It's time to flip out.
You get a chance to name two Potomac River dolphins!


Potomac Conservancy and the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project invite the public, for the first time ever, to name two bottlenose dolphins in the Potomac River.

Submit your names by May 24 to be considered for final selection in a public voting contest!


So wait, there are dolphins in the Potomac River!?

Yes! Experts from the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project have identified well over 1,000 unique dolphins to-date and believe there could be thousands of dolphins swimming in the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. In late spring, the dolphins migrate in from the Atlantic Ocean and spend the summer months in the Potomac.

Citizen scientists can also upload their sightings to the Chesapeake Dolphin Watch, a program operated by Chesapeake Biological Laboratory (CBL). The PCDP welcomes sightings and photos of dolphins directly or from CBL for identification.

The return of cleaner water and healthy native fish to the Potomac River may be encouraging these aquatic critters to explore further upstream.

With continued progress and Potomac Conservancy’s clean water initiatives, it's possible that dolphins could be seen near Washington, DC one day! Back in the 1880s, dolphins were regularly seen near Indian Head, Maryland, and some were even spotted as far upstream as Alexandria, Virginia.

Citizen Scientist Dolphin Sightings
Potomac River, 2015-2018

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These days, the Potomac dolphins are concentrated in the brackish waters near the mouth of the river where they relax and feast on fish. But, citizen scientists (see map above) have spotted dolphins further upstream, and as far as north as the 301 Harry Nice Memorial Bridge near Dalghren, VA.

The Potomac River plays a special role in the lives of these playful animals: it’s where they birth and raise their calves!





There’s still much we don’t know about the Potomac River dolphins.
We’re hoping to change that.

Launched in 2015, the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project (PCDP) studies the dolphins in the hopes of unlocking answers to key questions about their seasonal migration, mating and breeding, feeding habits, ecosystem benefits, and local challenges to their habitat and health.

To help with tracking, each dolphin is assigned a unique name. To date, PCDP has named 304 dolphins with names that honor our country’s past and present leaders including US presidents, vice presidents, first ladies, and Congress members. Last summer, Martha Washington was seen by a 'citizen scientist' with a new calf!

While there is a “Lady Bird Johnson” and an “Abraham Lincoln” swimming around out there, more dolphins like “D1” and “D2” need names! That’s where your creativity comes in!

Meet our Dolphins!

(Identified by their unique dorsal fins)





Click on a pin to bring up more information on a sighting.

Field Notes from the Research Team - April 2019
Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project

”D1 and D2 have been spotted in the Potomac River over the last several years. Both are suspected to be mature adults and neither has been seen with a calf. Why suspected adults? It takes between five and ten years for a bottlenose dolphin calf to reach puberty and mate.

Each time D1 and D2 were sighted, they were seen resting or traveling in groups ranging in size from 20 to 163 dolphins. On August 8, 2016 and August 15, 2017 they were spotted swimming together in the same group.”

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Now’s your chance to name D1 and D2!

Submit a pair of names by May 24 to be considered in a public voting contest later this spring!

Naming Submission Rules & Eligibility

Potomac Conservancy (PC) and the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project (PCDP) invite the public to suggest names for two Potomac River dolphins now through midnight on May 24, 2019. All names must be submitted through the form provided on this page to be considered in a future public voting contest in June; one entry per email address. Note, a name submission does not guarantee placement in the voting contest.

We encourage creative names related to the Potomac River, local lands and waters, the environment, or in tribute to persons of significance recognized broadly by the community, environmental leaders, or figures who have positively affected your relationship with nature (alive or non-living). Review the list of current dolphin names to avoid submitting a name(s) that has already been assigned! Click here >

Our dolphins like good, clean fun - so no “fishy” or suspect names, please! A name will be considered ineligible if…

  • It is a trademark;

  • PC and PCDP deem it offensive, obscene, or inappropriate; or

  • It has already been assigned to a Potomac dolphin. Review the list of current dolphin names >

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Help protect dolphins and local wildlife
that depend on a clean Potomac!

Your donation will fund critical dolphin research and
support clean water programs that keep pollution out of the Potomac River.

All charitable donations will be distributed equally to the
Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project and Potomac Conservancy.

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About the Partners

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The Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project leads the first study of wild bottlenose dolphins in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Founding Director Janet Mann, Professor of Biology and Psychology at Georgetown University, launched the initiative in 2015 when initial research found dense populations of dolphins living in area waters. The Project’s research team tracks, identifies, and studies the dolphins in an effort to better understand their use of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, abundance, temporal and geographic distribution, diseases, and social behaviors. PCDP also promotes environmental stewardship through sound education and community outreach.
Learn more at


Potomac Conservancy is the region’s leading clean water advocate, fighting to ensure the Potomac River boasts clean drinking water, healthy lands, and vibrant communities. Founded in 1993, we drive the region's clean water movement by empowering local activists, volunteers, small family farms, partners, and members to lead the charge for clean drinking water, healthy lands, and safe access to the river. We combine the grassroots power of over 23,000 members and online activists with conservation and policy initiatives to restore the Potomac River to full health.
Learn more at


With the Media?

For media inquiries, please contact Melissa Diemand at (301) 608-1188 x215 or

Press release >
Image gallery >


Questions About the Dolphin Research?

For questions related to the dolphin research, please contact Georgetown University’s Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project at, or visit

Past PCDP guest posts on
Ask an Expert: What do we know about the Dolphins in the Potomac River?

Dozens, hundreds, thousands? Just how many dolphins are there in the Potomac?


Photo credit: Top banner photograph taken under NMFS Permit No. 19403.