Weekly Editorial by Jack Reid

Interview with Geoff Weir OAM, Executive Director of the Dolphin Research Institute

by Jack Reid

Today we are shining the spotlight on perhaps Port Phillip Bay’s most loved inhabitant, the dolphin! It was a privilege to interview Jeff Weir OAM, Director of the Dolphin Research Institute, to gain an insight into the lives of the Dolphins in our bay.

I hope you enjoy part 1 of the interview…

Jeff, the Dolphin Research Institute does so much good for Port Phillip Bay and the wider community. Are you able to give the Ranelagh members a snapshot of what you do?

 The Institute’s role is to help Victorians protect our marine treasures, especially our dolphins, whales and bays. We achieve this through:

  • Research to answer important questions needed to protect marine mammals.
  • Education to make it normal to value our local marine treasures – not just Queensland’s! We are the main provider of marine education in our region.
  • Leadership to influence decision-making, to provide solutions and to create young leaders, especially through our ‘i sea, i care’ Ambassador Program. ‘i sea, i care’ has now worked with over 5,500 young leaders and we have concrete evidence of the program achieving social impact.

 You started the DRI back in 1991. What was it about dolphins that you were drawn to?

 I’ve never been asked this. I actually had my arm twisted to join to help develop the research and education programs. My background in marine science and marine education goes back to the early 1970’s. I saw the dolphins as an important end in their own right, needing research to understand their status and the risks they faced. I also saw dolphins like “smiling ambassadors” for the marine environment to help us promote stewardship for our southern marine life. I can tell you that it’s a lot easier to study marine invertebrates! 

 I believe there are 2 dolphin species that can be observed in the waters off Ranelagh. What are they and how can we tell them apart?

 We have bottlenose dolphins and common dolphins that use this area. The bottlenose dolphins use the whole bay and move through the area off Ranelagh to feed. The common dolphins spend most the year feeding in the area from Mt Eliza to Mt Martha. There is something special about the ecosystem here, that we don’t really understand, that makes it productive by the cooler months. Bottlenose dolphins are typically over 2.2m in length,  light-dark grey on their back and lighter sides and abdomen. They generally travel through the Mt Eliza waters and don’t hang around much. Common dolphins are much smaller and petite. Their back is dark grey (although varies) and they have a yellowy flash on their sides. Their rostrum relatively longer and slender compared to the bottlenose dolphins.

(Pictured below:  Left – Common Dolphin.  Right – Bottlenose Dolphin)

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a personal favourite?

I have a very strong soft-spot for the common dolphins. They are quite pretty.

I love dolphins. You love dolphins. Outside dolphins though, what’s your favourite marine animal?

Outside dolphins — it’s hard to choose one marine critter out of them all – but I think a type of polychaete worm called a terebellid worm. They belong to the family Terebellidae.

These worms are very common, even in rock pools under rocks and particularly beautiful. They are a bit like bait worms but more delicate with soft skin that they protect by building tubes of mucous and sand grains. Fine protection for under a rock.

They have a crown of many fine sticky tentacles that they extend out on the substratum to distances many, many times their length, and look like fine strands of white, yellow or orange cotton. If you or food touches them, they retract to the worm’s mouth so they can feed or get out of danger. They help to keep the seabed clean like a creepy crawly in a swimming pool.  These worms and other filter feeders in Port Phillip’s seabed filer the entire bay about every ten days – a critical part of keeping the bay healthy. 

We will be back next week with Part 2 of the interview. See you then!


Edition 1: Marine Life in the Bay by Jack Reid

Edition 2: Butterflies of the Sea 30/01/2019

Edition 3: Dragons & Horses 06/02/2019

Edition 4: An Old Wife’s Tail 13/02/2019

DOLPHIN RESEARCH INSTITUTE WEBSITE

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Ranelagh Club is a little slice of paradise located in the Ranelagh Estate in Mt Eliza. With private access to the beach and club house, there is a little something for everyone at the Ranelagh Club!