Summer 2010: a great team!
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Being part of the Red Sea Dolphin Project has been an amazing experience that I will never forget. Everyone on the team and crew were very nice and enthusiastic. It was a very informative experience where I learned about cetaceans, their conservation, the work being carried out and also about corals. This was done in a very relaxed informal way through lectures, presentations, or watching movies, and was always followed by great discussions. Not only was it educational, but it was extremely fun too! I got to visit places in the deep south of the Red Sea where not many people go, and got the opportunity to dive everyday, snorkel and swim with the dolphins. I hope more projects of this sort are introduced in Egypt because they are crucial for the preservation of our breathtaking environment.
Amina El Baroudi
The US is not as friendly to the UK as it used to be. I was happily splashing about in the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, working on a bottlenose dolphin research project, and my visa went ahead and expired. Before I got kicked out of the country I pulled up the MarMam newsletter and read about a research group in Egypt looking for interns. I asked my contacts whether these HEPCA guys were doing good work and I received wall-to-wall Yes’s in response, so I sent my humble CV off across the ocean. After an interview conducted over Skype at 5am my local time I was surprised, and immensely pleased to find I’d got the job.
I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. I’ll poke my nose into anything anyone’s doing, and I’m a steady pair of hands, but ultimately all that I bring to the table is a solid work ethic and terrible social skills. If I have a niche in the cetacean-research world it’s as a quarterback of sorts, standing on the highest point of the boat, counting dolphins and shouting things that people have already noticed. Being British I’m also pretty good at talking about the weather. My catch-phrases for the survey included “Any chance of diving?” “Any chance of food?” and “Any chance of the wind dropping below Beaufort 6 for even ten minutes?”
The team was fantastic; well-chosen and well-balanced with some absolute superstar performers. Marina, Madda and Amina are terrific at what they do and it has been a real honour to work with such professionals (and such nice people) that will head the cetacean-research field in years to come. The crew were excellent and Osem was a top-notch dive-guide.
The research protocols are robust and appropriate and make very good use of the resources that HEPCA have put into the survey. I had a great time, which for me always comes from feeling I’m involved in worthwhile, well-implemented work.
Ian (Red Sea Dolphin Project intern)
I enjoyed very much. It just bothered me sometimes how the plans were not definite such as the time of leaving Hurghada and the time of arrival. I think that when a training for future research trips is held, it could be crammed in one or two days, especially since we do the actual learning when we start working. The protocols could be sent per email so the interns could take a look at it before getting there instead of having to spend time in Hurghada doing so. But overall, it was a great opportunity, I learned a lot and I feel lucky to have had the chance to see such beautiful locations and work with such amazing people.
Nevin El Nadi (Red Sea Dolphin Project intern)
I have always had an interest in the marine environment, and having spent a lot of time at sea I have found it fascinating to study. Both my degree in ecology and my masters in biodiversity and conservation included the study of marine biology and ecology. I found out about HEPCA and the red sea dolphin project from the marine mammal jobs website and I decided to apply for the role of intern to gain more experience conducting fieldwork in the marine environment. I was specifically interested in this project with HEPCA as it is the first large scale study of cetaceans and marine megafauna in the red sea. This information will create a baseline knowledge of which species the red sea supports and can be used in future to assess the conservation status and allow informed decisions to be made on what protection is needed and where this would be most valuable. As an intern in the red sea dolphin project I am involved in all aspects of the project from scientific research including observation and distance sampling to data entry, photo ID and analysis. The position also gave me the opportunity to be involved in seminars, presentations and lectures on cetaceans, threats to the marine environment and conservation in general.
I have had an amazing experience participating in this project, gaining skills in distance sampling, use of acoustic devices and software whilst increasing my knowledge of cetacean behaviour and ecology in general. Spending 22 days at sea on the red sea explorer was a great experience conducting coastal transects starting from the Southern Egypt red sea travelling northwards. The dolphin sightings were amazing, in some cases including over a hundred individuals including newborns and calf’s, the spinner dolphins especially would ride the bow waves of the boat which was wonderful. The Risso’s dolphins were incredible, they were enormous and covered in scars from social interactions, and directly approached the boat diving under and investigating. When they were resting they would lie with just their tail sticking up which I had never seen before. When the boat needed to stop we anchored alongside incredible coral reefs where we had the opportunity to snorkel and dive. The reefs were beautiful and pristine with a huge array of corals and fish and it was an amazing place to dive. I also had the opportunity to night dive which was incredible.
The leaders of the project were very friendly, helpful and great to learn from, explaining all sorts about the project in general, cetaceans and conservation. The boat crew were very helpful and friendly, assisting wherever they could from sightings to helping remove the hydrophones. The chef was amazing, and we ate very well. The biggest problem for me was the sun, but the working rota was great changing shifts every hour so we were never sitting in the sun for hours on end. All in all I had a great experience, which was not only educational, but also fun and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. The only suggestions I really have are with regards to the volunteers. I think they need to be included more in the actual research, if there is a way we can incorporate them into the observation rota so they feel like they are actually needed on the boat. Even if there is another one of the interns overseeing them, if they feel like they have a purpose I think they will get more out of it.
Vicky (Red Sea Dolphin Project intern)
I really enjoyed these last 10 days on the boat taking part to the Red See Dolphin Project.
I had a lot of very exciting moments: when dolphins approached the boat, when I was in the water swimming with them and I also had my first dive!
The lectures we attended and the videos we watched were very interesting as well as the discussions that followed them.
I would like to thank HEPCA for giving the possibility of this experience.
As a non-scientist I found this trip to be extremely interesting and educational. My previous experience with cetaceans has been related to rescue so the opportunity to participate in a study of identification and understanding dolphin behaviour was exciting. The researchers aboard the vessel took the time to explain not only what they were doing but the relevance to the research. No question was ever considered to be “silly”. This experience is one that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone.
When I arrived in Hurghada at end of August, the impressions were quite overwhelming at first. As I’ve never been to an Arab country, never did research in marine biology or with cetaceans and never worked on a boat before I was really curious about the Red Sea Dolphin Project.
After the first days of introduction I felt well prepared for the basic research activities. While on board I was early given the responsibility to prepare and set up the hydrophone. Part of my work was to get to know the basics of underwater acoustics, become acquainted with PAMGUARD, a software for real-time acoustic detection of cetaceans, find and solve the technical problems we encountered during the cruise, and pass my experiences on to the guests on board.
The great diversity of people staying on the boat was a real asset to the team. Having different lectures on coral reef surveys, fishery regulations, dangers of oil spills and cetacean research world wide greatly enhanced my background knowledge about ecology.
Being given the possibility to go diving often helped to make the cruise an even more enjoyable experience.
I was well integrated into the amazing research team, felt it great to be part of the whole research process, was positively surprised about the responsibilities given to me during the cruise and had the feeling that I was able to contribute something to the success of the cruise.
Johannes (Red Sea Dolphin Project intern)
My name is Catherine Fillo, I am an intern for the August 2010 HEPCA dolphin survey from the United States. I wanted to participate in this project because I really believe in the importance of marine mammal conservation and the program they had offered an educational hands-on experience. The best part of working with the HEPCA team was their interest they took in your understanding of the program and research being conducted. They were willing to put in the time to make sure you knew how to use different software, how to identify different dolphin species, and even taught you the skills necessary for photo identification. This is an awesome experience to learn useful techniques and improve your marine mammal knowledge. I found this internship online through a marine mammal website and instantly applied! I have loved every minute of being on the boat. The boat crew is very nice and interested in what we do every day. Everyone onboard from the volunteers, interns, to the HEPCA staff all got along really well. The food was really good from the chef onboard! We watched movies on dolphin conservation and had presentations on interesting topics about coral bleaching and marine mammal anatomy on our free time. I learned a lot from these movies, presentations, HEPCA staff, and workshops that were held. I would recommend this trip to everyone! We had people onboard with no cetacean knowledge to people that had worked with them for years so we were able to learn a lot. Everyone came from all over the world and had different backgrounds so it was fun to also learn about the different customs and traditions that people brought onboard! I highly suggest taking this adventure!
Catherine Fillo (Red Sea Dolphin Project intern)
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Dolphin Expedition in the southern Red Sea , June 2010
Who doesnt love Dolphins ?
Everybody does love Dolphins !
Who has the chance to swimm with dolphins in the open sea ?
Not many have this opportunity in theyr live !
When I got the opportunity to go on a Dolphin Expedition with HEPCA in the southern Red Sea I took it and went along. I was about to experience one of the nicest things in live a human can experience, swimm with up to 200 Dolphins in the ocean.
I joined the expedition team around Marina Costa in Hurghada Egypt and we sailed down the southern red sea coast to Berenice with the „Tala“, HEPCA`s research ship. The expedition team was the greatest people one could imagine.
Marina, Madda & Amina from Italy, then Maha & Ali from Cairo, Anna from Australia and Michelle from Luxembourg and myself from Switzerland. Everybody was always in such a good mood, it was amazing. Also the ships crew, all egyptians were extraordinary people who one had to like immediately.
Quick it was felt like we were a big familiy.
But the true highlights were the dolphins. Amazing how they aproched our research vessel at once when they sighted us. The Dolphins main purpose to come to the ship was riding the bow wave in front of the ship. Whenever we could we jumped in to the zodiacs to drive to the dolphins which werent aproaching the ship . The research team would photograph the dorsal fins to identify the dolphins and I would try to get „recreational“ shots of the dolphins. Sometimes we were mooring in a offshore reef, for example Satayah Reef and then we went snorkling with the dolphins , again photographing them for identification and me again to get real nice underwater shots of different kind of Dolphins. Sometimes we were with up to 200 Dolphins in the water and the Dolphins did let us come so close to them that we could have touched them. Each encounter with the Dolphins made us always very happy and we were each time excited like it was our first time encounter with the Dolphins. This first lap of the expedition was very successfull . We encountered hundreds of Dolphins in the open sea and were watching how these fantastic animals are swimming with such a speed through the water, riding waves, playing and mating with each other and last but not least, did let us come so close to them to be part of theyr live for a short time. This made me wonder why we humans would want to lock them up in dolphinariums or some countrys even kill them in large numbers for unnessessary food purposes.
I wished, every human beeing would be able to see what we saw so there would be no more hunting of this incredible creation.
The HEPCA`s vessel crew took very good care of us. Even the ships crew got more excited by the Dolphin sightings than they usually would have. The ships cook Mohammed made us every day, twice a day a great meal and we all gained weight.
Fantastic sunrises and sunsets everyday were granted.
This Dolphin Expedition in the southern Red Sea was a fantastic experience.
Wilfried ( Willie ) Niedermayr, Switzerland http://www.FotoDive.ch
Comments of a HEPCA Guest:
Expect ten days aboard a luxury dive boat with comfort and safety guaranteed by a first-rate professional crew, plus the excitement of field work by dedicated leaders in the field of cetaceans research!
If you haven’t been with the younger generation of marine biologists from Mediterranean countries, you will be amazed at their abilities to conduct field research in “uncharted waters,” with photographic and computer tools unheard of a few years ago.
You may join in the “tight ship” round of observation and recording duties, or seek the shade and enjoy snorkeling, or diving, at reefs scarcely ever visited before.
From the library and screen presentations by the team, you will understand the cutting edge of the world’s cetaceans research, and help make a contribution to knowledge of marine science in the Egyptian southern Red Sea.
This is a very serious field research effort, and the research team and professional boat staff also have a wonderful spirit of cooperation and engagement. This is observation of cutting edge field research, and a chance for participation, at its very best!
Joining the first Dolphin Research Expedition in the Red-Sea was the most exciting and educational holiday I ever experienced in my live.
Marina, Madda, and Amina, most charming and devoted Italian Field -Sientist never got tired to answer the volunteers’ endless questions about the behaviour and habits of the dolphins.
Observation duties started at around seven a.m., three Scientists standing at the top deck watching out 180 degrees for Dolphins and we volunteers enjoyed participating.
Everything we came across, from Flying-fish, turtles, Jelly-fish, Seagulls and Turns flying over was radioed to the office below were everything was recorded in the Research-data-base. When sighting dolphins, the atmosphere was electrical. Cameras
out and everybody was hanging over the boat taking pictures and filming Thanks to
Maha, our young Egyptian Biologist, I soon started to recognise the Bottlenose from the Spinner dolphins when they were racing the boat, unbelievable graceful and quick they are. I felt rather privileged later when helping Mahan to zoom into the photos and tagging and cataloguing the dolphins by their dorsal fins (like our finger-prints) No dorsal fin is the same, as they mark or damage them when fighting , especially the males, and scratching and hitting them against corals.
The highlight of the expedition was when we found a heard of around 150 dolphins
sleeping in the lagoon of Sataya. Unbelievable it was! Towards the evening we
went back to the same place and now the entire team was swimming with the dolphins and taking lots of the most spectacular underwater photos (see: fotodive.ch
Select Egypt, then Dolphin Expedition photos taken by our colleague Willie)
I preferred to stay on the Zodiac and watched the Spinners jumping
Around the boat, it was so beautiful to watch them spinning synchronised in the air.
I could happily carry on and tell stories about this amazing encounter, but all I want to do for the moment is expressing my warmest thanks to all the Science-team and boat-crew for having created such a pleasant atmosphere on board this 10 days most exciting journey.
I will never forget this remarkable journey, remembering the good time from the early stunning sunrises till night, when sitting on the deck and sharing stories about our experiences during the day whilst admiring the mighty night sky with its many constellations.
Written by most grateful Volunteer : Michele Welter-Salah
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