Use the hashtag #photoIDatsea to help our local cetacean scientists find your images on Instagram

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 an amazing photograph 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?

#photoIDatsea 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 to 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 to an area.

How can a scientist see my images?

To make your image available to cetacean scientists include the hashtag #photoIDatsea when posting your images on Instagram, or on a public Facebook pages. Local Victorian 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 jetski.

Common dolphin taken whilst onboard Wildlife Coast Cruises

A couple of caveats though.

To be of use to a scientist, the image should:

> 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

> Be accompanied by the date and time, departure location and further details in the post

> Have access to GPS or a general location of where the photo was taken must be known

> Be available in high resolution if a scientist contacts you for its use

The image must:

> be taken from a vessel of opportunity – that is a commercial tour vessel or ferry

> not be colour boosted, manipulated or photo shopped

> be of high resolution and not pixilated quickly when enlarged

The identifying feature should

> fill a considerable proportion of the image frame prior to cropping

> be parallel to the camera

> in focus

Bottlenose dolphins, image taken during a Moonraker dolphin swim trip

What features of the dolphins are needed for science?

Dorsal fin

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. We can use these features to differentiate individuals.

What details should I include in my post?

Sighting details that are of interest to scientists are:

> Date

> 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 scientist.

Remember to tag your images when you upload then to Instagram or your public Facebook pages #photoIDatsea

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