Spot a Dolphin

Project background

Due to the location of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, we are able to successfully monitor the Port River dolphins from land. Land based patrols are really important for the management of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, as volunteers are normally the first to report significant events, such as injuries and entanglements, new calves, compliance issues and unusual behaviours, among others. Volunteers on land based patrols are the eyes of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary and contribute to building knowledge of the Port River dolphins. On land patrols, you will have the opportunity to take photos to identify individual dolphins, watch and learn natural dolphin behaviour, as well as report any incidents, injuries and other activities.

What is photo-identification?

The most common technique used to identify and monitor dolphins is called ‘photo-identification’, which is achieved by photographing dolphin dorsal fins. Throughout their life, dolphins will occur unique nicks and notches on their dorsal fins, enabling us to identity them easily. However, not all dolphins have nicks and notches, so sometimes we need to rely on other features such as scratches, pigmentation, dorsal fin shape and markings on the body or tail.

How you can help

If you have a camera, you’re ready to go! Experienced volunteers for the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Action Group can help you select the best spots to find dolphins. Alternatively, the Port Adelaide Council has established a Dolphin Trial that includes many lookouts.

But to learn more about dolphin photo-identification, and to improve your camera skills, the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Action Group runs free Spot-a-Dolphin workshops. By participating in these workshops, you will also learn to how recognize dolphin behaviours, including fishing, socialising, travelling, resting and milling. Volunteers will also receive their own personal copy of the Spot-a-Dolphin ID chart, to help you identify dolphins when you are on patrol.

The information that you collect during your land patrol must be entered onto our Spot-a-Dolphin website or mobile app (under development), but if you would prefer to enter the information at home, we can provide you with datasheets to record your sightings in the field. Through this website, you will be able to contribute and consolidate data from encounters with our resident dolphins, leading to a better understanding of the social and demographic structure of the population, and their relationship with our local marine environment.

Want to be involved?

Spot-a-Dolphin is open to all Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Action Group volunteers. If you’re a member of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Action Group and are interested in participating, please contact us to obtain your own personal log-on.

If you want to become more familiar with dolphin behaviours, learn how to individually recognise dolphins or better use your camera, you will need to attend a Spot-a-Dolphin training session. For upcoming Spot-a-Dolphin training dates, please check out our upcoming events or contact us.

Alternatively if you are not an Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Action member, but wish to be, please register your interest.