Monday, 11 February 2013

Student training in Walvis Bay

By Monica Betts - University of Pretoria MSc student.

On 25th of January 2013 I arrived in Namibia to begin the first part of my Master’s degree under the supervision of Dr Simon Elwen. The main purpose of my visit has been to get some hands on training in order to prepare me for the field work phase of my project. I will be taking over the collection of data for the long term cetacean project currently underway in Mossel Bay, South Africa as well was conducting my Master’s project.

During my Master’s project, I will be working towards establishing some baseline data needed to apply static acoustic monitoring using CPODs  (echolocation click detectors) to studying dolphin populations on the east coast of South Africa. I will be looking into measuring the detection distance of animals and also trying to acoustically differentiate my two study two species, the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. If we can get this right, then we’ll be able to use CPODs (which are relatively cheap compared to other types of hydrophone) to improve our understanding of the distributions and behaviour of these species by using CPODs for long term 24-hour monitoring. 

When I first arrived in Walvis Bay the terms ‘CPOD’, ‘Databases’,’ Photo-ID’ and ‘Theodolite’ were completely foreign to me. However, over the last few weeks that has changed. I now know that a CPOD is a device used to detect cetacean clicks over a long period of time, photographing and identifying dolphins involves a lot more than just a good camera, databases that are organized and detailed are essential from the start of the project and theodolite work requires patience and  attention to detail.

My experience here in Walvis Bay has been incredible. I found I have learnt so much in a very short space of time. The most important lesson I have learnt that is although working with dolphins involves a lot of hard work, if it is done properly it can yield satisfying and sometime very surprising results.  I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with these lovely creatures and look forward to learning more and more about them.






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