Citizen Science…and community data in action!

Bottlenose dolphin Portelli, Whyalla….now known as “Mrs Portelli” !

‘Rosie’ – a wonderful story of Citizen Science and the magic of community data by our fantastic volunteer Roanna Horbelt.

” This year my partner Phil and I decided to take a road-trip from Kangaroo Island, our home, right along the coastline of our precious state of South Australia….all the way to WA. We wanted to see for ourselves what might be effected were oil to actually spill into this pristine oceanic wilderness. We wanted to meet the people; the locals that rely on the sea. The residents that live in and on the water’s edge…..the people whose lives would be changed forever were the oceans tainted by oil. We also wanted to see the creatures…..the cetaceans, the sea lions, the incredible birdlife…all those that do not have a voice….and to see what this potential threat might mean to them.

And we were not let down! What a simply stunning, incredible, unique, diverse stretch of coastline!! And the characters!!! I could write a book on most of them.

But what surprised us perhaps the most was the amount of dolphins present at almost every point, every coastal township, every beach. We found them leaping the waves in the large swells around Venus Bay, fishing close off the rocky shoreline of Lincoln National Park, surfing in large numbers head to head at Hally’s Beach and catching squid in the Whyalla harbour.

We lingered a little longer in Whyalla as I had heard about the very tame dolphins there from my mother who used to frequent this area a lot in her younger years. And we were not disappointed!

There were at least 10 dolphins just hanging around in the harbour amongst the shipping vessels And quite a few more in the mouth, and just out to sea. Then I saw what looked like a seal surfacing the water. Definitely no dorsal fin that I could see…. I took hold of my Dolphin Watch camera and zoomed in to get a better look. And suddenly realised that this ‘seal’ was far from being a pinniped…as it had a tiny little newborn bottle-nosed dolphin by its side! On closer inspection I realised that this poor mum had actually lost most of her dorsal fin. But this had clearly not stopped her from having a precious little bub.

After the initial excitement of finding a new-born, the situation at hand did make us ponder on the how’s and why’s of this clearly once severe injury however.

I have since found out that this beautiful dolphin pod actually follows the boats into the harbour each day… both the fishers and the locals feed them with freshly caught (or bought) fish! This explained to us both their very docile behaviour… and quite possibly (and even probably) the injuries to the mum of this little one. Also concerning to us was the fact that dolphins obviously learn from their mothers (and the rest of the pod)… is this little one now going to learn from its mother how to follow the boats in…get fed from the locals….and possibly sustain a similar or more severe injury to its mother? Just unthinkable!

But for now I just took as many photos as I could as they swam out to sea.

Interestingly enough, back home again and attending a lunch with our Kangaroo Island Dolphin Watch family, I saw what seemed to be our finless dolphin on the screen of one of the computers being used to ID some of our local bottlenose dolphins! How strange! Surely not. But the mystery was soon to be revealed. A dear friend of ours and wildlife photographer, Scott Portelli, had recently been to Whyalla to capture the annual mating of the giant cuttlefish. And he had actually met our dolphin underwater! And had sent the footage and photo’s attained at that date to the Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch team. Wow! The dolphin in question even already had a name! ‘Portelli’!

Just love this. The magic of Dolphin Watch in coastal communities coming together! Citizen Science in action!

So we now know that ‘Portelli’ is, in fact, a lovely lady! And that she, this year, gave birth to precious little ‘Rosie’ (named after my close friend Rosie Portelli, Scott’s wife).

And that is the story of little Rosie, the just born Whyalla bottlenose dolphin, that will hopefully now be catalogued together with her mum….so that many more people such as ourselves will be able to identity her and enjoy her company in the coming years, and greet her and her mum from us just across the ocean! ”

Thankyou so much dear Ro and Phil Smith of……and wonderful photographer Scott Portelli

Magic indeed!

#citizenscience #communitydata #volunteers #bottlenosedolphins #whyalla #conservation #magic

Mrs Portelli and new calf Rosie

100th Survey out to the Pages Islands!

Volunteers and crew celebrating 100 surveys in the Victor Harbor region

Milestones and memories!

Thanks to the generous support and wonderful “gift” from Michael and Bianca Veenstra and the Big Duck Boat Tours, our 100th Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch research survey in Encounter Bay was a survey with a difference!

We have since had 2 more wonderful local surveys but this amazing milestone was a magical one we will always remember!

On August 25th the crew headed offshore into the Southern Ocean to visit the magnificent Pages Islands and the endangered Australian Sealion colony, while looking for cetaceans, large and small. The Pages are a small group of 2 islands and a reef in Backstairs Passage – a protected area known as the Pages Conservation Park.

A further celebratory note was provided by the Advertiser journalist Michelle Etheridge coming aboard together with photographer Simon Cross and Gabrielle Duykers from the Times, Victor Harbor . Under a special permit Simon videoed the colony from a drone, trialling further research possibilities for Scientists and Government agencies involved in monitoring the population of the highly endangered Sealions.

No whales were seen but sightings of Shortbeaked Common dolphins delighted all aboard.

A delicious celebration lunch at the Hotel Victor followed and allowed for a further celebration element. A perfect way to celebrate the efforts of Citizen Science volunteers, over 8 ½ years.

Our heartfelt thanks to wonderful Skipper Ian Andrews and crew and all at the Big Duck for their fantastic long term support of Citizen Science in the region.

To our wonderful manager Nedra Haines, stalwart volunteers, sponsors and supporters…we salute you!

Special thanks to Sealink Kangaroo Island – Dolphin Watch’s major sponsors for over a decade for helping to make it all happen.

#thepages #conservationpark #sanctuaryzone #protectedarea #backstairspassage  #research #australiansealions #endangeredspecies #sponsors #supporters #victorharbor #encounterbay #citizenscience #volunteers #love #gratitude

The Pages Islands
Volunteers at work
Shortbeaked Common dolphin escort
The Pages, Backstairs Passage

“Getting to know the locals” National Science Week 2019

Mel Stonnill presents – “Seal Bay Current Research and Conservation Programmes”

Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch’s 10th Science Week event “Getting to Know the Locals” took on a different flavor with a successful collaboration with Natural Resources KI / DEW at the Ozone Hotel on August 15th.  A range of speakers delivered an overview of programmes running on Kangaroo Island and the way Science is used to inform conservation efforts around the island and in its waters.

National Science Week each year aims to encourage informed discussion around science-related issues, encourage young people to study science, promote science-based careers, inform businesses of the importance of innovation to their long-term success and celebrate the achievements of Australians working in these fields. It provides a perfect vehicle to highlight, encourage and celebrate community engagement in science and its relevance in our region.  

The event was Dolphin Watch’s 10th Science Week event funded once again by a National Science Week SA Community Grant and supported by Dolphin Watch’s major sponsors, the Ozone Hotel and Sealink KI.

Ross Evans, Communications Manager with Natural Resources KI, as well as speaking on the night, coordinated the input from government agencies providing fascinating displays and an insight for the local community to the breadth and effectiveness of their programmes. Mayor Michael Pengilly provided an opening address followed by Commissioner Wendy Campana setting the context for the evening.

Speakers included Mel Stonnill, Seal Bay Research, Education and Operations Coordinator – “Seal Bay Current Research and Conservation programmes”, Damon Cusack, RALF / Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator – “Resilient Agriculture: Multi Benefit Regenerative Agriculture”, Trish Mooney, APC / Animal and Plant Control Officer – “Animal and Plant Control”, Ross Evans, NRM – “Additional Projects” and the “Landscape SA Bill 2019” and MC Tony Bartram from Dolphin Watch. Jarrah Bailey from DEW attended with a display concerning Marine Parks and their effectiveness and highlighting the park of the month, the “Encounter Marine Park” – the first time the featured park has been marine and not terrestrial.

Thank you to all participants, contributors, speakers and audience members, for a very informative expose of conservation science. As always wonderful hospitality and fantastic sponsorship and support, thankyou Team Ozone Hotel!

A brilliant educational evening providing hope for future conservation efforts on Kangaroo Island.

Special thanks to Pete Nash / Pete Nash Photography.

Roll on National Science Week 2020 “Ancient Seas”!

#nationalscienceweek #Science #presentation #celebration #collaboration #conservation #thankyou

NRM / DEW Presenters and KI Commissioner Wendy Campana

National Whale Day 2019

Launched in 2008 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare National Whale Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of, and discuss solutions to, the threats facing whales and their environment, including commercial whaling, noise pollution, climate change, vessel strikes, marine debris, by-catch and entanglement.

It’s always a treat to look back and remember wonderful National Whale Day KI / VH Dolphin Watch Whale Encounters and special celebrations in our region over the years!

This year in the lead up to World Oceans Day on June 8th Dolphin Watch undertook a series of events to highlight both the marine environment and World Environment Day. Unfortunately National Whale Day celebrations at Victor Harbor were restricted to a celebration lunch after postponing the research survey due to inclement weather.

A small group of dedicated Citizen Science volunteers, including Victor Harbor Mayor Moira Jenkins, enjoyed a delicious Hotel Victor lunch together with Michael and Bianca Veenstra from the Big Duck Boat Tours   who have been a vital, integral part of not just the Dolphin Watch project but the overall protection of cetaceans in our regional waters over 8 years of operation in Encounter Bay.

Stunning, clear conditions with no wind to speak of made the Kangaroo Island survey on World Environment Day, June 5th, a delightful experience for all aboard Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures

No large whales were encountered but a pod of 20 Bottlenose dolphins including 2 young calves resting and frolicking off North Cape made for brilliant observations. Moving further offshore resulted in an exhilarating encounter with a number of frisky Shortbeaked Common dolphins. These beautiful, small, swift dolphins provided the highlight of the day with high energy aerial displays. What a way to finish the on water celebration. After the survey the group met at Amadio’s in Kingscote to debrief and complete the celebrations.

On both occasions Coordinator Tony thanked all volunteers over the years for their dedicated efforts in data collection assisting with conservation efforts, and reiterated the critical state of the highly endangered Southern Right whales in our region whose population is estimated to have fallen to less than 300, making them the most highly endangered group of Baleen whales in the world.

True cause for reflection on IFAW’s National Whale Day.       

“Wild and Free” Exhibition – Fine Art Kangaroo Island  


Artist / photographer Peter Fuller with “Submariner”

The magnificent beauty of Kangaroo Island’s marine environment and the dolphins that live within has been highlighted between January 27th – February 24th by long term stalwart Dolphin Watch volunteer Peter Fuller’s fascinating debut exhibition Wild and Free at wonderful Fine Art Kangaroo Island.

His stunning images on metal of these iconic sentient beings, showcase not only Pete’s extraordinary skills as an artist and photographer but also the pristine nature of the marine habitat and the biodiversity that abounds.

This solo exhibition in the main gallery of Fine Art Kangaroo Island, has been well received with huge crowds at the opening and great attendance since. Exceptional feedback from Australian and overseas visitors attests to Pete’s technical expertise and artistry, as well as feedback from fellow photographers complimenting the works as outstanding.

The strength of the underlying message “Wild and Free” could not have been better exemplified and the conservation message resoundingly amplified by these wonderfully presented inspiring, uplifting and soul restoring glimpses into these delightful non human persons’ wonderful world…..
May you forever remain wild and free …and safe in your stunning, pristine habitat, so in need of protection.

WILD & FREE Collection, the title and the images, originated for me from my first outing as a volunteer with KI/VH Dolphin Watch. Seeing nature in its natural environment had me focus outside of my own troubles at the time.

I found it very therapeutic and freeing and found myself in an almost meditative state witnessing these magnificent creatures wild and free.

We have something very special here on Kangaroo Island and we need to look after it for future generations. Such biodiversity and eco systems, a true heaven on earth.”

Catalogue extract in Pete’s words.

If unable to personally enjoy and be inspired by this remarkable and unique exhibition of large format high resolution metal prints, framed photographs on paper and smaller matted images in its closing days, please contact Curator Fleur Peters to view a delightful e-catalogue.     T +61 (8) 85530448

Love and gratitude to dear Pete, Fleur, Fred, Leon…….and the dolphins!

#dolphins #wildandfree #artexhibition  #photography  #citizenscience #northcoast #kangarooisland

#savesmithbay #tooprecioustolose

Hon. Leon Bignell MP, Fine Art Kangaroo Island’s Fleur and Fred Peters and artist / photographer Peter Fuller on opening night Jan. 27th 2019

Hon. Leon Bignell MP congratulates artist / photographer Peter Fuller after opening the exhibition Jan. 27th 2019






A Highlight of 2018 – Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior on KI!

The Rainbow Warrior anchored in Nepean Bay – Stan Gorton

The Greenpeace flagship “Rainbow Warrior” visited Kangaroo Island last month as part of a research expedition to explore the marine life around the island and along the Great Southern Reef.

With large tracts of this marine wonderland as yet unexplored, known to host many species never before identified, this research was of the highest priority given emerging threats from inappropriate development and oil and gas exploration activities in the Great Australian Bight.

This extraordinarily rich series of ecosystems showing high levels of endemism – 85% of the known species occurs nowhere else in the world, is in danger of being lost forever should an oil spill catastrophe happen.

Too high a risk one might suggest….

A group of Dolphin Watch stalwarts and other local identities who have campaigned against oil and gas drilling in the waters off KI and the Great Australian Bight, were invited aboard for lunch while she was anchored off Kingscote. It was a moving experience of a lifetime to meet the inspirational scientists and crew and enjoy a stunning tour of this magnificent vessel.

NZ Photo Journalist Richard Robinson delighted us all over lunch, with a stunning presentation of images of the divers’ wonderful discoveries during their explorations of the Great Southern Reef, with many new discoveries, all illustrating just how amazing this stunning marine environment is, about which so little is known ……..and so in need of urgent protection!

From Greenpeace Facebook post on December 12th:

“Have you heard of the Great Southern Reef? If not, you’re not alone. Australia’s little-known ‘other’ reef is absolutely huge, spanning 8,100 km.

We’ve been exploring this magical place with a team of marine biologists. We found an underwater world of astonishing beauty, home to some of the most amazingly diverse marine life on Earth.

But this amazing place could be devastated by dangerous deepwater oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, before we’ve had a chance to fully understand it….”…/whos-heard-great-southern-reef

All invited were extremely grateful to Captain Hettie Geenen for hosting this very special event and to Nat, Simon, Holly and Diana for their part in the logistics. What a privilege.

Thankyou so much to the wonderful scientists, the incredible Rainbow Warrior and all at Greenpeace for helping us to spread the word about our pristine southern waters, Kangaroo Island …and……the Great Southern Reef!

Love and gratitude… all of you, from us and the whales, large and small….and friends!

#rainbowwarrior #conservation #marineenvironment  #PeopleVOil  #makeoilhistory  #greataustralianbight  #protectthebight #savesmithbay #whales #dolphins #biologicallyimportantarea #marinebiodiversity #sanctuary #endangeredspecies  #criticalhabitat  #inappropriatedevelopment #kangarooisland  #tooprecioustolose

In the best company on the bow! – Phil Smith

What IS it about dolphins?

“What IS it about dolphins? – “Good News Dolphin Stories” exploring the relationship between humans and dolphins and why they inspire awe, wonder and affection in those lucky enough to enjoy their company.

We are still working on collations and the finishing stages …..and finding a publisher who loves dolphins too!

We seek to inspire and spread the joy about these beautiful, magical sentient beings – what they mean to so many of us, why they should be left to enjoy their wonderful life in freedom, safety, peace and harmony, and afforded the basic rights these remarkable non human beings deserve.

One of the many magnificent, uplifting contributions by Fiona Fallo says it all!    Enjoy.

To Wholeness

We watch the dolphins glide by.  Before they came we were busy setting up for the day, battling wind to tie the tent down.

The unexpected sight of a fin though pauses everything.  We know it’s precious to see them.

We are still.  Our thinking is suspended as we stop and watch them.  For that brief time we are complete.  Whole.

The dolphins captivate our senses.  Their presence stills the mind which allows an intrinsic knowing to arise; that underneath the busyness of life and the busyness of thinking we are complete, enough, whole. And wholeness is wellness.

The experience, captivation and awe doesn’t need to last. A fleeting feeling, a quick glimpse of our wholeness is enough.

Experience of wholeness, facilitated by the presence of dolphins is transformative.

When the moment of captivation passes and thinking resumes, we feel better. We are changed. The seed of wellness has received the nourishment required to grow. We return to daily life making choices that are best for ourselves in a coherent, effortless, sustainable way.

We have felt whole….Well. We know we are fundamentally whole and well and that our task, if any, is to let go of things that fragment our sense of wholeness or disturb our wellness.

Experience of natural wonder such as the sentient beings of the oceans, can be all that is needed to initiate a return to physical, mental, spiritual wellness.

To wholeness.

Bio    Born on the Kaurna Plains, protected by the Peramangk Hills, inspired by the Southern Ocean. . . I am now mother to four shining humans and wife to a loving Sicilian.  My work includes Meditation teaching and being a Psychologist both in Private Practice and with Indigenous peoples of the greater metropolitan area of Adelaide.  I keep in mind that “there is no intelligence without love” (Krishnamurti) and equally that love is the beginning, the end and the journey itself.

Love and gratitude to you dear Fi. 


Seniors out on the water!


As a result of the ABC Dolphin Watch features on ABC television and online, in Victor Harbor in April 2018, we were contacted by journalist Geraldine Cardozo based in NSW for The Senior Newspaper   As many of their readers are retired and looking to volunteer, Dolphin Watch was viewed as a possible opportunity and as a result Mary-Anne Came – SA Journalist, kindly wrote a brilliant feature about the core business of the project in the July edition.

The focus was Seniors volunteering on boat based surveys on our Ecotourism partners Kangaroo Island Marine  Adventures and The Big Duck Boat Tours in Victor Harbor, plus many hours of land based monitoring in the region.

Dolphin Watch provides opportunities for a wide demographic to meet with a sense of combined enthusiasm for the task of gathering regional data and watching over dolphins and habitats in our waters.  There are myriad benefits to volunteers, particularly seniors, in terms of being in nature, feeling they are contributing and understanding that their efforts are valued, not just by local communities but by global Science and conservation communities.

The article has generated significant interest in our citizen led, data rich Citizen Science project and we are most grateful for the support. Thanks so much The Senior Newspaper! Volunteers of all ages, scientists and dolphins…..indeed a magical mix!

Seniors Newspaper:

“On Dolphin Watch”  July 2018

ABC Features:

ABC News Online

ABC News – Dorsal fins

ABC News – Volunteers

KI Volunteers on survey at Dashwood Bay April 2018

Birthday Celebrations, Brilliant Support and Busy Days!


12th Birthday Celebration Survey 194 on KI Marine Adventures at  Dashwood Bay

……..And no time for Blogs!

What a busy but fantastic start to 2018!

Fantastic help, support and enthusiasm plus a whole sequence of events have all created a very busy but exciting and fruitful 5 months. Monthly surveys with community volunteers in our region on our wonderful Ecotourism partners Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures and The Big Duck – 5 on KI and 6 in Victor Harbor, underpinned by regular land base monitoring at specific sites, plus compiling increasing amounts of brilliant community data input, keep us all busy, generating staggering amounts of data for analysis and cataloguing. 12 “Engine Room” workshops in the region including a fantastic media training with wonderful Lance Librandi of Digiview Productions were productive and enjoyable, as always.

Presentations at the inspiring 2nd Australian Citizen Science Conference in Adelaide  – “What IS it about dolphins?” in February, Aldinga Library, Inman Valley Catchment Landcare group and Whyalla City Council in April, were all  well received.

Birthday celebrations on surveys on our magnificent Eco tourism partners were a treat! Celebrating our 12th KI Birthday on KI Marine Adventures on March 8th at beautiful Dashwood Bay on the North Coast and 7th VH Birthday on The Big Duck  on April 18th in wonderful Encounter Bay.

Special company in ABC journalist Alina Eacott and cameraman Glen on the 7th BD resulted in fantastic ABC News coverage of the event and the project generally, for which we are truly grateful.

The first of our 2018 IFAW National Whale Day surveys in the region took place this week on KI Marine Adventures in the beautiful Encounter Marine Park Sponge Gardens, celebrating with our small toothed whales – Common Bottlenose dolphins, with our second celebration later this month on The Big Duck in Victor Harbor, hopefully with the larger whales, now appearing in the wonderful Encounter Bay Whale Sanctuary.

Now…. down to basics!  Ongoing funding submissions and pursuits plus data editing, collation, analysis and summaries, working to make the data meaningful and accessible for protection and conservation purposes.

And…. more regular Blogs!

Please hop on over to our Instagram 

and    for further information and to see what we have all been up to!

Happy World Oceans Day….and Happy World Environment Day for the 5th!

5th Birthday Celebration Survey 86 on The Big Duck in Encounter Bay

What a year it was! Happy New Year!

Survey 192 volunteers on Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures –  Dashwood Bay, Kangaroo Island

It’s been a busy, crazy wonderful year with great fun and wonderful outcomes, shared with great friends, old and new!

The exciting new year kicks off with ongoing land and boat based surveys and workshops, and our presentation “What IS it about dolphins?”  to the 2nd Australian Citizen Science Association Conference in Adelaide in February. We are looking forward to sharing our Citizen Science project in this fantastic forum, in wonderful inspiring and uplifting company.

Our grateful thanks to our partners, sponsors, supporters and volunteers of all ages for another wonderful year of Citizen Science in our region.     Happy New Year!

What IS it about dolphins? 

Engaging Citizen Scientists in valuable research through an iconic species…..dolphins!


Introducing Citizen Scientists to an iconic, much loved species, employing easy to use, world’s best practise methodologies to monitor dolphins and collect data of enormous significance, generates extraordinary community interest in becoming involved. Over 12 years of longitudinal Dolphin Watch research in regional South Australian waters, a large number of volunteers of all ages have participated in highly valued research outcomes.

Elements including multi entry level access, valuing and true egalitarianism which characterise this inspiring, award winning project, have seen it readily adapted to multiple sites. The use of photographic identification techniques to capture / recapture dorsal fin images is very appealing because of its simplicity and high success rate.

Intrinsic health benefits of being involved in the natural word, particularly with respect to the advantages provided by exposure to the ocean are obvious in the enthusiasm of participating volunteers and the extensive benefits to the community accordingly.

Experiences on, in and under the water promote health and wellbeing. US Marine Biologist W. J. Nichols theorises being in or around the ocean lowers levels of neurotransmitters which relay stress signals to the brain, creating a mildly meditative state and sense of general happiness. A. Cochrane and K. Callen refine this to interactions with dolphins in “Dolphins and their power to heal” – Bloomsbury 1992.

The project has the added benefit of citizen volunteers being able to be involved in higher levels of scientific understanding, analysing and cataloguing their data – an enriched experience not always available to Citizen Science projects.

Tony Bartram

Kangaroo Island / Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch Coordinator

#citsci2018   #australiancitizenscienceassociation  @kivhdolphinwatch

Survey 81 volunteers on The Big Duck – Victor Harbor