Name a Dolphin in Potomac River Contest

Dolphin sightings are a treat on the Bay’s tributaries, and some return summer after summer. Now, Potomac River dolphin researchers want your help in naming two of its bottlenose visitors.

The two dolphins, identified by their unique dorsal fins as “D1” and “D2”, have been spotted on the Potomac for the last several years. They’re both believed to be mature adults and they swim together in the same group.

The Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project (PCDP) has identified well over 1,000 unique dolphins, and to help with tracking, the experts assign each one a unique name. So the group is calling on dolphin fans to submit name suggestions, which will be narrowed down for a public vote.

 Bottlenose dolphins and their calves in the Potomac River. Photo: NMFS PERMIT NO. 19403
Bottlenose dolphins and their calves in the Potomac River. Photo: NMFS PERMIT NO. 19403

PCDP has named 304 dolphins and counting, with many names inspired by Washington, D.C. There is already a Martha Washington, an Abraham Lincoln, and a Ladybird Johnson swimming around. The group is looking for names that honor past and present U.S. leaders.

The Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project identifies dolphins with the help of Chesapeake Dolphin Watch, the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory’s crowd-sourced dolphin spotting program. Citizen scientists can upload photos and videos when they spot dolphins out on the water.

In late spring, dolphins migrate in from the Atlantic Ocean and spend the summer months in the Potomac. The river is a special place for sightings, since dolphins birth and raise their calves there. PCDP says a citizen scientist spotted Martha Washington with a calf last year.

Most Potomac dolphins stay in the brackish waters near the mouth of the river, but some have been seen as far north as the 301 Harry Nice Memorial Bridge near Dalghren, VA. The dolphin project hopes that clean water efforts will continue to encourage the mammals to explore upstream.

Names for “D1” and “D2” must be submitted by Friday, May 24. To make your suggestion, click here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano