From the Potomac to the Patuxent — Dolphins visit rivers in the Chesapeake Bay and you can help track them

Like many D.C. area families, dolphins tend to head to their favorite corners of the Chesapeake Bay in the summertime. Scientists know that, in part, thanks to the Chesapeake Dolphin Watch app that’s been in use since 2017.

Professor Thomas Miller with the , told WTOP that researchers were picking up the presence of bottlenose dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries using underwater microphones in 2015. They wanted to learn more about the movements of the dolphins, but needed to come up with a way to increase their ability to collect data.

So, Miller said, they came up with the idea of leveraging the power of people who head to the bay in the spring and summer, such as boaters or anglers.

“And so we launched the app in 2017, and it has been improved upon ever since,” Miller said. “The people who use the dolphin watch app report sightings that we can validate.”

There have been more than 7,000 reported sightings since the app was first launched. Miller said that areas of the upper Chesapeake seem to serve as a nursery, with people in that area often spotting mothers with their young.

“They follow shoals of fish into the shallower waters. They certainly do use habitats that we think of as urban, city areas,” Miller said.

While they spend the winter in the area south of Norfolk, Virginia, once the water warms in the spring, they head north.

“We’ve seen them in to almost the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and we’ve seen them north of the 301 bridge in the Potomac,” Miller said.

People can register to get the app and log the date, time, GPS location and number of dolphins they see. They can even add videos and photos.

While the app can show all users where in the Chesapeake Bay others have spotted the animals, Miller asked everyone to take care when trying to make their observations.

“We want to encourage people to watch dolphins, but we also ask that people keep a very respectful distance from these just amazing animals,” he said.

Follow “Chesapeake DolphinWatch” on Facebook, or on Instagram @dolphinwatch_cb, for posts about sightings and information about dolphins with interactive quizzes and polls.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP ̫̽, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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