During Summer 2008, Emma Gates got involved with Professor Paul Thompson’s project 'Acoustic assessment of bottlenose dolphins in relation to boat activity' at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen. The idea was to compare acoustic information from underwater ‘T-POD’ devices with land-based surveys of bottlenose dolphins in a core feeding area of the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation, Scotland. The study found that acoustic data was useful for detecting dolphins, especially over long time periods or when conditions were not suitable for traditional methods. It was also useful when considering a wider area or collection of additional data.
Emma worked hard to collect a series of land-based observational data on the occurrence of bottlenose dolphins, and additional data on the extent to which boats also occurred in this area. She was then able to integrate this information with the acoustic data that was collected using moored data loggers throughout the same period, and explore the extent to which boats influenced the occurrence of dolphins. The data that Emma collected has already been useful to help address current conservation issues within the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation. It was found that even though dolphins used the area frequently, they took longer to return when boats had been present – an issue which is likely to become ever more prominent as human activity in the area increases.
"During the project I was able to participate in exciting research at the forefront of cetacean research. I feel privileged to have been able to participate in research on this scale during the past eight weeks, and will take away experiences which I know will help me in my future career."