For over 20 years, over 1000 non-specialist volunteers from 40+ nations have joined the Ionian
Dolphin Project (IDP). They have provided us deeply needed support and helped us obtain crucial data.
By joining this tour, you will fuel science-based conservation action, aimed towards a
respectful management of the local resources, for the benefit of both dolphins and humans.
During your stay with us, you will be part of a scientific team focused on the study and conservation of an
amazing community of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) living in the
Amvrakikos Gulf, a large semi-closed basin in western Greece.
Here you will work side-by-side with experienced researchers and conduct daily surveys at sea.
You will see lots of dolphins, get to know them, actively contribute to field data collection and,
back at the field station, help us download the data and process digital photos and
Research staff and volunteers alike will be living in the field station, in the quiet village of Vonitsa,
on the Gulf’s southern shore.
By sharing every experience with us, and ultimately living a researcher’s life, you will gain a
first-hand understanding of the motivations that inspire our work, appreciate its significance
for dolphin conservation and learn about the importance of protecting the marine ecosystem
and its wonderful inhabitants.
The resident staff will present different aspects of the research during the first day, giving
specific training and showing how the equipment is used.
Direct everyday involvement in field activities and subsequent data analysis will provide
you with opportunities to practice and learn much about dolphin research methods.
We will give lectures and presentations about our work as cetacean scientists and
on marine conservation issues, as well as involve you in informal and friendly round table discussions.
We have much to learn from each other.
Quality data collection will be ensured through careful training of volunteers and by
communicating to you the importance of recording unbiased data. If you feel uneasy with a given task
or find it too demanding, you will be assigned to another task or given more specific training,
depending on the circumstances.
Volunteers will conduct daily surveys onboard the research boat, working side-by-side with the
researchers and contributing to field data collection. You will actively engage in visual surveys,
looking for dolphins, sea turtles, birds and other fauna during navigation.
As soon as dolphins are sighted, volunteers will help record angle and distance from the boat.
During the sighting, you will help record dolphin spatial distribution and record dolphin
group size (a demanding task, as dolphin groups are often large and fluid), record
group composition (i.e. number of newborns, calves, juveniles and adults) and behaviour
at five-minute intervals throughout the duration of the sighting, collect fish scales with a dip net
following surface feeding events performed by the dolphins, store the scale samples into numbered vials,
file them and look out for sea turtles, birds and other animals.
While most of the survey effort will be carried out in the Amvrakikos Gulf, volunteers will be also
involved in the monitoring of the secondary study area located in the Inner Ionian Sea archipelago.
Such monitoring, however, will depend on weather conditions and project priorities.
After each survey, all the data is entered into dedicated databases. At the field station you will
contribute to data entry and analysis of digital photos. You will be taught how to file,
name, crop and prepare digital photos of the dolphins’ dorsal fins for subsequent matching.
You will then engage in individual photo-identification based on natural marks on the fins,
by matching the dolphins photographed at sea with a digital catalogue of known animals.
You may also assist in the identification of birds associated with the dolphins, and of fish prey in
the birds’ beaks, based on digital photographs taken in the field.
Additional volunteer tasks to be shared with the researchers include cooking, dish washing, house cleaning,
boat cleaning and upkeep, and proper maintenance of all equipment.
Those on a cooking shift will agree on the dinner menu for that day. The project staff will provide the
requested ingredients (if available locally).
Volunteers who are not familiar with cooking are encouraged to bring with them some simple recipes
they feel comfortable with.
Skills essential to participation include an open mind, flexibility to changing
situations and a desire to help and learn.
Experience in use of computers would be a bonus, but is not necessary.