Wednesday 21 October 2015

By Robert Giesler - NDP Intern Aug 2015

Landing at Walvis Bay airport, my first thought was "what have I done?” The airport was little more than a tent, and everywhere I looked there was sand, and nothing else. I was thankful to find that Walvis Bay was in fact a city with actual houses. The community is a small one, and it wasn’t long before I'd met the entire population of the waterfront. This tight knit community feel is what gives the town its charm, and what makes the program redeeming. As a part of a small team, you are not only guaranteed to make close connections with your fellow interns and staff members, but also to have real responsibilities and be an integral part of the team. The data we collected and entered will all be put to use by the project (after quite a bit of mistake fixing I'm sure), and on the boat everyone has responsibilities and jobs to do. 

Boat days were the highlight of the research. We had the opportunity to spend plenty of time with the animals; watching the adorable Heaviside’s dolphins swim within inches of the boat, witnessing bottlenose dolphin feeding frenzies and following humpback whales for biopsy samples.

This internship gave me a great insight into the life of a marine researcher. I learned things I didn't expect to, like how to prep, launch and drive a boat, how to use a crossbow and a hydrophone, and how to put a battery on to charge properly (something we all struggle with... right?). I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this important project as well as to spend a month in one of the most beautiful countries on the planet!


From forests to deserts- The Namibian experience

By Lauren Melchionda, Intern with the NDP Aug 2015

I love trees. I love stratified bark, whorled branches, and long taproots.  Most of the biology that I took part of in my undergraduate career happened in the Vermont forests.  My woodsy scientific upbringing instilled in me a passion for conservation and the environment.  As I approached the end of my third year in college, I sought out internships to gain more experience working in the natural world.  The Namibian Dolphin Project Internship leapt out at me as an opportunity to study new creatures in a totally different environment.  I applied, was accepted, and a few months later I found myself on a plane to Namibia!

Namibia could not have been more unfamiliar to me. There was sand instead of soil and rather than studying plants, I was studying marine mammals.  There was definitely a learning curve.  Dolphins are harder to find and much harder to photograph than conifers and angiosperms.  Despite the adjustment, working with these animals was a life changing experience. Our boat, The Nannuuq, was very small so I really felt like I was a part of the cetaceans’ habitat.  I got to see humpback whales, bottlenose and Heaviside’s dolphins, seals and penguins, all while working! I grew particularly fond of the Heaviside’s dolphins which swim and play right along the side of the boat!

Working with The NDP equipped me with many useful skills. I learned all about cetaceans, data collection and entry, and working on a boat.  This was also a great opportunity to learn about the Namibian culture, a place I previously knew nothing about. I got to work with people from all over the world and the diversity in all of our homes, educations, and interests made the summer extremely enriching.  Working with cetaceans and with all of the different biologists made me realize that even though we study different subjects and come from faraway places, our love for science and passion for conservation is universal. 



Friday 7 August 2015

Experiental learning in Namibia

by Ellie Poteat - NDP Intern, July 2015

Coming from a ranch in Montana, I didn’t come here with a lot of relevant marine biology knowledge. On my first boat day, I almost launched the trailer into the ocean instead of the boat! After working here for a month, I have gained a better understanding of what it takes to work with wildlife, and I learned how to launch the boat! 

Although I had a more challenging time adjusting to fieldwork in the ocean, it was worthwhile to be able see the animals we study thrive in their natural habitat. When we approached the Heaviside’s dolphins with the boat, it’s like coming home to a pet puppy, they bounce around the boat as if they are happy to see you! No matter where people come from, I think they can appreciate the feeling of sharing a positive experience with these dolphins, and to be able to help these dolphins continue to thrive is really fulfilling. After going through the photos dolphin’s fins in the office to try and ID them, I started to recognize some of the individuals. In a way, it felt like I got to know some of them, so it made the work feel more meaningful. Working here made me develop a deeper connection to the animals that inhabit this area, and I will take back with me a greater appreciation for something that was previously completely foreign to me.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Enrico goes to Walvis Bay

By Enrico Corsi - Namibian Dolphin Project intern June-Aug 2015

I’m almost halfway through my internship with the NDP and in this brief period, I feel like I’ve learned more about the research world than in all my previous academic and field experiences. Every day I learn something new, gain new skills and become more confident about myself.

I’m becoming more familiar with the day to day running of the project and the research techniques we use. I am also enjoying meeting the public and teaching them about the animals we study.
Boat work is by far the most rewarding and exciting activity I’ve ever done in my life. Every cetacean encounter is just as amazing as the first one, I never grow tired of looking for dolphins and whales. The bottlenose come so close to our house that sometimes we can jump on a kayak and be surrounded by them in a matter of seconds.

The team is great, I couldn’t possibly have asked for a better group. All the people who work or study here are fun and welcoming, they manage to create the perfect learning and  working environment, you’ll never be homesick, you’ll start feeling at home in a matter of days.

I’m here until the end of August and am really looking forward to the time I have left. I just got off the boat and, in all honesty, I can’t wait to jump back on it tomorrow!




Tuesday 14 April 2015

Bottlenose dolphins in the shallows

By Olly Johnson - NDP Intern March 2015

What an amazing month I spent in Walvis Bay, from quad biking in the dunes during my spare time to recording the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins from the boat! Everything was incredible and I learnt a huge amount, not only about dolphins but the sea birds too, something which at the start of the month I wasn't particularly interested in but I grew to really enjoy! 

I met some amazing people during my time as well, all of whom I hope to stay in touch with! The accommodation was great as well, being so close to the lagoon where I regularly saw dolphins feeding in really shallow waters, just 5 meters from shore at low tide! 

I would love to still be there, and no way could I pick a favourite moment from my time but some would include seeing a Heaviside’s dolphins now riding, quad biking in the dunes and the Sandwich Harbour tour! Another great moment was during one of my bird counts with Titus where we confidently concluded that the water was too shallow for dolphins and right at that moment they swam immediately in front of us in the lagoon. 

Thank you so much to everyone whose my time there so incredible!

[All photos by Olly Johnson]