Dolphins on our Doorstep: MARINElife Jurassic Coast Citizen Science Project

WB Dolphin Tom Brereton 02At MARINElife, one of our regional key interest areas is Lyme Bay and the Jurassic coast in the south west, where we are lucky enough to observe a fantastic diversity of marine species, from Europe's most southerly population of White-beaked dolphins, to the globally critically endangered Balearic Shearwater.

We are in the process of developing a proposal and working to raise funds for a new project - Dolphins on our Doorstep: MARINElife Jurassic Coast Citizen Science Project. In short, we want to enthuse and engage coastal communities in this area in their local populations of dolphins, which many are unaware inhabit this coastline. Particularly this local population of White-beaked dolphins and the resident southwest coastal Bottlenose dolphins.

The project would aim to train members of the public, commercial fishermen, coastal businesses and leisure sea-goers to understand, identify and record the different species they can observe through a combination of classroom, at-sea and cliff-top learning. The project would build a Jurassic Coast community network of citizen science participants from Swanage to Lyme Regis, allowing them to share their experiences and sightings through a variety of media. This project would also contribute to important monitoring of these nationally significant populations, along with the potential threats they may face.

Through training local stakeholders and public sea-goers, and providing an engaging outlet for sightings, this data and information can help to inform conservation decisions relating to these populations, and the habitats in which they live. Additionally, it would help promote a sense of community ownership and pride in this regional, yet nationally important, natural heritage. Within this project proposal, we also plan to provide 1-2 internships a year (for the two years of the project) for local early career researchers, and recent education leavers, providing much sought after work experience in the field of conservation.

We are currently at the stage of applying for funding for this project to get it off the ground, and have currently gained the support of organisations such as the Blue Marine Foundation, Dorset AONB, Durlston Country Park and Kingston Maurward College. We hope MARINElife supporters, and the local community, finds the proposal as exciting as we do, and we would be very interested in hearing from individuals and businesses or organisations interested in supporting the project. For example, in-kind provision of a venue for training workshops, sponsorship, or any offices that may be able to provide one or two desk spaces for these interns. Anyone with this space or interested in supporting the project through other means can get in touch by contacting Rachel.davies@marine-life.org.uk.