Published On: Thu, Feb 10th, 2022

FAU Harbor Branch Announces Dolphin Spotter: A Land-Based Citizen Science Project

 Boca Raton, FL – Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce is welcoming the public to join researchers in collecting information on wild dolphin populations through “Dolphin Spotter,” a new land-based citizen science project. 

The land-based “Dolphin Spotter” project encourages participants from across Florida to submit observations and photos of dolphins from land through the web-based sighting submission portal. Submissions will be added to FAU Harbor Branch’s Stranding and Population Assessment Team’s database to support research efforts on dolphins living in the Indian River Lagoon. With thousands of miles along Florida’s coastline, citizen scientists can capture areas that traditional surveys don’t reach.

“Like human fingerprints, dolphins can be individually identified using the unique patterns of nicks and notches on their dorsal fin,” said Gabby Barbarite, Ph.D., director of outreach and engagement, FAU Harbor Branch. “Launching the ‘Dolphin Spotter’ citizen science project will give the public an opportunity to contribute to FAU Harbor Branch’s efforts to better understand the ecology, behavior and distribution of wild dolphins across Florida.”

The project’s goal is to create a platform for the community to assist in the monitoring of Florida’s dolphins, while providing opportunities for education and environmental stewardship. Citizen scientists choosing to participate will be asked to record variables such as date, time, location, dolphin behavior, water quality and weather conditions, in addition to submitting photos. Reported sighting information also will be displayed on an interactive map located on FAU Harbor Branch’s Citizen Science webpage.

“Factors that impact Florida dolphin’s ecosystems directly impact our ecosystems and the more we can learn about the population, the more we can do to conserve it,” said Steve Burton, director, Stranding and Population Assessment Team, FAU Harbor Branch.

The “Dolphin Spotter” project was supported by the Protect Wild Dolphins Florida specialty license plate, which is administered by the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation. 

For more information on “Dolphin Spotter” or other outreach programs at FAU Harbor Branch, visit

About Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute:

Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is a world class research organization with a focus on exploring the marine environments, studying key species and understanding the connection between humans and the ocean. Founded in 1971 as Harbor Branch Oceanographic Foundation, Inc., the Institute expanded its reach to over 100 miles along Florida’s east coast when it joined Florida Atlantic University in 2007. Located in St. Lucie County, our 144-acre campus along the Indian River Lagoon employs over 200 scientists, engineers, educators, staff and students. To this day, the Institute actively pursues solution-oriented research that addresses some of the most critical issues affecting coastal zones, oceans and human well-being.

About Florida Atlantic University: 

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students across six campuses located along the southeast Florida coast. In recent years, the University has doubled its research expenditures and outpaced its peers in student achievement rates. Through the coexistence of access and excellence, FAU embodies an innovative model where traditional achievement gaps vanish. FAU is designated a Hispanic-serving institution, ranked as a top public university by U.S. News & World Report and a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit 

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