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The Activity Of The Dolphin Research Institute

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The Dolphin Research Institute (DRI) actively obtains dolphin research for the south eastern region of Victoria and focuses extensively on conservation, education and environmental leadership for the community. DRI is a not for profit organisation established in 1991 by passionate individuals who were concerned about the local dolphin populations. One of their greatest milestones was the establishment of the world’s first ‘sustainable dolphin swim’ regulations in 1996. This regulation was pioneered through robust data samples and also led to amendments of the Marine Mammal Wildlife Act. The research obtained through this study changed standards for this industry around the world. With over 25 years of research, DRI has been fundamentally involved in many environmental decisions related to marine conservation and sustainability.

Role and responsibilities.

Whilst dolphin research was the catalyst of this institute, there are now many other aspects which are just as fundamental to DRI. Overall, there are four elements which are prominent within this institute; leadership, research, education and fundraising. Leadership is at the forefront of this industry as this allows for influential changes in environmental legislation and policy. This also leads to proactive engagement with the community and informs society of their role in conservation. Research provides an understanding of the dolphin communities in Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay to determine their behavioural changes especially with regard to climate change, increasing urbanisation and boat vessels. Both long term and collaborative research projects provide outlets for current dolphin data which aim to influence environmental outcomes. DRI also highly regards citizen science and utilising the community which promotes both community engagement in dolphin research and provides a greater sample output. For instance, DRI created the app, Pod Watch for locals to record their sightings of whales or dolphins and hence this develops a thorough data sample to monitor populations.

Education for both primary schools and through formal seminars provides the opportunity to spread the importance of marine conservation to the wider community. DRI runs a successful education program which is specifically targeted at primary schools. The award winning ‘i sea, i care’ ambassador program educates primary schools on catchment management and pollution control. The program involves schools selecting student ambassadors to lead and communicate the importance of their local marine environment and to educate procedures for protection and preservation. Finally, employees enforce fundraising from the community, corporate sectors and government in order to sustain funding. Fundraising is an important for promoting research and implementation of more sustainable conservation. All these elements work collaboratively to motivate change on the marine ecosystem and its current state.

Skills and experiences recommended.

At DRI, the roles and responsibilities of each employee differs greatly and hence, a great variety of skills and experiences are required by employees in this institute. Strong emotional intelligence is especially essential for success in this industry. Having this skill allows people to understand their limits as well as have the enthusiasm to challenge boundaries. A strong set of ethics and the capacity to develop strategic ideas which consider new opportunities are also noteworthy qualities. It is also expected that employees have a diversity of experience and through these experiences have demonstrated personal growth. People who are willing to learn and improve themselves whilst being passionate to contribute to conservation are more likely to be successful. Additionally, the ability to present and motivate people is imperative as funding and support is essential for research approval. Qualifications and education are important; however, strong emotional intelligence is of greater importance as this dictates the ability to make the ‘best’ and ‘smartest ‘decisions.

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Getting into this field.

This field of work is unique and does not have a set pathway to success. An interview with the current Executive Director of DRI, Jeff Weir, provides an insight to how he built his career. Jeff had a passion for marine life from his earliest memory. He developed mentors and friends who also shared his passion and thus created a network with underwater TV documentaries, marine scientists, photographers and educators. Jeff studied a postgraduate at RMIT and achieved his MSc and a DipEd before commencing teaching in secondary schools to set up marine science courses. His passion was marine education and expanding people’s knowledge on marine ecosystems and their significance. Jeff primarily researched the establishment of marine communities to substrate and also developed new methodologies for substrata study. Thus, he helped modernise the methods for marine science as they were significantly lagging behind terrestrial study. Jeff was later appointed to the founding board of DRI which also resulted in several other contributions to this industry. He has been a prominent member of the Central Coastal Board with the role of advising policies and strategies for coastal communities. Jeff is a member of the Fundraising Institute of Australia and was also a founding director of the UNESCO Western Port Biosphere.

Therefore, it is evident that there are no limits to this industry and that there is much more associated with conservation than merely the research. All in all, to enter this career employees need various levels of capacity. Employees need to be adaptive, an all-rounder, motivated and reasonable. Acquiring mentors and associations in this field is invaluable to create a network. This network will offer opportunities, as connections within this industry is a key aspect to ‘opening new doors’. Having a university degree relevant to marine science and ecology is essential as employees need the ability to solve new problems with their specific education. Finally, to enter this field, employees need to have a range of different capabilities from previous job experiences. These experiences do not have to be relevant to science research but need to have supported the growth of a more mature and stronger emotional intelligence.


Most importantly, the work conducted is helping to make the world a better place through science that influences environmental management, through education that is sharing knowledge and by social marketing which changes values and behaviour. It is an extraordinary opportunity to be part of an industry which provides significant benefits for the greater good, rather than working purely for self-interest. Employees also form personal relationships with donors who have their lives enriched through supporting the DRI. These interactions are very special as employees have the ability to watch their donors build passion towards the environment. There are also opportunities to make new social interactions through communicating and sharing knowledge of the marine ecosystem to the community. It is also admirable to watch young scientists grow from their involvement in volunteering or internships to fellow researchers in a field which is pioneering in many aspects.


As DRI is a not for profit business, there is the constant stress of maintaining funding. Fundraising and volunteers allow for this industry to prosper and hence there is the ongoing pressure of sustaining this support. There is also the challenge of overcoming people who do not see past themselves on the issue of environmental sustainability. Many people in society do not see environmental concerns as an issue of great stress because it does not affect them directly. Thus, they can be difficult to persuade to make strategic changes which will conserve biodiversity. Working with business regulations and management can also be difficult at times as their priority may not be environmental protection. Overall, the lack of support from many people in society can build a loss of respect on many people.


Overall, the best way to start a career in this field is to build from passion and create a pool of great mentors to form a network of connections. Marine biology is a unique career as there are so many different pathways and opportunities available. At the DRI, there’s the opportunity to instigate field work, communicate and lead the wider community to sustainable management decisions, educate children and be involved in fundraising initiatives. It is an industry which offers adventure, strong social networks and creates inspiration as there are many challenges which need to be overcome. The pressing issues of climate change and population increase make this field even more enticing as the work that is being undertaken is benefitting everyone. There is the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself, which is pretty special.

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The Activity Of The Dolphin Research Institute. (2022, February 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from
“The Activity Of The Dolphin Research Institute.” Edubirdie, 27 Feb. 2022,
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