Get Involved!

Learn hands-on about our local bottlenose dolphins while promoting their conservation through research and education!

The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research is currently seeking volunteers to become involved in our dolphin research program. Volunteers will gain a richer understanding of the Outer Banks dolphins and their marine environment by accompanying researchers on boat-based surveys, learning how to identify individual dolphins, and educating the public about dolphin conservation at outreach events.

Research volunteers will:

Assist on boat-based dolphin field surveys year-round in the sound, including:

Scanning/searching for dolphins out on the water

Operating the research vessel during dolphin sightings

Collecting data on dolphin groups and environmental parameters                                              (water temp, salinity)

Identifying dolphins by dorsal fin markings

Outreach volunteers will:

Teach others about dolphin conservation at outreach events, programs, and fundraisers.


Volunteers are also needed to participate in the development of outreach materials and building the photo-identification catalog.


All boat-based surveys are conducted on the sound from a 17’ center console outboard research boat. Our research boat accommodates up to 5 people at a time. Bottlenose dolphins are individually recognizable by unique markings (notches and nicks) on their dorsal fins that they acquire throughout their lives. We use a research technique known as photo-identification to photograph the dolphins’ dorsal fins and import the photographs into a catalog so that we can track them over time. Photo-identification trainings are required for all volunteers to safely participate in boat surveys.

Our annual Photo-identification Training will be held on Wednesday March 14th from 4-5 pm and Wednesday April 11th from 6-7 pm 2018 in Kitty Hawk. This is a mandatory training for anyone that is interested in participating in our photo-id surveys for the upcoming year.

At the training, we cover the following:

  • Field survey protocols
  • Research objectives
  • Boating Safety
  • Survey schedule for surveys beginning in May (weather-dependent!)

Our annual Outreach Training will be held on Saturday March 3, 2018 at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Share your passion for dolphins, conservation, and research with others will the help of this insightful, interactive training. At the training, you will gain a well-rounded understanding of the OBXCDR and our long-standing efforts to promote dolphin conservation and education. Then have fun exploring ways to teach this interesting material to others using innovative, hands-on approaches.

To become a volunteer with the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, sign up for a training. Please sign up here for for photo-id trainings and here for the outreach training!

The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research needs your help in reporting dolphin sightings throughout the Outer Banks. The OBX Dolphin Sightings program is a citizen science project aimed to determine areas outside our current Roanoke Sound study area where dolphins frequently occur. Follow this link to post sighting information and upload a photo of dolphins seen in the ocean or the sound.