Community invited to take part in SCU Dolphin Research

Published 14 July 2004

From 1st to 15th August locals and tourists alike, are invited to take part in a Southern Cross University (SCU) research project on the local dolphin population. The Byron Bay Marine Park has about 300 dolphins making it comparable to the densest bottlenose dolphin populations in the world.

Liz Hawkins, a PhD student at the SCU Whale Research Centre, is researching the impact of recreational and commercial vessels on the behaviour and communication of dolphins in protected areas.

‘A significant increase in the number of vessels along Australia’s coastline has caused an increase in the levels of ambient noise which has the potential to drown-out essential acoustic signals of dolphins. This may in turn may affect the survival of these animals,’ Liz Hawkins said. The study aims to assist in the protection of dolphins and their environment whilst promoting sustainable human-dolphin interactions and management strategies.

Sailing from Ballina to Lennox Head and Byron Bay, participants in Dolphin Research Expeditions will have the opportunity to help study the dolphins in their natural environment. During these expeditions, the research team make recordings of the dolphins’ behaviour and acoustics along with individual identification. Researchers will brief participants on dolphin and whale behaviour and train participants to assist with the observations.

Participants of the Dolphin Research Expeditions can choose between sailing on a 12 metre yacht or the more adventurous 6.5 metre inflatable boat provided by the research sponsor Baysail. The cost of $75.00 for a half day or $130.00 for a full day go directly to covering the cost of the research project.

‘If we can gain a greater understanding of the social structure and communication system of wild dolphin populations, we can protect these animals and their environment more efficiently,’ Liz concluded.

The Expeditions depart from Ballina. For information call Baysail Charters on 0418 646 160 who are assisting Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre with the project.

For media enquiries call:
Kasturi Shanahan, Media Liaison SCU – 0439 858 057