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Isabel Beasley talks about studying dolphins, and her favorite books.

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. You might want to check out previous issues, too, for more reading suggestions.For this issue I sent some questions to Isabel Beasley who has studied dolphins all over the world.In this interview, Isabel Beasley talks about her years in Cambodia researching the 100 or so Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins left in the Mekong River.At the time of this interview, Ms Beasley had returned from Cambodia, and was studying Irrawaddy dolphins in North Queensland, Australia. But later she returned to Cambodia to do more field work. So read on.

READERSVOICE.COM: What fieldwork were you doing just recently?
ISABEL BEASLEY: I have been back in Australia for the past six months writing up my PhD, so have had a break from the field in Cambodia.
However, for the past few weeks I have been helping a colleague from James Cook University, Mr. Guido Parra, to conduct boat surveys around Townsville, researching the Australian population of Irrawaddy dolphins.
RV: Where did you grow up?
IB: I spent most of my childhood until high-school living in Tokoroa, a small inland town of North Island, New Zealand.
The only area of water in the town was a small, dirty lake where we would spend most evenings after school and the weekends swimming and catching fish and tadpoles.
We would go on summer holidays to an east coast beach town called Mount Maunganui and ended up moving there after my first year of high school.

RV: How did you first become interested in studying dolphins and other sea mammals?
IB: I still remember the exact moment that I decided that I wanted to study dolphins.
I was about 12 years old and was reading a book my parents had bought me called Save the Dolphins by Michael Donoghue and Annie Wheeler.
I came across a hand drawn picture of an Amazon River dolphin and was absolutely fascinated at how unusual it looked and the simple fact that it lived in rivers.
I then began to ask my teachers, friends and general people in the street if they knew of this fascinating animal (taking my little blue dolphin book around with me everywhere) – most people did not even know that dolphins lived in rivers.
From that point on I have always had a major interest in river dolphins and also other coastal / marine cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).

RV: What are Hectors dolphins and what were you studying about them at Otago University in 1996?
IB: Hectors dolphins are one of the smallest dolphins in the world and found only in New Zealand.
They are beautiful little dolphins and normally are attracted to boats – so are great to view in the wild.
These were the first dolphins that I was able to study in the wild.
My supervisor was Dr. Elizabeth Slooten, who continues dolphin research and conservation in New Zealand.
I was undertaking a postgraduate diploma in wildlife management and for my research project the study site was Akaroa Harbour, near Christchurch, New Zealand.
At Akaroa, many tourist boats had began to go out primarilly to see and swim with Hectors dolphins.
Although I only wanted to study the dolphins, my research project instead looked at this tourism and what effects the experience of seeing and swimming with dolphins had on people’s levels of awareness and interest in conservation.