GoMDIS is a database that serves as a standardized and centralized catalog for identifying bottlenose dolphins throughout the Gulf of Mexico. With funding assistance from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and NOAA, this repository is continually expanding by integrating data submitted from collaborating groups around the Gulf which have location-specific photo-identification catalogs.
Following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and several Unusual Mortality Events (UMEs) in the Gulf of Mexico, it was recognized that a database of this magnitude was necessary in this region to better monitor bottlenose dolphins as mandated by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. A workshop convened in August 2012 proved there was interest from numerous organizations in becoming part of a collaborative effort to form this database. We have now expanded to 22 collaborating groups with 32 potential catalogs. We are excited to say this is now a truly Gulf-wide collaboration as we have welcomed participants from the National Aquarium of Cuba and the University of Veracruz in Mexico. Eight catalogs from the possible 32 have already been submitted to GoMDIS; we anticipate more to come as each group finishes preparing their datasets for submission. These submissions include basic data such as the best dorsal fin images of each animal, sighting location/date, and animal-specific information such as sex and/or size class. This has yielded a repository of approximately 6,700 individuals and 10,300 images. These data are maintained by the Curator in the offline GoMDIS database and are periodically uploaded to the OBIS-SEAMAP website, facilitating data-sharing and providing our colleagues with a secure, fin-matching interface. Organizations will be able to compare sighting histories of matches between catalogs if desired, and better determine the ranging patterns of these animals.
Although we expect several long-term photo-identification projects will send yearly catalog updates, we anticipate the database will eventually maintain approximately 25,000 images, and the usage level of the OBIS-SEAMAP interface will increase as more catalogs are contributed. We will continue to process and incorporate catalogs into this evolving conservation tool which in turn will allow management agencies to better assess stock structure, determine possible movement patterns and obtain more accurate abundance estimates.
This article was published on page in the November 2014 issue of Nicks n Notches