Ever since I was a little kid I have always loved the ocean and marine life. Every time my parents took me to the zoo or aquarium as a child I always dragged them toward the dolphin exhibit so we could see my favorite animals. As the state of the oceans has continued to decline, dolphin populations have become more and more threatened. When I found out that I could help contribute to dolphin research and marine research at the Dolphin and Marine Research project I knew that this was the perfect volunteer opportunity for me.
I had always wanted to visit Italy, but traveling overseas for the first time being completely on my own was a little overwhelming. The flight was 10 hours and then once I landed in Naples I had to take a ferry to get to Ischia, but once I saw the island I knew the long trip would be worth it.
The island was the most beautiful place I have ever been with stunning beaches and breathtaking mountain views around every corner. The boat was small, but comfortable and I was greeted with kind smiles and warm hugs as if I’d known the staff for years. We got to work right away cleaning the boat and preparing to set sale the next day. We left port every morning promptly at 9:30 am. After making our way to the sea and raising the sail we began our watch shifts.
All volunteers took turns on one-hour watch shifts carefully scanning the horizon for sights of wildlife. When we were not on lookout duty we monitored the hydrophone and GPS scans of the area. Once we sighted a dolphin or whale we videotaped and photographed the animals for photo-identification purposes.
In the evenings, we reviewed photos and videos and attempted to classify all of the individuals we sighted. Volunteering in Italy and being able to help contribute to such an important database in the field of marine research was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Leaving the boat was a sad experience as I had grown so close to the whole staff but I’m sure we will keep in touch and maybe I’ll be able to return to Ischia Island some day.