A Savannah-based, nonprofit, volunteer-only organization called The Dolphin Project will hold a training session at 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Richmond Hill Historical Museum for anyone interested in joining. TDP roams the Georgia and South Carolina coastline —including the Liberty County area — studying and recording the dolphins that live in the nearby coastal waters as well as transient dolphins from other areas.
“We don’t really have a lot of Liberty County members but would love to have more,” TDP President Peach Hubbard said. “Liberty County waters are not being regularly monitored for dolphins, and they need to be.”
Each group that goes out on a survey takes along a photographer to take pictures of the dolphin’s dorsal fins, which are as individualized as fingerprints, according to the TDP website. Then they can track local and visiting dolphins in the area to see how they behave, learn where their homes are and help local scientists learn more about coastal dolphins in the process.
“Dolphins in Liberty County are not likely to be seen in Hilton Head or Savannah,” Hubbard said when explaining why Liberty County residents should get involved.
“If there is something wrong with the dolphins, it means there is something wrong with the water the dolphins live in and/or the food they eat, like shrimp, crab and fish. We share the same water and eat the same food. Helping the dolphins stay healthy will help us to stay healthy, too.”
The groups also include a skipper, a team leader and an assistant team leader, all of whom are trained specifically for the TDP outings.
The project also helps to maintain signage that tells people it is illegal to feed or play with the dolphins because they are wild animals and should be treated as such. According to the TDP website, feeding dead fish to a dolphin can make it very sick. Also, humans can transfer serious diseases to the dolphins because they are mammals.
“A dolphin that is following your boat is probably looking for a handout,” Hubbard explained. “Please don’t feed the wild dolphins.”
TDP sponsors a program called Adopt-a-Dolphin. For every adoption, the program sends a kit that includes a certificate of adoption, a photograph of the dolphin’s dorsal fin and a nautical chart showing the zones in which the adopted dolphin has been seen.
At the Aug. 25 workshop, which is open to children and adults of all ages, TDP will train people for the research survey outings. Volunteers do not need previous experience to join a workshop. The project always needs more photographers, skippers and team leaders. TDP membership is open to people of all ages, but members must be 18 or older to participate in research surveys.
For more information, go to www.thedolphinproject.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 912-657-3927.