I took some great photos on my trip, can they help scientists?
We all love having the opportunity to join a dolphin or whale cruise or a trip across the bay on the ferry. Sometimes we are lucky enough to take amazing photographs of these marine mammals that we proudly show our friends and family. But what if that photo could be of use to scientists who study that particular species?
#FinIDatsea is a social media-based ‘relaxed’ citizen science project that aims to make your wonderful dolphin images available to cetacean scientists. Photos taken by passengers and staff of tour boats and other commercial vessels, such as ferries, that usually traverse the same area or route each day can be a source of valuable data for scientists.
Why would a scientist want my images?
Scientists often keep a catalogue of identification images. This catalogue can be helpful in answering questions about the range of individuals, the size of the communities, and if animals are potentially resident in an area.
How can a scientist see my images?
To make your image available to cetacean scientists include the hashtag #finIDatsea when posting your images on Instagram, or on other social sites. Local Victorian cetacean scientists will be monitoring the hashtag and may contact you if you have posted an image that is of interest to them and their research.
There are strict guidelines around approaching whales and dolphins. Specified whale and dolphin tour vessels work under a state government permit which allows them to get closer to marine mammals than a recreational vessel or a jet ski.
A couple of caveats though.
To be of use to a scientist, the image must:
> Be taken from a commercial tour vessel or a local ferry that covers the same area or traverses the same route on a regular basis
> Contain the correct or adjusted date and time in the metadata
> Have access to GPS or a general location of where the photo was taken must be known
> Be available in high resolution if a cetacean scientist contacts you and asks for its use
The image must:
> not be colour-boosted, manipulated or photoshopped
> be of high resolution and not pixilated quickly when enlarged
The dolphin/s and the dorsal fin/s should
> fill a considerable proportion of the image frame prior to cropping
> be parallel to the camera
> be in focus
What features of the dolphins are needed for science?
As scientists, we look for the nicks and notches that occur over time due to interactions and injuries of the trailing edge of the dolphin’s dorsal fin. To us, these dorsal fin features are like a human’s fingerprint and we can use these features to differentiate individual dolphins.
What details should I include in my post?
Sighting details that are of interest to cetacean scientists are:
> Departure location and time
> Details including the likely species and behaviour
If your images are of interest to a scientist, they may ask for further information when they contact you.
An example of an Instagram post and details that might be helpful to a cetacean scientist.
Remember to tag your images when you upload them to Instagram or other social media #finIDatsea