Kids Become Citizen Scientists Aboard the Dolphin Explorer

June 18, 2013 by

Dolphin Explorer

Climb aboard the Dolphin Explorer with your kids for a chance for them to become citizen scientists. The Dolphin Explorer is considered one of the finest ecotours in Southwest Florida as it continues a study of dolphins that started in 2006. This tour collaborates with marine research organizations and universities, and your kids can take part as citizen scientists.


Spot a dolphin that hasn’t been cataloged and you get to name it.

The Dolphin Explorer: Marco Island FL

The Dolphin Explorer was featured on the PBS Documentary Discover South Florida and was also featured on the Today Show. Dolphin Explorer offers kids on board the opportunity to serve as “citizen scientists” by assisting dolphin researchers with the ongoing 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project.

These three-hour expeditions go out twice a week and offers kids (and others) an intimate first-hand experience in seeing dolphins up close and learning how they are cataloged.

Kids will get to know these marine animals on a first-name basis. They’ll meet Simon and his mother, Halfway; Nibbles and her calf, Jason; Oscar, Sharks and several more dolphins who have been named by families from around the world. If you spot a new dolphin on the cruise, you’ll get to name it, too.

Onboard the Dolphin Explorer

Onboard the Dolphin Explorer

Dolphin Challenge

If they are interested, kids also have the opportunity to take part in the “Dolphin Challenge” by evaluating dolphin behavior as they jump and play in the wake of the boat and taking pictures to help with photo identification. In May through September, they also have a good chance of seeing other marine mammals including manatees, and at any time of year, they’ll see plenty of wading birds, and birds of prey including osprey and eagles.

The tour allows for a little time off the boat, too, as passengers disembark to walk the beaches of nearby barrier islands to do some shelling. In all, the tour cruises the waters of Gulf of Mexico searching for dolphins and explores the estuaries of the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge plus the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

It’s an interesting and fun way to spend the day, but these tours are also part of a long-term study to document the lives of coastal bottlenose dolphin. So far more than 170 have been ID’d, named, and cataloged. Tickets can be purchased online.

Photo credits: bruce_bruce948, Jim, the Photographer, phoenix_ac

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