methods used by Tethys over the years have included the use of remote sensing and telemetry
data, the combined use of laser range-finding
binoculars and GPS to record the movements
of whales, population studies based on distance sampling and photographic capture-recapture, bioacoustic research, behavioural sampling, remote collection of biopsy samples for genetic and
toxicological analyses, and historical research.
In the late 1980s, one of the main purposes of the young Tethys Research Institute was to unveil the distribution and habitat use of the cetaceans species living in Mediterranean waters.
Observations from ships and other boats produced relevant information for the seas around Italy (Notarbartolo di Sciara et al. 1993). Studies in extra-Mediterranean areas were also conducted.
In the following years, studies became progressively more focused and they have been carried out primarily from motorsaliers (in open waters) and inflatable craft (in more sheltered coastal waters).
In the early 1990s, Tethys pioneered some of the earliest long-term studies of Mediterranean cetaceans (in the waters of Italy, Croatia and Greece). Some of these projects are still ongoing.
In 2008, Tethys started surveying large portions of the seas around Italy from small planes, applying distance sampling methods to assess the abundance and distribution of cetaceans and other marine megafauna.
Tethys has generated enormous photographic
images that resulted in the identification
of over 1,500 individuals of eight Mediterranean species—based on natural marks on fins, flukes and other body parts.
Systematic studies relying on individual photo-identification methods have contributed important information on the ecology and behaviour of the animals.
Methods such as VHF-tagging, applied uninvasively through suction cups, revealed the amazing diving capabilities of fin whales and other cetacean species.
Biopsy sampling of whale and dolphin skin has supported studies in the field of toxicology and genetics, resulting in increased understanding of population status and discreteness.
Tethys collaborators are primarily marine biologists who spend much time studying the animals in their natural environment.
Studies of cetaceans in captivity are avoided.
While studying whales and dolphins in the wild might look like fun, the researchers end up spending much of their life in front of computers, doing complex analyses or tedious reporting.
Activities by Tethys researchers also include lecturing, organisation of training courses, and supervision of students and young researchers.
While research is the primary activity, much effort is invested into the dissemination of information intended to raise public and institutional awareness.
All this work aims to contribute to the increased protection of cetaceans and marine biodiversity.