KAILUA-KONA - A researcher has developed an iPad app to protect Hawaii dolphins by teaching people how to enjoy the animals responsibly from a distance.
The website for the free application called The Naia Guide, explains spinner dolphins go to shallow, sandy-bottom bays during the day to seek protection from predators found in deeper waters.
But tourists frequent these same bays. Snorkelers often surround the dolphins, grab the animals and ride on their dorsal fins. This deprives dolphins of the rest they need.
West Hawaii Today reports that the application's creator, Demi Fox, witnessed firsthand how dolphins are threatened by the continual disruption of their rest when she spent a month in Kona assisting a dolphin research project.
Fox saw the need for more knowledge and awareness, believing that most people are unaware of the serious implications of interacting with dolphins. She believes people would make better decisions if they were informed.
Fox said it made perfect sense to "harness the power of this technology" to "illuminate the problem," as well as communicate the best-known science and conservation of dolphins.
It took Fox about a year to develop the app with assistance from her adviser David Johnston and the Marine Conservation Ecology Group at Duke University. Fox created The Naia Guide app in part to fulfill her master's degree in environmental management at Duke's School of the Environment. She now works as a postgraduate researcher at the Lenfest Ocean Program in Beaufort, N.C.
She hopes her app will serve as "an ecological conscience" for Hawaii residents and visitors.
The app is only available on the iPad, not the iPhone.
To download it, go to Apple's iTunes Store or naiaguide.org.