Our first day of data collection for this session began well! One hour of video collected and Ronnie was not as curious about me as in previous years! He was the first to greet me (as this image can attest), but it was more Lenca, Champ and Mac (the three young boys) who spent time trying to rough-house around me during both my early morning and second morning sessions!
We had really good underwater visibility at ~6:40 AM when the first session began. I was able to view most of the 23 dolphins underwater at least once. It was great to see all the dolphins again! And, Hector and Han were close on Gracie's heels for most of both sessions! They did a behavior that was new to me. Hector was above Han and Han was in contact almost for the length of his body with Hector. They swam in what looked like a joint S-posture as they followed Gracie around. They were vocal, too!
The second morning session was mostly Lenca, Champ and Mac circle swimming each other and me. I did observe some chases and some contact as well as rubbing action. Overall, I was able to collect 1 hour 3 min of video with the main MVA camera and another hour or so of GoPro footage of the dolphins providing a wider angle of view. This image of Ronnie is a frame grab from the early morning video session when he was greeting me on entry.
I had much help from our eco-tour team - they made observations of the behavior of dolphins from the water surface and logged details related to their interactions. We also have a group of SCUBA divers and they got in between 2 and 3 dives each today. The evening wrapped up with the AKR Sunday night fish ID talk - very neat to learn about some of the endemic species viewable on each dive!
Tomorrow begins early again with a 6:30 AM entry planned.
Kathleen & the DCP eco-tour team!
Most of us arrived on one of three flights from the USA - via Miami, Houston or Atlanta. It was wonderful to arrive to Roatan and to be reminded as we deplaned of the warm tropical weather and breeze! Once we were checked in at Anthony's Key Resort, I was able to get weights for me, the MVA2 and the SM2M. We'll collect data in the morning tomorrow with the MVA2 early in the AM (just after sunrise) and then deploy the SM2M between the first and second training sessions.
I was able to sort through the MVA2 case tonight and was greatly disappointed by the way TSA repacked my fragile gear. I guess the sticker and tags on the case in big bold letters saying "FRAGILE" meant nothing. I guess letting folks know the gear is scientific equipment does not matter. Luckily, even though everything was jammed back in, one latch was not closed and the entire contents were flipped upside down, nothing seemed to have suffered permanent damage. I'll do a water check on entry to be sure the seals hold.
Tomorrow will be a good day - we'll be observing the dolphins, meeting the newest calves and greeting the training team later in the morning. Our group is enthusiastic and ready to help make observations, between dives for some of them!
Kathleen and the DCP RIMS 2016 October eco-tour team!
October 20, 2016
Saturday begins DCP’s 2016 Eco-tour to Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR) and the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS). This DCP eco-tour trip is unique for several reasons, not the least of which is that it represents the largest trip to-date. Not only to RIMS/AKR but of any DCP eco-tour since we began in 2000! We have several “repeat offenders” – some who’ve been DCP supporters since 1992! We have a few individuals new to the DCP-RIMS eco-tour, but not new to DCP. We have a couple of students, and we have quite a few SCUBA divers!
Personally, I am thrilled for this coming week and very much look forward to revisiting the dolphins and their caregivers, as well as all the other folks at AKR/RIMS. I’m bringing the MVA2 for data collection of dolphin behavior with simultaneous stereo audio. I’ll have two GoPro’s attached to the MVA2 again this year – one facing forward to give us a wider field of view for confirming Dolphin IDs and one facing back to confirm when dolphins are behind me. (This view reminds me regularly to question who is watching whom?! See the photo for me and a buddy from last year!) And, I am bringing the SM2M to collect acoustic data round the clock for about 6 days of the week.
So, the gear is packed, clothing is almost there … and we have a touch less than two days to wait! Can you tell I’m looking forward to this week of field research?!
I’ll post daily from the field. Stay tuned for more updates from Roatan!
Humble Bundle has just launched its End of Summer Sale! DCP has the opportunity to benefit until the sale ends on September 22nd. Simply head to Humble Bumble and 5% of your purchase will support DCP!
There are thousands of games offered on the Humble Store with sales happening every day. And, when you buy a cross-platform game, you get a version for each available OS. Buy. Support DCP. Play. Yay!
Daisy Kaplan has been studying the behavior of dolphins and whales for over a decade. She completed her Master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where she studied juvenile social interactions among wild spotted dolphins in White Sand Ridge, Bahamas, while leading ecotourist groups for Oceanic Society. She then served as a researcher and naturalist for The Whale Center of New England, studying the behavior of humpback whales. Her PhD work looked at the acoustic characteristics and contextual use of whistles in sympatric species of wild bottlenose and spotted dolphins in Bimini, The Bahamas. Her current area of study is in communication and the use of biphonation in dolphins. She is a Professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
During her Master's research, Daisy collaborated with Kathleen; Daisy's relationship with DCP strengthened as she began utilizing Bimini for her Ph.D. work. As our collaborations grew, it became more and more apparent that we are better together! We look forward to more joint publications and education programs as well as a general cooperative interaction that means more data collection and more project results!
The vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) is considered by many to be the rarest and most-endangered species of marine mammal in the world. in May 2016, the population size of the vaquita is considered to be 60, based on the results of a 2015 vessel survey and acoustic study. It is the smallest of only seven species of true porpoises, and is the only one that lives in warm waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. It is found in a tiny area in the extreme northern Gulf of California, near Baja California, Mexico.
According to Viva Vaquita!, only an immediate and total ban on gillnets in the entirety of the vaquita's range can save it from extinction. Learn more at www.vivavaquita.org.
Viva Vaquita was selected as the first recipient of DCP's Pay It Forward for Conservation initiative: First, one of DCP’s board members will commit to a financial contribution directly to that organization. Second—and this is the fun part for you—DCP will also commit to telling the story of that organization to all of you, to build awareness about immediate conservation issues, and to build partnerships among organizations with shared goals.
(Vaquita content, including photograph taken by Tom Jefferson, copied with permission from Viva Vaquita.)
Though I hope to be on a few day trips later this month, Monday was my last scheduled dolphin trip of 2016. And, it was a great one! We departed shortly after 1500 and with a tip from another operator, we spent extra time searching an area right at the edge of the shallow and deep waters. At 1619 we were rewarded with bottlenose dolphins! We observed them from the surface for nearly 20 minutes (and saw a group of spotted dolphins nearby!). Confident the group of at least six dolphins was in fact crater feeding, I continued to collect dorsal fin photographs while the guests entered the water. After two more rounds of photos, I too entered the water, eager to record the feeding behaviors. I completed one focal follow - of a mother/calf pair - when I heard the crew calling us back. A squall was threatening and we needed to be safely aboard the boat. Once on the boat it was so obvious how much the wind had picked up; when we started the swim, the ocean was calm and smooth, now there were white caps everywhere!
We stayed in the general area while we waited to see what the weather was going to do. Luckily, the squall fell apart and we were able to continue our search. Soon we were with at least 11 Atlantic spotted dolphins! Two of the juveniles were also observed on Sunday; it is always nice to see dolphins two days in a row. We all got in the water and were not disappointed! The dolphins cruised past everyone in the group and put on a nice show for those who stayed on the boat. And though it may be hard to believe, I'm actually interested in the dolphins ignoring me and letting me film them interacting with each other. Today was not one of those days! Two youngsters in particular seemed most interested in seeing how well I could keep up with their circles (or, were they trying to get me dizzy?!). I have to admit, it was pretty fun and of course, we can still get useful information from the video data.
Tuesday was a day off for me and then Wednesday I had the pleasure of holding my formal-casual weekly DCP talk with the guests. Conversation never stalled! Thank you to everyone for your wonderful questions, insights and for your support of DCP.
The Bimini Adventures guests have three more trips ahead of them - good luck!
Until next time,
Sunday began the final dolphin week of Bimini Adventures' 2016 season. Though it was strange to prep for a boat trip without Nicole, I was happy to meet the new guests and search for dolphins in calm seas. About 45 minutes into the trip, the guests had their first swim break, giving them an opportunity to test their snorkel gear, practice getting on and off the boat and generally acclimate themselves to Bimini's waters. It was not long after this that I saw a splash. It was far, but it was big and soon crewman Michael saw it too. We guided Al toward the splash and soon everyone was seeing a leaping young dolphin - man, this dolphin was getting some serious height!
The Atlantic spotted dolphins were scattered in an atypical way. It seemed like they were snacking on something and showed little interest in the boat. So, we waited for quick glimpses and big leaps, enjoying it all. Eventually, six dolphins came together and though they weren't interested in typical bowriding, we were able to watch them for quite a long time. They were not part of the long-time Bimini community, so may be dolphins from the Grand Bahama group who are now frequently seen off Bimini. Briefly, another, small dolphin watching boat distracted the dolphins, but after the boat departed we rejoined the group. They made two direction changes and suddenly, there were lots more dolphins! Al counted at least 14 as I joined the guests in the water. First Noodle (#94) swam by the camera, then Speedy (#78) (I think!) and Split Jaw (#22), plus several others that I didn't know at first glance. It was a wonderful way to wrap up the day!
Until next time,
Thursday was the final boat trip for this week's Bimini Adventures group. It was also Nicole's last boat trip of the season so we were very optimistic that it was going to be a good one! The weather was on our side and the guests saw true, Bimini sunshine for the first time. After a quick stop at "The Bimini Road," it was a mere 10 minutes before we saw spotted dolphins! The group of over 15 dolphins included Romeo (#10, still associating with a calf, yay!), Freckles (#15), Stefran (#82, also with a calf), un-named #75, Paul (#99) and possibly Niecey (#48). After a short swim with the large group, we observed a slightly smaller subset, including Stefran and Paul, as well as two youngsters practicing their aerial skills. It was a great finale day to the week and we really enjoyed being welcomed by this great group!
Thursday night we indulged in a work-free dinner, but Friday morning it was (nearly) all business. Coordinating data files and tidying Nicole's apartment, we were both wishing Nicole was only going home for the weekend! But, she'll be super busy back at school, prepping her new Master's project!
Next week is the final dolphin week of 2016. Wonder what it will bring?!
Kel & Nicole