UAE Dolphin Project at the American University of Dubai

Very active and determined students at the American University of Dubai! Few months ago they started their own Diving Club and and in turn they contacted the UAE Dolphin Project as yes, they want to dive but also, through their activity, they want to make a difference towards the conservation of the marine environment. Talk was set for the 2nd of November with an impeccable organization lead by the student organiser Karina. Not only they were interested in knowing about dolphins in UAE, but they took things seriously! A whole student crew was there getting ready the room with latest filming technology, Go Pros, lights and microphones! Lead by their professor in Digital Media they filmed the whole event that they will make into a professional video. Thank you for having the UAE Dolphin project and we look forward to seeing your work and further the collaboration!

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Field work update: where we stand so far

We are now well into the tenth month of continuous monitoring of the Dubai coastal waters. Quite an effort! Was it worth it? Definitely yes! As first project conducting a continuous dolphin survey, we couldn’t have gone wrong, but the fact is that we now surely know a bit more about the dolphins inhabiting the Dubai coastline. With about 160 hours of positive navigation behind us, that means with always at least two people on board scanning the water, we can start pulling some data together. This hasn’t been a one man effort: 60 volunteers participated to the survey so far, making it possible and having a hands on experience on dolphin research techniques.

The data collected confirmed the presence of three species of dolphins, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the finless porpoise plus enable us to collect a variety of data about other marine species such as sea snakes, sharks, cormorants and turtles. The finless porpoise presence has been a real surprise considering the elusiveness of this specie and the general decreasing population worldwide. For all species we observed the presence of calves suggesting that they all reproduce in these waters. We recorded 17 sightings so far and spent a total of 20 hours with the dolphins to collect data, such as group size, group composition, behaviour and PhotoIdentification data. Photo-identification data have been really rewarding! For both humpback and bottlenose dolphins we were able to identify single individuals and track their occurrence. In fact, we had a number of re-sighting  for both species, suggesting that we are probably dealing with resident populations. Students have been working hard to analyse over 4,000 pictures and  we are now at the final stage of the production of the first catalogue of recognisable dolphins available in the Gulf. The frequency of sighting hasn’t been impressive, and this is not a promising sign but we start seeing some patterns: humpback and finless porpoises seem to prefer very coastal waters, whereas bottlenose dolphins have been observed more in open waters. We are looking forward to complete the first full calendar year to then be able to run a more precise analysis, so watch this space!! The sightings reported from the public have been of invaluable help many time filling the gaps of information, inevitable working only from one boat. We will never get tired of saying it: become part of our research fleet and help us conserve the local dolphins by reporting your sightings!!!




Students learn dolphin research

“Build local human capability and give a chance to local students to experience hands on what dolphin research means”, this is one of our educational target. So last August we contacted the students that already expressed their interest in the project and proposed them to become dolphins scientist for a month,  learn more about dolphins and the techniques utilised to study them in the wild and get trained in Photo Identification data analysis helping us analysing the data collected so far during our survey. Individual dolphins can be identified by the shape of their dorsal fin so the Photo-Identification analysis is used to identify the single dolphins individuals and track them in their movements in a region. Photo-Id data are also invaluable to estimate the size of a population.

They simply have done a fantastic job! and now the results of the analysis are about to be unified in the first dolphin fin catalogue available in the Gulf for two of the three species most frequently observed along the UAE coastline, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. Watch out this space for exciting news soon!

We organised two group of students, on based in Abu Dhabi with the support of the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, that provided the venue, and one in Dubai at the Dubai Marina Yacht Club, one of our main sponsors. Abu Dhabi based group was lead by Camilla one of our permanent volunteers, specialised in PhotoIdentification analysis, and the Dubai group was supervised by the project director. Students were from different background from local and international universities and secondary schools. They all showed an amazing determination and commitment throughout the period squeezing their eyes through the over 4,000 pictures collected during our research survey in Dubai waters and pictures sent by the public through the “Report a Sighting” system. Some students also joined the research survey on board and some are due to join us soon.

It has been great to see their enthusiasm and surely they are now back to their studies with a better idea of what research on a marine species means! Thanks go to Shamsa, Veronica, Joanna Francesca, Emma, Akshata, Sarah, Sara and Sudha for their great participation!


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UAE Dolphin Project meets the students at NYUAD

Feature: Nassim Seyedali
On Sunday 7 September, 2014, the UAE Dolphin Project was invited by New York University Abu Dhabi to attend the Career and Community Outreach Fair.  It was a great day at the new NYUAD campus on Saadiyat Island.  We spent the afternoon speaking with many undergraduate students who were eager to learn about the project.  Many other charities as well as for-profit companies were present and the UAEDP stand stayed busy all afternoon!  Students from various programs of the university were interested in volunteering for the UAE Dolphin Project.  We certainly have many potential talented volunteers and we look forward to working with them in the future.
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At Raffle International School children learn about ocean pollution and dolphins

It is not without good reason that Raffle International School has been name one of the ECO Schools in UAE. For the second year the UAE Dolphin project was please to join the children of the Year 3, on the 6th of May, to talk about the main source of pollution for the ocean, how this influence dolphins and us, and what everyone can do to reduce our impact on the marine environment. Over 150 children participated to the talk and there where lots of question to be answered at the end!

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