the most intimate and longest encounters allowing me to observe a wide diversity of behaviors.  Thank you for a great experience and good luck with the rest of the project.  I will continue to spread the word!

Seena (USA)


Hola Joan! Thank you for an amazing experience, I think you are doing a very important work and I am glad I got to be a part of it, even for just 8 days. I’m sad to be leaving so soon. I feel like I am at a important point in my life (just graduated from college) and I really have no idea what to do with my future. I think this experience has given me a little direction, mainly confirming that I want to support and promote conservation of the ocean and all the creatures that live in it. It’s so easy in NYC to forget how closely people depend on the ocean to survive and make a living in an area that is suffering directly from the neglect we show towards our oceans. This was a unique and eye-opening experience. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and depressed when considering what we have done and continue to do to the planet, but to see so many dolphins still in the wild and to see that the scientists who are studying them are hopeful is kind of reassuring. We still have a long way to go so keep up the good work! thanks for letting me be a part of it, I had an incredible time.

Alex (USA)


Another Earthwatch completed for me, but this one has been especially meaningful due to the dedication, knowledge and skill of you, Joan. Your concern for the future of the dolphins was obvious and rare in our world of self-interest, greed and unconcern for the future of the planet. Fortunately, you, and like individuals, may be able to provide the scientific information and informed leadership to save, not only these marvellous mammals, but also, man himself. I try to be hopeful. The careful planning and detail of the program allowed me to experience a unique interaction with the dolphins. The thrill of observing these animals in their natural environment was exhilarating. The identification of various individuals provided me the opportunity to be more observant of specific characteristics. The informative aspects of the week allowed for in-depth discussions among the participants. In addition, it was great fun. I hope that necessary funding and support continue to come to Vonitsa and your dolphin project; best wishes for the future.

Jerry (USA)

04 June 2011

Great start in Kalamos

Today we had the first survey in the waters surrounding Kalamos Island, a Natura 2000 area also know as Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago. Those of you  familiar with our work in Western Greece already know that this area, a former hotspot for the endangered Mediterranean short-beaked common dolphin, has been heavily impacted by overfishing which has resulted on the collapse of local fish stocks leading to the almost complete disappearance of the species from the area because of prey depletion.

Well, we have good news for you. Today, as we left the port of Mytikas, we came across a group of three common dolphins! We spent two hours monitoring their movements, recording their behavior and doing photoidentification. Two of them resulted to be well-know individuals that were also seen in the area last year; one of them -Max- was identified for the first time in the area in 1994, while the third one had not have enough distinctive marks to allow its identification. We saw them occasionally socializing and doing surface feeding. We could not ask for a better start of the 2011 season in the Kalamos area.

The decision of continuing monitoring the beautiful waters of the Archipelago when we closed our former field base in the Island of Kalamos back in 2008  has proven to be the right decision. Our continued effort has showed that although the population of common dolphins has decreased dramatically, a few animals are still present and they likely roam across a much wider area, occasionally moving into their former wonderland.