The European Cetacean Society (ECS) hosted its 30th Annual Conference from the 14th to the 16th of March 2016 in Madeira and it was a lively and stimulating time full of inspiring keynote talks, presentations and poster sessions. Around 400 people attended the conference where I presented a poster entitled “Longitudinal study of a live-stranded female bottlenose dolphin in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland” in the Strandings section along with other similar international studies. The poster displayed new results from a study which began in 2012 on the live-stranding and subsequent refloating and resighting of a female bottlenose dolphin with a calf (O’Brien et al. 2014). This individual dolphin stranded when she was nine months pregnant with her calf. We see them both in the Shannon Estuary regularly and the calf is more than three years old now! In addition to displaying their sighting locations, the poster also presented an analysis of the female’s nearest neighbours during individual focal follows, her activity budget breakdown and a social structure analysis investigating her significant associations with other individual dolphins in the population.
The ECS is the largest scientific community involved in the research of cetaceans and pinnipeds in Europe and meets every year for workshops and a conference of oral and poster presentations. The ECS’s mission is to promote and advance the scientific studies and conservation efforts of marine mammals and to gather and disseminate information about cetaceans to members of the Society and the public at large. The theme of this year’s conference was “Into the Deep: Research and Conservation on Oceanic Marine Mammals” and it focused on the conservation of marine mammals in oceanic habitats.
Apart from presenting research, the conference provided an important opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones, and to network with international experts in cetology. The keynote talks delivered by Professor Hal Whitehead, Dr Robin Baird and Dr Mónica Silva were inspirational and delivered with great knowledge and enthusiasm for their subjects. During the presentations too, it was fantastic to learn about so many interesting research projects and presenting a poster provided a great opportunity to represent Irish research on a European platform. In particular, participating in this conference really enhanced my knowledge of current research on bottlenose dolphins and cetacean social structure and contributed well to the progress of my PhD studies.
Overall, it was a very energising and enjoyable conference!