Dolphin Watch: Help Scientists Count Bay Dolphins with New App

Photo: Leila Fouda (CBL/UMCES) onboard a survey for the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project (NMFS Permit No. 19403).

Photo: Leila Fouda (CBL/UMCES) onboard a survey for the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project (NMFS Permit No. 19403).

Dr. Helen Bailey of Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is studying habits of dolphins that come to Chesapeake Bay and is looking for the public's help with her DolphinWatch project. Watch as UMCES research assistant Jessica Wingfield deploys a dolphin click detector device, which is known as a C-POD.

It's always a treat to spot bottlenose dolphins on the Chesapeake Bay. But University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) scientists believe there may be more dolphins in the Bay than many of us realize. And they are calling on citizen scientists to help them document sightings of the mammals.

Dr. Helen Bailey is trying to learn when, where and why do dolphins visit the Bay. 

"Dolphins are beautiful, enigmatic animals and one of the largest inhabitants of the Chesapeake Bay. But we know very little about them," explains Bailey.

Bailey and her team are using underwater microphones to record dolphins communicating with each other. They hope to learn where bottlenose dolphins, some of the largest inhabitants of the Bay, find food and how they navigate. 

Sometime in late June, UMCES will launch a mobile app, so that if you spot dolphins in the Bay, you can simply point to the place where you saw it and record how many animals were there. It will also allow you to see the locations of past dolphin sightings on a map, and provide information about these beautiful and playful creatures.

There may be more than 1,000 dolphins coming into the Bay, which is more than even scientists expected.

Dr. Bailey says tracking these dolphins will give her a better understanding of how they use the Bay, and how to protect them in our waters.

Until the app is up and running, please email Dr. Bailey with any Chesapeake dolphin sightings at hbailey@umces.edu, and include the date, time and location of the dolphins.

Megan Viviano