Social media in the service of conservation: a case study of dolphins in the Hellenic seas
The Hellenic Seas host a high diversity of cetaceans. With seven confirmed resident species, Greek waters are among the most important marine areas in the Mediterranean Sea. The Delphinidae family is represented by the common bottlenose dolphin (hereafter bottlenose dolphin) (Tursiops truncatus [Montagu, 1821]), the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba [Meyen, 1833]), the short-beaked common dolphin (hereafter common dolphin) (Delphinus delphis [Linnaeus, 1758]), and the Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus [Cuvier, 1812]), with the first three species listed identified as the most abundant in this region (Frantzis et al., 2003). Nevertheless, knowledge on the distribution of these megafauna is still at an unsatisfactory level, and further investigation is needed, especially on local populations (Frantzis, 2009) in such a critical area as the Hellenic Seas, where five different areas are considered important for the biology of different cetacean species (Notarbartolo di Sciara & Bearzi, 2010).
Studies on cetacean distribution are key elements to a better understanding of their basic ecology and for developing appropriate management and conservation strategies. Given that they also function as umbrella species, effective conservation efforts for cetacean populations are essential for increasing protection of all marine biota (Roberge & Angelstam, 2004). To conduct either ship- or aerial-based cetacean surveys requires considerably large budgets. In addition, survey success can be negatively impacted by limited time availability--for instance, due to rapidly changing weather conditions. Over the last decade, due primarily to the lack of substantial funding, research effort in Greece has been limited, which has resulted in the present data deficiency on cetacean distribution in Greek waters (Nortabartolo di Sciara & Bearzi, 2010).
The widespread use of social media is emerging as a major trend in modern society. In 2013, 1.73 billion people used a social media platform at least once, with predictions anticipating that by 2017, this number will increase to 2.55 billion (eMarketer, 2013). This increase in the use of social media has garnered the attention of researchers from different scientific fields. Part of this interest lies in the association of social media with tourism (Hvass & Munar, 2012) and, more specifically, in its importance for travelers willing to share their travel stories (Xiang & Gretzel, 2010). Among the latter, boaters and sea lovers are particularly keen on sharing their experiences and encounters at sea. Nowadays, all social media platforms offer the possibility of manual tagging, geo-tagging, or automatic geo-tagging. Taking advantage of this feature, we can gather location information included in videos posted to social media sites; in this way, non-scientists meaningfully contribute to scientific research whether they intend to or not (Bonney et al., 2009b). By tracking video uploads from maritime tourists, fishermen, and others to Web-based sharing platforms such as YouTube, potentially valuable information on cetacean distribution can be obtained. Considering that maritime tourism is one of the most important industries in Greece, with an upward course (Diakomihalis, 2007), the possibility of videos posted to social media as a new tool must be explored--especially under the current harsh economic conditions which severely restrict funding for science...
This is a preview. Get the full text through your school or public library.