Zoologist Zuzanna Soltysiak is undertaking the work for her master’s degree on island biodiversity and conservation.
Miss Soltysiak lives in the UK, but is basing herself in Jersey for her master’s. It is a collaborative course between the University of Exeter and Jersey International Centre of Advanced Studies.
‘The research project was organised by the Guernsey Biological Records Centre and the DolFin ID project they started in 2019, to identify the individual dolphins in Guernsey waters using their dorsal fins,’ said Miss Soltysiak.
‘I’ll be looking into anthropogenic, biotic, and abiotic factors. This includes factors relating to or affected by human activities, interactions between organisms, as well as factors relating to the physical environment such as the sea temperature and currents. All these factors have the potential to massively impact dolphin distributions and occurrence.’
So far, she has been carrying out a series of shore and boat observations, surveying for the dolphins and logging environmental conditions.
‘We’re still in the beginnings of understanding the dolphin’s distribution and movement patterns, so hopefully, with scheduled future boat surveys and analysis of the data, our understanding of this will be improved.’
Different ways to monitor dolphin distributions include by sight and by sound.
‘We have sighting records over the past few years which have been recorded onto the DolFin ID project as well as historical ones dating as far as 1950s.’
There are also two acoustic monitoring devices in Guernsey waters that will be used.
The devices pick up any echolocation clicks or whistles that the dolphins give off, which can be used to tell when the dolphins are there, what species they are and what they are doing.
Miss Soltysiak said she has always been fascinated by dolphins and cetaceans, and this topic of research was one of the project options offered by her master’s course.
‘This is currently the only project I’m working on, and I’ve not done anything like this before. I come from a zoological background where we’ve learnt how to deal with data like this.’
In terms of the future, Miss Soltysiak said she was not fully certain on her plans, but she hopes to continue research in the marine biology sector.
‘I’m not 100% certain at the moment, I’d love to continue research in the marine biology sector and possibly continue on to a PhD, however I’m still looking around and keeping my options open.’
She hopes by the end of her research to have developed a further understanding into spatial and temporal distribution of Guernsey’s bottlenose populations, and would want her findings to be used as evidence in the possible implementation of marine-protected areas in Guernsey.