Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project – The Blog

Applications for the 2019 Research Internships are now OPEN!

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Every year, we recruit seven Research Interns (RI) for every research period (4 x 7 week blocks) as well as one Education and Outreach Assistant (EA), and one Research Assistant (RA). Applications close in January for RI and RA positions, and in February for EA.

Please read individual role descriptions carefully before applying as they differ significantly from each other, each requiring varying lengths of commitment as well as different levels of experience in areas such as research, team management and public awareness work. All roles are unpaid, however, accommodation is provided for the Research Assistant free of charge:

http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/internships/ 

From left to right: Bottlenose dolphin (BND), County Mayo, Ireland; minke whale (MW), Isle of Eigg, Inner Hebrides; harbour porpoise (HP), Anglesey, North Wales; white-beaked dolphins (WBD), Aberdeen, Scotland; humpback whale (HW), Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. Photo credits: (BND) Pia Anderwald/ SWF, (MW) P.G.H. Evans/SWF, (HP) P.G.H. Evans/SWF, (WBD) Caroline Weir, (HW) P.G.H. Evans/SWF.

From left to right: Bottlenose dolphin (BND), County Mayo, Ireland; minke whale (MW), Isle of Eigg, Inner Hebrides; harbour porpoise (HP), Anglesey, North Wales; white-beaked dolphins (WBD), Aberdeen, Scotland; humpback whale (HW), Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides. Photo credits: (BND) Pia Anderwald/ SWF, (MW) P.G.H. Evans/SWF, (HP) P.G.H. Evans/SWF, (WBD) Caroline Weir, (HW) P.G.H. Evans/SWF.

WELCOME TO THE DOLPHIN GALLERY!

Ken and Marilyn own the Dolphin Gallery in New Quay, and Sea Watch has collaborated with them for many years now. We asked them to tell us more about what people can be found in their shop, about which involvement they have with Sea Watch, and why they think is important to stand for conservation/protection of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Here is their story!

In the Dolphin Gallery, our main business is exhibiting and selling Artwork, Photographs, cards and prints, both our own work and that of other local artists. We also sell British collectibles, jewelry and gifts, mainly dolphins made of different materials but not plastic!

Dolphin Gallery. Copyright: Ken Pilkinton.

Dolphin Gallery. Copyright: Ken Pilkinton.

One of our objectives in having the Gallery is to use it as a vehicle to chat with people about taking care of wildlife, the environment and the Planet in a relaxed and informal way. Our involvement with Sea Watch fits in well with this objective and helps keep us informed of what is happening with the marine wildlife locally and internationally. We learn a lot from our interactions with Sea Watch and at the Annual General Meeting, which we then pass on to our customers to encourage them to become more aware. We know that selling Sea Watch promotional material helps to fund their important work.

Cetaceans are important in their own right and would not need protecting if it were not for humans. For too long, humans have set themselves up as the only important species but now that our numbers have reached near critical mass with more than the 7.6 billion people in the world, it is we who are the main danger to ourselves and all other species. We are supposed to be the intelligent ones and ought to know by now how costly upsetting the balance of nature is to our own species and the place we call home.

We need to protect whales, dolphins and porpoises against human activities. If we do not, what chance do all the other less attractive species have? Marine mammals are aware of us and often seem actively to seek to interact with us. Perhaps, they know more than we think, and we could learn a lot from them. Just as the elephants, rhinos and tigers do on land, so whales, dolphins and porpoises are also massive indicators of the health of our oceans and planet. If they do not survive, how can we?

 

Inspiring the public in New Quay last summer

As we search for a new Education and Outreach Assistant this summer, we asked our 2017 volunteer,  Amanda to talk about what she got up to last summer.

Outreach and education are important parts of Sea Watch Foundation’s aims. Events last summer ranged from bake sales to dolphin Olympics… 

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A happier kind of beached whale in the summer holidays in Wales.

Bake sales have featured at intervals throughout the summer, in part due to our volunteers’ and staffs’ love of baking and because, who doesn’t love cake?! In the interests of catering for all, our baked goods ranged from vegan gingerbread to diabetes friendly lemon cake and blue icing covered cupcakes to celebrate World Oceans Day. For those with less of a sweet tooth, we baked scones for national cream tea day on the 29th June with jam and clotted cream kindly donated by Tiptree and Rodda’s respectively. 

The main focus of the summer holidays was Sea Watch Foundation’s National Whale and Dolphin Watch. A period of nine days from 29th July – 6th August, dedicated to encouraging as many people as possible to get involved with monitoring and conservation of cetaceans in UK waters. This involves conducting land watches and boat surveys to record any animals present. Although super important, there is more to National Whale and Dolphin Watch than data collection. This nine-day event is an excellent opportunity for public awareness. Every year events are organised for each day, these aim to be both educational and fun. This year we kicked off National Whale and Dolphin Watch with Dinner with a dolphin – not feeding the dolphins, but enjoying a picnic whilst conducting a landwatch; we found a beautiful spot along the coastal path from New Quay to conduct our ‘cliff’ watch.

Day two was unfortunately a rather rainy Scavenger Hunt – photographs of various marine animals were hidden around the beach, the participants were given clues as to where they might find a photo, when found they would bring this back to the leader who explained a little about the animal found.

By far the most successful event (possibly due to the lack of rain on this day) was our rockpool safari which entailed a talk on the organisms likely to be found on the rocky shore in Wales and examples of organisms found earlier in the day, this enthralled the adults as much as the children. Following this we ventured onto the shore so the participants could look for organisms themselves. Whilst not directly cetacean related, the intertidal environment is important for the health of the entire ocean and is a more easily accessible part of the ocean for anyone to explore.

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Laura leading a rockpool safari for beach-goers in New Quay, West Wales.

Our next event was the most fun to put together. The Dolphin Olympics, a marine themed take on the Olympic games. The idea was for all the games to be educational, sticking close to the games dolphins play themselves, such as: jellyfish volleyball (although not with a real jellyfish!), a jelly and fin race, balancing a jellyfish on a fin and a fin-barrow race.

Sandcastle competitions are a chance for everyone to get involved without them having to move from their spot on the beach. Again, adults and children alike became very competitive and with so many incredible sculptures, judging was tough but Sea Watch’s Sightings Officer Kathy managed to narrow it down to the top three.

The final day of National Whale and Dolphin Watch was the day with the worst weather! ‘School of Fish’ aimed to raise awareness of the impacts of overfishing on fish stocks, especially the main prey species of whales, dolphins and porpoises as a reduction in prey abundance will impact their own abundance in Cardigan Bay and other areas known for being cetacean hotspots. Alongside this was a dolphin stranding practical session using our inflatable dolphin – Frank, to explain the basics of what to do if you ever find a stranded cetacean. 

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Emily helping to retrieve litter from the side of the beach.

On the surface, the beaches in New Quay look very clean, but take another look and you will notice the litter hidden between the rocks. Beach cleans are important for preventing plastics and other materials that are slow to biodegrade from entering the ocean. Beach cleans are a really simple way of raising awareness of the issue of litter and keeping our beaches clean at the same time, and what is better – they cost nothing to run after purchasing gloves and a litter pick and can be conducted anywhere at any time. We were very lucky that Wayne and Koda (his dog), who are walking the entire coast of the UK collecting litter as they go happened to be passing through New Quay at the start of our season so we teamed up with them for our first beach clean of 2017, an hour and 3 full bin liners later, Dolau beach was looking a bit tidier than before. Our following two beach cleans took part during National Whale and Dolphin Watch. The first, on Dolau beach again, this time in collaboration with Surfers Against Sewage representative Laura and the second alongside Quay West caravan park, this time on Llanina beach. Our final beach clean of the 2017 season took place at the end of the summer holidays as part of plastic free oceans day.

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Amanda, our Education and Outreach Assistant for 2017.

Public awareness this year has not been limited to New Quay pier, to widen the range of people we can reach we have set up skype sessions with schools during which the children have the opportunity to ask questions about what Sea Watch Foundation does and generally about cetaceans. These are really good for children in schools that don’t have easy access to the marine environment as some of the children may never have seen a dolphin in real life or in the wild.

More recently we attended a session with a local sea scout group during which we used activities focussed on photo identification, identification of marine organisms and a quiz on whales and dolphins followed by a game to help explain how echolocation, used by many cetaceans to hunt and navigate, works.

If you’d like to be responsible for inspiring folks to care about cetaceans and other marine-life, then consider applying for the Education and Awareness role for this summer.

 

Dolphin ‘Ghost’ in Cardigan Bay!

As the cold, winter nights draw in, and All Hallow’s Eve approaches, researchers at Sea Watch have reason to believe that spooky goings on aren’t just confined to the terrestrial world! Whilst humans up and down the country decorate their houses and their faces in all manner of spooky attire, we have news of a ghost in Cardigan Bay!

First sighted in 2006, Ghosts’ distinctive dorsal fin markings have turned her into a fan favourite, with children and adults alike delighting at her appearances in New Quay, West Wales, over the summer months. Last year, we were particularly excited to learn that Ghost had become a first-time mother to a calf affectionately dubbed “Casper”. However, at the start of this season, Ghost was routinely sighted alone, and as bottlenose dolphin calves typically spend up to three years with their mothers, we were forced to conclude that Casper had died. The death of the first calf is not uncommon in the cetacean world, but we at Sea Watch were saddened all the same.

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 Ghost the dolphin, with her characteristic dorsal fin colouration
Photo credit: Daphna Feingold/Sea Watch Foundation
 

As the 2017 season progressed, Ghost was spotted several times alone, or in the company of adoptable dolphin Berry and her calf Luna, until this month, when Ghost was once again spotted with a newborn calf! At first we were reluctant to believe this was her calf, as its quite unusual for a bottlenose dolphin to become a mum again so soon after losing a calf, but photo-id investigations revealed that it was indeed Ghost which had once again had a baby. It seems appropriate that this little one’s existence came about just as the country prepared itself for the spookiest night of the year…..I think Ghost wanted to give us all a treat!

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 Ghost showing off her goulish new calf to Sea Watch researchers earlier this month
Photo Credit: Laura Bartlett/Sea Watch Foundation

If you think you’ve seen Ghost and her new baby, or any other cetacean for that matter, then please report your sightings here, as all records are valuable to our ongoing studies of these phantasmagorical creatures.

Happy Halloween from Ghost, her calf, and all of the Sea Watch team.

Written by Laura Bartlett, Sea Watch Research Assistant 2017

What does it take to be an Education & Outreach Assistant for Sea Watch?

With 2017 intern application deadlines just around the corner, we’ve asked Georgina our first Education & Outreach Assistant of 2016 to give you the low-down on what it really means to accept the role. We asked her to be frank. See what you think…

 

Working with Sea Watch Foundation has genuinely been one of the best experiences of my life.

I applied for my position at Sea Watch in Dec 2015 and applied with a sense that it wouldn’t come to anything. An interview and a job offer later and I was facing a totally different year than I had set out with in mind on January 1st. I then was able to pause my full time paid job in Education and spend 4 months in New Quay, with a group of amazing people. This was a massive decision for me as my boyfriend (now fiancé) and I were in the process of buying our first ever house.

I was worried about how’d I’d cope with the unpaid aspect of the internship. Although this is something that is inevitable with such an amazing position. I mean why would a charity pay people when so many people want to do it for nothing? What helped me was that every intern in the house who seeked a job in New Quay was able to get one, myself included. I was able to work as many hours as I could give in a local pub.

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1st Period Interns! Photo by: Gisele Nieman

 

Now the actual role with Sea Watch Foundation was a lot more than I ever imagined, although the description on the website is not inaccurate. I did a lot of admin work. Counting donations, organising and maintaining merchandise and stock, writing emails, website maintenance and more… although I’m a bit weird and like that kind of stuff anyway. I also did the fun stuff; organising activities for children, designing promotional and educational materials, talking to holiday makers about how amazing dolphins are, face painting, organising and running my own events and then also the scientific data collection.

Now on top of this, my time with Sea Watch foundation co-incided with National Whale and Dolphin Watch (NWDW) week. This is Sea Watch Foundation’s week for an extra push from everyone to get more people involved, heightening public awareness, collecting more donations and more data collection!

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Our very own selfie frame Photo by: Kathy James

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Whale Oylmpics part of NWDW Photo by: Kathy James

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Sausage sizzle to raise funds. Photo by: Kathy James

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Our stand on the pier. Photo by: Kathy James

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Me dressed as a ……? Photo by: Kathy James

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On a survey Photo By: Georgina Davies

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On a Survey. Photo by: Georgina Davies

This does sound and look like a massive amount of work to do, and I won’t lie, it is. My first few weeks at Sea Watch Foundation were so overwhelming. However, every week one of the interns was rota’d to be my assistant and help me get through everything and after a while you get into your own swing of things. Also, the staff at Sea Watch Foundation are so supportive and helped me massively.

Sea Watch offers loads of positions for Internships, and I can say with confidence that everyone of us loved our summer.

My time in New Quay was challenging, exciting, exhausting, humbling and most of all unforgettable.

If you fancy putting yourself in for the opportunity that I was lucky enough to have, then have a look at the Internships being advertised now: http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/internships/

My only advice is apply for as much time as you can. My only regret is not being able to stay for longer.

 

By Georgina Davies, Sea Watch Education and Outreach Assistant summer 2016.

Bottlenose dolphin calf spotted feeding from it’s mother close to land in New Quay, West Wales.

Sea Watch Foundation welcomes volunteers from all over the world to assist on their Cardigan Bay Monitoring Project throughout the summer months. The primary focus is to observe and document the bottlenose dolphins that are famed for using the bay, but other marine mammals such as harbour porpoise and grey seals are recorded too. This year’s volunteer Research Assistant, Sonia Doblado from Spain, was in for a big treat yesterday morning when she headed out for a routine survey.

The UK-wide research charity asks wildlife enthusiasts to sit by the coast dedicatedly searching the seas for any sign of a fin and the team in New Quay do the same from 7am right through to 9pm when the light and weather conditions allow. The early shift belonged to Sonia on Thursday 4th August and by the end of it, she was very glad to have dragged herself out of bed!

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It’s not uncommon for the bay’s bottlenose dolphins to appear very close to the harbour wall in New Quay, but on this occasion six appeared seemingly out of nowhere and to Sonia’s astonishment one was a tiny new-born dolphin calf.  Bottlenose dolphins do use the sheltered waters of Cardigan Bay to have their young, so whilst this is not so remarkable itself, what thrilled Sonia even more was witnessing the youngster feeding from its mother! Dolphins, along with whales and porpoises (collectively termed cetaceans) are mammals which means they produce milk which they feed to their young. To witness this taking place was a spectacle indeed!

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“I didn’t know where to look! There was so much happening all at the same time and I could not believe that I had the opportunity to witness a new-born calf being fed” Says Sonia, Research Assistant for the charity this summer.

Aside from the opportunity to see this special behaviour, there were also four other dolphins in the mix, including ‘Berry’ and her calf ’Pip’. Sea Watch are able to identify individual dolphins by photographing  their dorsal fins (on the animals’ backs). Over time, these build up nicks and notches which are unique to each animal, similar to a finger print in humans. Once an animal is photographed and identified its life history can be determined; which habitats does it prefer, which months is it seen, where does it travel to, how old is it, does it have any young? Pip was named last year by the public who took part in a naming competition both online and from the pier in New Quay. With three youngsters having been seen in the past couple of weeks, the foundation will be again offering the opportunity to name one of these youngsters. Follow the Sea Watch Foundation social media to keep abreast with news of the competition and updates from Cardigan Bay and beyond.

Using the photo-identification technique, the charity are able to offer an ‘Adopt A Dolphin’ scheme which offers adoptees the chance to follow the fortunes of real wild bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay. The charity is reliant on the scheme for funding so it directly helps the dolphins too.

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One of the new calves was spotted on a Sea Watch Foundation all day survey last Saturday (above). It’s mother was identified as ‘Trouble’ who has been followed by the team of researchers since 1989. Another calf was photographed by the staff on board Dolphin Spotting Boat Trips on Wednesday (pictured below), the researchers will work with the boat company to identify this individual’s mother to see just how many babies there are in the bay!

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Anyone interested in taking part in dolphin research for themselves should get in touch with the national charity as there are lots of opportunities to help out. Wherever you’re based there are opportunities to get out there and record cetacean activities so please do get in touch!

 

Follow Sea Watch Foundation on social media:

facebook seawatchfoundation  twitter@SeaWatchersUK  download seawatchfoundation

 

Find out about volunteering opportunities:

www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/become-a-sea-watch-observer & www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/home-based-volunteering

 

Find out about Adopt A Dolphin: www.adoptadolphin.org.uk