Kelly Melillo Sweeting
Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.
DCP Master’s student Nicole Danaher-Garcia shares her experience presenting to an awesome New Bedford, MA middle school. Enjoy!
On Tuesday, December 19th, I visited a local New Bedford, MA, middle school, having been invited by the Head of School to present to her students. The school, called Our Sisters’ School, is pretty unique. It is a not-for-profit private school with only four classes, one in each grade 5-8. The school only accepts low-income girls from the New Bedford area, and each student must be very motivated since the school-day is 11 hours long! The head of the school calls this having “the eye of the tiger.” And it was very noticeable that these girls are excited to learn. They were all smiles from the moment I stepped into the room, and became even more excited when I began talking about dolphins.
Before diving into the more scientific part of my presentation, I told the girls about how I got to where I am. I really wanted to impress upon them that there are tons of people out there who are willing to help and provide opportunities; all it takes is a simple email to get the ball rolling. That’s how it was for me—after discovering DCP, it was a single email to Kathleen Dudzinski that opened the door for me to become a volunteer, then an intern, then a field assistant, and now a student with her own project. I hope that my story really inspired the girls to keep their eyes open for opportunities and to jump at them when they appear.
After my brief personal history, I taught the girls a Word of the Day (a requirement of Morning Speaker presentations). My word was “cetaceans,” the term that encompasses whales, dolphins and porpoises. I then briefly described my focal species (the Atlantic spotted dolphin), how to determine dolphin sex and age, some of the threats that dolphins face in the wild, as well as how behavioral research can help humans mitigate those threats. The students were so engaged, asking so many questions and offering comments. I felt as if I could have talked with them all day, so much so that I ran over my time-allotment!
I’m so happy I was presented with the opportunity to engage with local students, and especially grateful to have had the chance to motivate them about dolphins and scientific research. I hope to have similar opportunities in the future, and I plan to tell my UMass Dartmouth peers about my presentation in the hopes that they will be interested in sharing their stories with these girls (and maybe other local students).
Until next time,
Fulfilling the Honor’s component to her Honor’s Biology class at Indian River State College, DCP volunteer and intern, Tori Meyer, presented her project on Dolphin Communication to fellow Honors students and faculty. Part review of Kathleen Dudzinski and Christine Ribic’s 2017 publication, “Pectoral Fin Contact as a Mechanism for Social Bonding among Dolphins,” and part general discussion around past and present DCP research efforts, Tori’s presentation covered the subject of dolphin communication methods, focusing on tactile contacts between bottlenose dolphins in the RIMS facility, as well as tactile contacts among the wild population of Atlantic Spotted dolphins around Bimini, the Bahamas. Eager to continue her contribution to DCP’s ongoing research efforts in any way she’s able to, Tori is a passionate advocate for the Dolphin Communication Project, and was grateful for this opportunity to share her passion and experience in an academic setting.
This quarter's issue is pretty packed: holiday specials, an update from Master's student Nicole, introduction of "Vee," updates from SMM conference, a fun coloring page and more! Which entry will be your favorite?
Thanks for reading - and sharing! Click here to download your copy now.
One of my favorite events of the year is our field course with Sacred Heart University (SHU). Taught by Dr. Deirdre Yeater and held at our Bimini, The Bahamas field site, this course brings SHU and non-SHU students to study wild Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins. Mornings are filled with class lectures and discussions and afternoons are spent at sea, searching for and observing dolphins. It's exciting for me; most students have never seen a wild dolphin, certainly not under water. And watching students go from sitting and listening to scientists talk about dolphins to being the ones collecting data - real data that DCP will use - is so rewarding. The application period for this field class closes 15 December so get your application in! Learn more at this link and this link.
Hi Supporters! Any electronic adoption kit orders received between 5:00 p.m. ET, 30 Sept and 9 October will be filled on 9 October. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your support!
(What? You didn't know you can adopt a wild dolphin? Oh, yes! Check out the program here!)
This quarter's issue is full of updates from the field, particularly reports from our Bimini field site. Hear from Kel and the summer "Trio", check out which adopt-a-dolphins we saw and meet Sulfur and Name-A-Dolphin ID#101. You'll see Kathleen has been busy preparing publications and Justin is making an awesome book donation. Thanks for reading - and sharing! Download your copy now.
After spending so much of this summer referring to “The Trio” (Patrick, Kaiya and Tori, our summer interns), it was hard not think of them as I spent a nice portion of the afternoon observing three Atlantic spotted dolphins! I was able to complete trip #43 of the season with Bimini Adventures, once again joining a visiting research team. Since this team was focused on bow riding dolphins, I knew the day would only bring surface observations. Still, it was worth it!
We followed this trio of as-yet unidentified dolphins through the waves as the winds and seas picked up slightly throughout the day. At times they seemed to be traveling, but as I looked toward shore, we never really went anywhere! There were quite a few fluke slaps and aerial displays, which left us wondering if the dolphin was frustrated or showing off. Soon, we realized that maybe it was neither; maybe it was all about the pesky remora!
It was a pleasure joining the trip and even lending a hand. As the summer winds down, I’m always left wondering: Was today the trip of the season?
DCP ID#102 has her name!! We are pleased to introduce, Sulfur, who was named by by Rahul K. Sai as a gift for Snigda Sindhuri Sagabala as part of DCP's Name-A-Dolphin program. Sulfur, a juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphin observed off Bimini, The Bahamas is now available for adoption! Check out her adoption page here. Thank you, Rahul, for your generous support. Snigda, we hope you enjoy your awesome gift!
On Thursday, I was able to join the team of visiting researchers who have chartered Bimini Adventures to explore their 360-degree camera and hydrophone system designed to record bow riding dolphins. It was great to catch up with these folks, whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for years now. Though there was a light chop to the sea, it actually made the search for dolphins more comfortable – at least there was a little breeze to take the edge off the August heat!
As we diligently searched for dolphins, we came upon a scattered group of at least three bottlenose dolphins. I was able to grab a few dorsal fin photographs for future photo-ID matching, but the team decided the dolphin group wasn’t right for their goals: the dolphins were scattered and at the edge of the shallow and deep water. So, we continued our search…
Unfortunately, that was the only dolphin sighting of the day. The team had a great attitude though; grateful for the loads of data they had already collected this week. While I wait for my next day on the boat, we’re all keeping an eye on weather in the tropics. Tropical Storm Harvey is unlikely to impact Bimini, but we’re waiting to see what the disturbance behind it does.
So much of my spring and summer revolves around advertising for interns, interviewing potential interns, preparing for interns, meeting interns, working with interns…and then they are gone! Poof! This year’s team, which included first-year interns Tori, Patrick and Kaiya, was absolutely phenomenal. But, as August rolled around, I knew that one-by-one, I’d be saying, “See you later” to each of them. And, now, as planned, they have all said goodbye to Bimini and returned to their other lives…
So, on Thursday I prepped for my first intern-less dolphin trip in quite a while. And, then it rained. And rained. And looked as though it might rain some more. So, with the dolphin trip canceled, I did some other DCP tasks. Friday was more office work and Saturday was a (mostly) day off. On Sunday, I was thrilled to climb back aboard the Coral Reef II, Shedd Aquarium’s research and education vessel. I really enjoyed my lunch chat with students (and teachers!) from Chicago City Day School. Visiting school groups aboard the CRII are some of the highlights of my season – thank you!
The research season is winding down, but I’ll still search for dolphins when boat trips allow – so stay tuned! And thanks to everyone who followed the adventures of the 2017 Volunteer Field Experience Participants and Summer Interns!
Until next time,