DOLPHIN RESEARCH COURSES
Since 2003, Morigenos has been organising yearly Dolphin Research Courses, where anyone can become a member of the research team and help study dolphins in their natural environment.
The waters off the coast of Slovenia and the entire Gulf of Trieste are home to a resident population of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).
The research carried out by Morigenos over the past 15 years has shown that about 150 dolphins live here year-round. Moreover, they display remarkable social behaviour that was previously unknown in this species.
If you like being outdoors and near the water, if you want to be part of a positive change, if you appreciate nature and wildlife, and if want to take active part in studying and protecting it, then this course just might be something for you!
Morigenos – Slovenian Marine Mammal Society aims at combining scientific research, education, public awareness, capacity building and management, to achieve effective conservation of the marine environment.
Since 2002, we have been carrying out a long-term research, monitoring and conservation programme, focusing on bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Gulf of Trieste and western Istria in the northern Adriatic Sea. Back then, virtually nothing was known about dolphins in this part of the Adriatic.
Today, we know a great deal about this population, as can be seen from our SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATIONS. But much more needs to be done. We need you to help us move the science forward!
Each day, you’ll head out to sea to search for these charismatic marine mammals. You’ll record their movements, behaviour and environmental data, and learn about dolphin research techniques including photo-identification, land-based work, boat-based surveys and behavioural observations. You will also collect information on loggerhead sea turtles spotted in the field – the area is an important foraging ground for the species.
Your participation directly supports the ongoing long-term research and conservation of dolphins and marine ecosystems in the northern Adriatic Sea.
* VAT included in the price
- accommodation at the research base;
- all meals and soft drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks);
- water and electricity;
- lectures, guidance and training;
- scientific supervision;
- visits of natural monuments and other sites;
- visit to the Aquarium Piran;
- personal insurance;
- certificate of attendance.
Price does not include:
- Travel costs of participants are not included in the fee. You need to make your own travel arrangements to get to us and from us.
- Potential personal expenses: restaurants, bars, souvenirs, alcoholic drinks.
Each morning, the research team will head out to sea to search for dolphins. We will do this in two groups: one team will head out on the boat, and the other will go to an land observation point. Both groups will search for dolphins, observe them and collect data. In the early afternoon, we head back to the research base to have lunch and rest. In the afternoon, the two teams will swap.
You will take part in:
Surveying for dolphins and sea turtles. Everyone participates in scanning the sea for animals.
Observing dolphins and recording their behaviour. When dolphins are spotted, we will document their position, group size, behaviour and the presence of calves.
Collecting environmental data. At regular intervals we record variables such as water temperature and clarity, sea state, and GPS location, as well as presence of other wildlife such as seabirds, tuna, etc.
Photo-identifying individual dolphins. Back in the research base, we will examine photographs of dolphins, so that we can identify individuals using the markings on their dorsal fins.
Entering data. We will also enter the data we collect into a database.
You may also have the chance to help rescue stranded or injured sea turtles that have become entangled in fishing nets. Our research team has become well known in the area, and are now often the first call many people make when they spot marine animals in distress.
Our research base is located in Piran, a beautiful small town on the shore of southwestern Slovenia. Situated on a peninsula, Piran is literally surrounded by sea. It boasts some of the best-preserved Medieval and Renaissance architecture in Europe. On clear days you can see the Alps. When not in the field, you can enjoy many restaurants and caffes along shore, or take a swim in the warm sea.
Slovenia is known for its natural beauty, including dramatic alpine peaks and cliffs that overlook the sea. Hiking, diving, biking, rafting, and swimming in the Adriatic sea or the clear lakes and rivers are popular pastimes. There are many natural caves that visitors can explore on foot, lots of forests as well as castles and monasteries founded nearly 1,000 years ago. In Piran, for instance, you can take in the views and the impressive vaulted ceilings of the hilltop Cathedral of St. George, which dates from the mid-1300s. There are also several protected areas known for great bird watching.
Accommodation is provided at Morigenos research base in Piran. This is where we sleep, eat, cook and work.
Rooms are shared with other participants, private rooms are not available. Bed sheets are provided.
Life athmosphere at the research base in relaxed and informal. Everyone shares daily household duties such as cooking and cleaning.
Each day may be different from the rest, much depends on the weather. If the sea is calm and there is no rain, we head out to sea in search of dolphins in the morning. One team will head out on the boat, and the other will go to an land observation point. Both groups will search for dolphins, observe them and collect data. In the early afternoon, we head back to the research base to have lunch and rest. In the afternoon, the two teams will swap. This way you will get to experience different approaches to studying dolphins in the wild.
If the sea is not calm, we do not search for dolphins, as waves make it very difficult to find them. Furthermore, the accuracy of the data collected in such conditions is reduced. In such case we can focus on other work, data analysis, or just head out to the beach, where we can enjoy swimming, socializing over a drink or exploring the coastline.
Boat surveys are conducted using a 5.8 m research boat. When in search, the entire crew participates in visually scanning the sea surface. Navigation and environmental data are collected during the survey. The boat will be handled by qualified personnel with all the necessary permits and extensive boating experience.
Land-based surveys are carried out from vantage point on land, using both regular and highly powerful binoculars.
If dolphins are sighted at sea, the boat will approach the animals and start the focal group follow. The boat may stay with the animals up to several hours, depending on the number of dolphins in the group, their behaviour, weather conditions or other circumstances. Time, GPS position and other data will be recorded at regular intervals. Morigenos researchers will be in charge of handling the boat, photo-identification and the general coordination of work. The participants will help observing and counting the animals, observing behaviour and recording data (e.g. group size, behaviour, dive times, etc.).
If dolphins are sighted from land, the research team will follow their movements using binoculars and record their group size, behaviour, etc. The land team will also guide the research boat to the dolphins, so that photo-identification and other data can be collected.
If conditions allow it, dolphin behaviour is systematically recorded throughout the sighting, at regular intervals. Information such as group size and composition, presence of calves, dive times and potential interactions with fisheries are recorded, regardless of whether observations are done from a boat or from land.
Photo-identification is the central method used in this study. Individual dolphins are recognised by natural markings, such as scars, nicks and notches on dorsal fins. When a group of dolphins is located, the aim is to get a fin shot of every member in the group. This method is non-invasive and can provide information on many aspects of dolphin biology and ecology.
While the photo-ID will be carried by a Morigenos researcher, everyone on the boat helps with tracking the animals, noting their relative position and keeping track of already identified individuals.
Depending on weather, field conditions, presence of animals and other circumstances, participants may help with analysing photo-ID data, identifiying dolphins and entering data at the research base.
LECTURES AND TRAINING
The lead scientists will hold several lectures and presentations on the biology and ecology of marine mammals, research methodology and issues in marine conservation. The research base also holds a large amount of scientific literature, which the participants are welcome to use.
During off-time and bad weather, we may visit several museums, nature parks or other interesting places along the Slovenian coast. Each day will depend on the weather and other circumstances.
In the evenings there will be time to rest, socialise or experience the rich cultural and entertainment programme of Piran and Portorož.
Booking is done through e-mail email@example.com. For more information call +386 31 77 10 77.
The booking is temporary and should be confirmed with a payment of the participation fee. The payment can be made in one or two instalments. The first payment (half of the participation fee) needs to be made within 10 days after the initial registration. During this time nobody can take your place. If you do not confirm your booking by payment in due time, your place can be taken by someone else. The second payment has to be made at least 30 days prior to the chosen camp. If this is not done, it will be considered as a cancellation. In that case, someone else can fill in that place.
The payment can be done through our PayPal account:
or the bank account of Morigenos:
IBAN account number: SI56 6100 0000 2549 604
SWIFT (BIC): HDELSI22
Delavska hranilnica d.d., Ljubljana
Please note that any potential additional bank expenses should be covered by participants.
The number of places is limited, therefore we advise you to register on time.
APPLICATION FORM AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Detailed information about research camps, advice, contact details and application form can be found in the PDF file below. Please read the information carefully before applying. For any additional questions send us an e-mail or call us.
Application form and information for participants:Application form
WE LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING YOU!
Submit your review
I have done seven or eight Earthwatch expeditions and enjoyed each one. Spending ten days in Slovenia tracking dolphins was a great
experience. We saw dolphins (and a few sea turtles too) nearly every day. We worked hard but the three researchers worked even harder. Their passion for
dolphins and environment was inspiring. Piran is a lovely small town and I would love to go back for a vacation. We often went out for ice cream or coffee at the
end of the day and enjoyed the conversations with the researchers and people from the community. It was also interesting to see how the community had embraced the dolphin research project.
This expedition changed the way I viewed sea mammals. We came into close daily contact with specific, named dolphins (identified via the
markings on their dorsal fin) and it was eye opening to not see them as a random anonymized creature but as specific named individuals who had made the bay
their home. We would track their progress daily, and observe their social interactions with other named individuals, investigating their social web and
culture. You could see their practice of following fishing trawlers, and how they played and associated with each other.
I just returned from this wonderful expedition in Piran, Slovenia and can’t say enough about the trip. Piran is a special town, with friendly people and lovely sea-side restaurants and bars. We could enjoy a chilled glass of prosecco or beer after a stint in tower observation or out at sea. While there, the town was enjoying an international music festival, which made for special evenings in the square. The staff are warm, fun-loving and dedicated to their project. I learned a great deal about cetaceans and why their health is such a critical indicator for overall ocean health. Even days where we didn’t have a dolphin sighting were educational. I recommend this project to
My expedition with Morigenos was amazing from start to ﬁnish and the people were so welcoming. Every minute was ﬁlled with fun things to do, good food to eat, dolphins to see and places to visit. I loved feeling a part of real scientiﬁc research, and it is also a great way to make new friends. The trip demonstrated to me the paradoxical power and fragility of nature and why it is so important we must preserve it.
Data collection is highly dependant on the sea-state and this expedition provides an insight into the realities of marine research. However gorgeous Piran offers a wide range of educational opportunities and the team leaders adapt the activities, making each day worthwhile as well as fun. Be prepared for close living with 3 or 4 to a bedroom. Highly recommended.