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Southern Cross University to study Gold Coast and Tweed dolphins

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Words
Zuleika Henderson
Published
26 July 2010
Southern Cross University has been awarded a $71,000 national competitive grant from the Australian Marine Mammal Centre to study dolphins in the Gold Coast and Tweed Heads region.

The grant, which will investigate the abundance and habitat preferences of coastal dolphins from Jumpinpin near South Stradbroke Island to the Tweed river mouth, was awarded to Dr Lyndon Brooks, Dr Elizabeth Hawkins and Professor Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University and Dr Guido Parra from Flinders University.

Dr Liz Hawkins said the research was the first of its kind in the region.

“Very little is known about the dolphin populations on the Gold Coast and Tweed, yet it’s a region of particular interest because the animals are living in a diverse environment,” said Dr Hawkins.

“The research will gather data on how many dolphins there are and where they are, so we can build up a better picture of their habitat preferences and behaviour in the area.

“As well as bottlenose dolphins, we are particularly interested in the threatened indo-pacific humpback dolphin because the Gold Coast is the southern limit of the known range of this tropical and sub-tropical species.

“We will be investigating if indo-pacific humpback dolphins are subject to climate change, which could lead to them expanding southward.”

The researchers, who will begin the first of many boat surveys at the start of the summer, will collect photos of dorsal fins to enable individual dolphins to be identified and their movements and behaviour recorded.

The community can play an essential role in the research by reporting dolphin sightings and sending photos capturing dolphin dorsal fins to help build up a database of information. Dolphin sightings can also be reported by anyone via the website www.dolphinresearchaustralia.com

Members of the public are also being invited to attend a ‘Dolphin Sighting Network’ workshop in Currumbin on Friday, August 6 aimed at equipping dolphin-lovers of all ages with extra knowledge to assist with the research.

“We can’t be out there all the time, so any dolphin reports we get from the public are extremely valuable to us,” said Dr Hawkins.

“The aim of the workshop is to offer a basic course in dolphin biology and ecology, as well as techniques in observing and recording dolphins. People who attend will learn what behaviours to look for, and what information is useful to us as researchers if they happen to observe these animals in the wild.

“We are inviting children and families to get involved too – kids are very insightful and it’s a fun thing to do when you’re out fishing with mum and dad.”

Attendees to the workshop will receive certified membership to the Dolphin Sighting Network, a handbook, regular updates on the progress of the research and invitations to social events.

The Dolphin Sighting Network workshop will be held on Friday, August 6 at Gecko House, 139 Duringan St, Currumbin. Participants can choose to attend a session from 2-4pm or from 6-8pm.

A donation of $25 per person is requested to help cover the costs of the workshop. Bookings are essential and can be made via the website at www.dolphinresearchaustralia.com , by emailing [email protected] or by calling the dolphin research centre on 0488 551 165.

Photo: Research is beginning to learn more about dolphins in the Gold Coast and Tweed region (high resolution image available on request).