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 and fundraisers.


Volunteers are also needed to participate in the development of outreach materials, land-based beach surveys, 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.

To become a volunteer with the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, click here

Our annual Photo-identification Training will be held on Sunday March 19th and Wednesday April 19, 2017. 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!)

March 2016 photo-id training:

Our annual Outreach Training will be held on Sunday February 26, 2017 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. Understand the intricacies of boat surveys, photo-identification, and habitats. Then have fun exploring ways to teach this interesting material to others using innovative, hands-on approaches.

For more details and to sign up for a training, click here!