Leanne is one of our treasured Research Interns from our 2016 summer season and we’re thrilled to hear how she’s getting on across the other side of the world and hope that her exploits will be an inspiration to all you other dolphin-mad folks out there!
I’ve always wanted to travel the world but after taking part in a summer internship with Sea Watch I felt torn. My passion for cetaceans had greatly intensified after two months of studying them in Cardigan Bay, yet I was about to move to Japan to teach English! Surely I wouldn’t find any research experience opportunities in Japan? Surely I would have to put my dolphin dreams on hold…or so I thought.Leanne multi-tasking on board a Sea Watch survey whilst she was a Research Intern with us
After the first month passed by in a surreal blur of language barriers, teacher training and ‘do I really live here?’ reality-check pinches, I knew I needed dolphins back in my life. So, I began to pester the Japanese cetacean circles, asking for anything cetacean related I could do. However, my english language emails and questions were met with months of silence and hopeful seeming trails which turned into dead ends. I started to try my luck asking universities, praying that someone might take a chance on a dolphin-crazed English girl. And then one day there it is, the chance that changes everything. My persistence and passion landed me a rare opportunity in a country where I couldn’t even speak the language. Since then I have been voluntarily assisting a dolphin researcher at Kindai University here in Osaka with her research on social contact in Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins around Mikura Island (Japan). I watch underwater video footage of these dolphins and analyse the pectoral fin rubbing, how a dolphin touches or rubs another dolphin using their flippers, possibly to strengthen their bond or communicate emotions. I’ve also analysed footage of Atlantic Spotted dolphins in the Bahamas (courtesy of the Dolphin Communication Project) to compare these behaviours. Next year I will be participating in the Mikura Island research trip, swimming with the dolphins and witnessing these behaviours underwater for myself.
And it’s not just dolphins! I had the opportunity to take part in a couple of boat surveys in Osaka Bay to search for finless porpoise. These small white cetaceans have been spotted with calves around Kansai International Airport, making this busy bay a home to raise their young in.Leanne spreading the word about Sea Watch and sharing her love of dolphins at Kindai University.
This month I was also asked to give a lecture at the university to discuss the many different species of cetaceans around the U.K and the work that Sea Watch does. I introduced the students to the sightings database and how valuable public sighting reports are. It’s an idea I would love to see adopted in Japan. To get the general public interested in searching for and caring about Japan’s wild cetaceans would be amazing for their conservation. I also discussed the Cardigan Bay monitoring project and all the research that goes towards making this vital dolphin habitat a protected area, proving that research for conservation can make a difference. One student was even interested in visiting the UK and taking part in National Whale and Dolphin Watch week!Leanne’s opening slide
ecently, I joined the Kindai University team on a research trip to Amami Island in Southern Japan. Here we did a boat survey to collect photo ID shots of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, to assess the population and distribution of these dolphins around the island. This was part of a study by Mie University, another university in the Kansai region of Japan.
I’m really thrilled to be combining my love of living in Japan with my dedication to dolphins. After a year of living here I’m excited to see what opportunities 2018 will bring. So, let’s keep spreading the marine conservation message whenever and wherever we can.