Scientists studying dolphins in the Shannon estuary learn how they communicate with each other.

The Shannon Estuary is home to the only group of resident bottlenose dolphins. The estuary is a special area of conservation, one of the few protected sites in Europe for these aquatic mammals. Dolphins use sound to help them navigate, communicate and fish together.

Clicks, whistles and other types of noises made by dolphins are now being recorded by Dr Simon Berrow and his team at the Shannon Wildlife Foundation in Kilrush. These recordings will be analysed along with dolphin behaviour with the aim of,

Building a picture of what it means and how dolphins communicate.

University College Cork (UCC) oceanographer and hydraulics expert Brian Holmes explains how an underwater microphone (hydrophone) in the Shannon estuary will be used to,

Measure underwater sounds, particularly dolphin vocalisations.

The hydrophone will be placed where dolphins congregate most frequently, and signals will be relayed to Scattery Island visitor centre in Kilrush.

Vodafone is sponsoring the project, and in addition to facilitating scientific research the mobile phone company hopes to use the latest technology to transmit the dolphin vocalisations through its network.

Eamon Farrell who is Head of Radio Networks at Vodafone explains that in the not too distant future

People can dial in from anywhere in the country using any mobile phone and listen to the dolphin sounds.

This two year study will bring a deeper understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the Shannon estuary dolphins and ensure that their habitat is protected. The project hopes to generate a greater public interest in the sea and conservation of the marine environment.

Ireland is fortunate to have approximately one third of the entire world species count of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Simon Berrow says work needs to be done to ensure that appropriate frameworks for conservation are in place to protect these beautiful and fascinating animals,

What we like to do is make sure that they're here for many generations.

A 'Nationwide’ report broadcast on 19 November 2003. The reporter is Marian Malone.