SOLOMONS, MD (July 14, 2023)—The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Biological Laboratory has secured its first sponsorship donation for the Chesapeake DolphinWatch program. The JES Avanti Foundation has provided a multi-year funding commitment to support the initiative, which aims to raise awareness of bottlenose dolphin habitat in the Chesapeake Bay.
With the generous contribution from the JES Avanti Foundation, the Chesapeake DolphinWatch program will be able to continue its efforts in engaging community members and informing natural resource managers and policymakers involved in Chesapeake Bay conservation. Jamie Testa, Chesapeake DolphinWatch Coordinator, expressed gratitude for the foundation’s ongoing support, stating, “The Avanti Foundation and its staff have supported DolphinWatch from its inception, and we are so grateful.”
Since its launch in 2017, the Chesapeake DolphinWatch App has played a pivotal role in gathering data on bottlenose dolphin visits to the Chesapeake Bay. Thousands of residents and visitors have actively contributed to the initiative by reporting over 7,000 dolphin sightings. These valuable observations, submitted by more than 13,000 app users, have enabled scientists to track the patterns of dolphin visits to the bay.
The JES Avanti Foundation’s contribution of $60,000 over three years will facilitate necessary upgrades to the app’s capabilities. Additionally, it will support staff members who spend considerable time validating reported sightings to ensure data quality. The funding will also enable the DolphinWatch team to continue its outreach efforts, including collaborations with local organizations and agencies across the Chesapeake Bay region.
Liz Sanders, one of the founders of the JES Avanti Foundation, expressed delight in supporting the DolphinWatch program, stating, “We are pleased to help keep the DolphinWatch program going. It is a valuable tool that appeals to everyone living near or recreating on the Chesapeake Bay, and we hope this encourages more participation with the app and inspires others to support the program, as well.”
The Chesapeake DolphinWatch program has significantly expanded our understanding of bottlenose dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay region. Before the program’s launch, it was believed that bottlenose dolphins only visited the bay during the summer. However, UMCES researchers have discovered more frequent sightings and detections over a broader area than anticipated using the app and underwater listening technology.
The Chesapeake DolphinWatch app was designed to allow individuals enjoying the Chesapeake Bay to report dolphin sightings, providing essential information such as the time, date, location, estimated number of animals observed, and pictures and videos of the animals. This comprehensive observation network has enabled trained DolphinWatch staff to verify the submitted sightings. Researchers then compile the data to track regional bottlenose dolphin occurrence trends.
To download the Chesapeake DolphinWatch app or find information on becoming a sponsor, please visit www.umces.edu/dolphinwatch. The program welcomes further engagement from the public and encourages more individuals to contribute to the conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay.