For more than 25 years, and with a supporting network of international volunteers, interns and project students, CRRU has conducted an extensive research programme monitoring the 200+ bottlenose dolphins frequenting the northeast Scottish coastline.
Much of CRRU's research work is centred around repeated observations of individually-recognisable animals, providing data for a wide range of life history studies examining the reproductive success, home range and population dynamics of this North Sea bottlenose population. The animals using the outer southern Moray Firth have been studied by CRRU since 1997 and we maintain a comprehensive mark capture-recapture database (of which a simplified online Online Identification Catalogue is provided for our supporting Citizen Scientists).
Driven by conservation initiatives, the long-term research objectives of the CRRU research team forms part of an on-going and collaborative research effort which aims to:
heighten our current knowledge of the distribution and general ecology of these animals in the Moray Firth
identify key areas used by these coastal dolphins and assess whether these change seasonally or from one year to the next
study the long-term population dynamics of this bottlenose community
provide information essential for the development and implementation of effective conservation strategies to protect these animals and their habitats
As long-lived mammals with low reproductive rates, clear assessments of the status of this northeast bottlenose population requires long-term and ongoing monitoring studies, and in this respect the current objectives of CRRU's research activities form part of a collaborative annual monitoring program.
The results of this project allow us to inform adaptive management measures in relation to detrimental human activities in this area (e.g. by-catch, anthropogenic noise, habitat change, pollution etc), to identify times and areas of special significance in the life cycle of these animals. Current studies aim to integrate broader scale data to direct more detailed work in focal areas of particular interest or concern. These objectives will be fundamental to local management directives for the protection of this and other UK coastal bottlenose populations.
A full list of research papers and reports published by the CRRU research team can be found HERE.
Below is a short film clip of the team in action on the BBC's One Show (Nov 2012):