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Protect Our Dolphins Sets Sights on New Research Camera

The all-volunteer nonprofit is hosting a fundraiser Wednesday for student research equipment

Protect Our Dolphins of Santa Barbara will host a fundraising event called “POD 4 Students” from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro, 516 State St.

Tickets are $50 per person, which includes appetizers, beer and wine.

POD is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization founded by behavioral and wildlife biologist Dr. Toni Frohoff to document the dolphins in Santa Barbara and surrounding areas because of what she calls a “research gap” in that field of study. She says that in recent years, there has been increasing evidence of environmental contaminants in the ocean, which have caused serious unusual lesions and scarring on many dolphins in the area.

In May, Noozhawk ran a story about Frohoff and POD, and about her quest for a vessel on which she and a small group of student volunteers could conduct more extensive research. It turns out there was a successful denouement to Frohoff’s search.

“A major hurdle was to get on the water, and it turned out that a very generous donor gave us some funds with which we could charter a boat, so we’re on the water now, which is just absolutely paramount,” Frohoff said.

Thus far, Frohoff and her students have been quite successful — especially considering a dearth of equipment — in photographing and documenting different dolphins in the area. They have even been able to identify individual dolphins based on specific dorsal fins.

However, the research has not been without its challenges. Frohoff said she’s hopeful that the next big hurdle faced by POD can be overcome at Wednesday’s POD 4 Students event.

“We hope to get a particular camera that is necessary for us to not only document dorsal fins, but to also determine the degree to which the dolphins here are exhibiting skin lesions and other signs of disease related to contaminants,” Frohoff said.

Samy’s Camera, the main sponsor of Wednesday’s event, has offered POD that particular camera necessary for its ongoing research at cost, and the lens and accessories at a substantial discount. Frohoff said Samy’s has already provided a great deal of support and assistance in renting camera and technical equipment to the students involved.

The event will begin with appetizers, drinks and a silent auction viewing, followed by a greeting from Poet Laureate David Starkey, who will read a new poem he crafted specifically for POD. That will be followed by highlights from Frohoff’s recent dolphin presentation at the prestigious TEDGlobal in Oxford, as well as an update on POD’s early progress.

Lastly, Lindsay Griffin, a UCSB student and POD internship coordinator/research assistant, will speak on behalf of the students and provide a summary of volunteer opportunities to come.

“This research is going to go on for at least the next five to 10 years,” Griffin said. “It’s really important for us to get students and volunteers involved, especially since POD is the first and only organization in the Santa Barbara area that is conducting this kind of research.

“The dolphin is the symbol of Santa Barbara. It’s crucial that we make sure they are safe and healthy.”

POD is accepting donations of any and all working technical equipment. Click here or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information about POD or the fundraiser.

— Kevin McFadden is a Noozhawk contributor.

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