With the wind in our faces, and rocking the boat, we were hopeful that Tuesday’s boat trip would bring some cooperative dolphins. The students were fresh off some great juvenile spotted and crater feeding bottlenose observations (Sunday) and Caribbean reef shark and southern stingray interactions (Monday). I was ever hopeful that my presence wouldn’t break their luck…
Sure enough, at 16:28, Dr. E saw several dolphins surfing the swells right toward us! It was a very cool sight to see. We counted at least 19 dolphins, but with the rough conditions, I could only recognize Stefran (#82) from the boat. Surfing dolphins usually don’t break from their activity to swim with us, but this group did let us get a nice look at them as they passed by under water. Back on the boat, we worked hard to keep the scattered dolphins in view; at one point, there were only five dolphins, then three, then seven…it seemed the group size was always changing. I was happy to see Tina (#14), with her older calf, and Lil’ Jess (#35) and Swoosh (#36) from the boat. During our second underwater observation, we got a closer look at Lil’ Jess, and a nice observation of Paul (#99) and un-named #102 with other juveniles, some who I recognized and some who I did not. The juveniles were very energetic and we were amazed when they all simply bolted! Scratching our heads, we headed back to shore wondering what called them away…
This group of students has two more boat trips on tap. I’m wishing them luck!
Until next time,
Saturday snuck right up on me and brought another dolphin trip with Bimini Adventures’ student group. On Friday, the students and researchers were able to observe a feisty juvenile group, including Inka (#93). They got some great video and photographs, which will contribute to DCP’s archive, in addition to their own work. Saturday’s trip began smoothly and though the wait was longer than the past few days, it really wasn’t long at all before we saw some big splashing in the distance. It turned out to be closely clustered group of dolphins engaged in mating or socio-sexual behavior. Our underwater observation was brief, but I was able to confirm that Prince William (#64), Speedy (#78) and Milo (#96) were in the group and, I suspect, Buster (#04) and un-named #75. I hope to confirm these IDs, and more individuals, when I review the video. In this photo, you can see four of the at least 20 dolphins in the group.
Back on the boat, we continued in search of dolphins while the captains kept a watchful eye on the nasty weather to the west. Soon, a young Atlantic spotted dolphin was approaching the bow. We looked for its mother, and soon she made it easy to spot her: Romeo (#10) did two large leaps, out of the water and onto her side, not far from the boat. Was she calling her calf? With no other dolphins in sight, we followed this pair for some time before cruising closer to shore to avoid the storm. If this is Romeo’s calf, I’m thrilled – to put it mildly. The calf would be 14-15 months old and Romeo’s first, successful calf. I hope we see more of the pair throughout the summer!
With the storm getting closer and closer, we had to continue back to the dock early. With some rain on our backs, I was still quite happy with the day’s observations!
Until next time,
Wednesday morning began with a photo-ID lecture to the students. I always like this topic – discussing how we recognize individual dolphins and all the cool things you can learn just by knowing who is who. The students asked great questions and did a fantastic job practicing matching photos to the DCP catalog. Unfortunately, thunderstorms rolled in after lunch, canceling our boat trip – and taking the phone lines and internet down! Luckily, the group has many more days here, so spirits remained high!
PS: Sorry for the delayed posting – spotty island internet!
Tuesday was the first boat trip of 2016. I was thrilled to welcome Dr. K back to Bimini, this time with Dr. L and students from Saint Mary’s College of Maryland. With all the gear prepped, I introduced the students to DCP’s still cameras and underwater slates. I also gave them tips on taking underwater photographs of the dolphins with photo-ID purposes in mind. Throughout their course, they will be tasked with taking photographs of and notes on the dolphins while observing them under water. These photos will contribute to DCP’s on-going photo-ID efforts.
With a stiff wind, we departed the Sea Crest shortly after 1500. It felt good to be back in search of dolphins! As we cruised along the shoreline, we didn’t see anything, but soon another boat radioed that they saw some dolphins just south of us. We headed that way and looked. And looked. And looked. Then – there they were! A mixed age group of at least 11 dolphins was scattered about. Included in this group was Tina (#14) and an older calf. We made multiple water entries throughout the afternoon, eventually seeing an adult group, a young group plus Noodle (#94) and feisty youngsters. We also saw Romeo (#10) and Swoosh (#36) from the boat. Though neither female was associating with a calf, we’ll need some more observations before we know for sure if they have calves this season.
Though there were pockets of light rain throughout the afternoon (including during one of our swims!), it was a great first day at sea. I won’t be able to join every boat trip with this group, but I’m looking forward to a few more trips with them – and wishing them well for their entire course!
Until next time,
PS: Sorry for the delayed posting – spotty island internet!
DCP is offering a brand new field course in collaboration with Dr. Shane Kanatous, Colorado State University.
This is a Field Course in Animal Behavior and Physiology that will be held at RIMS, Anthony's Key Resort, Roatan, Honduras, from 31 December 2016 to 7 January 2017. A flyer can be downloaded by clicking this link. You can also check out the Educational - College Programs section of DCP's web site to read more details about this exciting new field program!
Sign up today to be sure you have a spot in this college-level field program. All participants must be at least 18 years old to participate. Course costs cover lodging, food (and a few other items - see the flyer and web site for more details), but not airfare.
Here is a short video that showcases the Innovative Study we conducted at Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon Island in The Bahamas in late January/early February 2016! If you remember (or look back through our blogs), this was research conducted in collaboration with Drs. Deirdre Yeater and Dawn Melzer (Sacred Heart University) and Dr. Allison Kaufman (University of Connecticut) and Kathleen (DCP) at Dolphin Encounters.
Data processing and analyses are ongoing ... but this clip allows you to see some of what we did when at DE.
Office: Anatomy/Zoology Building E308
I am a Brooklyn, New York native transformed into the rare hybrid of a Texas Aggie who worked for the University of Texas System and is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University.
I have often been asked how a kid from New York City became interested in marine biology and physiology. As a child, I remember watching the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau and being fascinated by the ocean and its marine life. From there, my love of the marine world continued to grow as I read all of Cousteau’s books and anything else I could about the ocean. Since my days in grammar school, I wanted to be an Oceanographer/Marine Biologist. During my senior year at Xaverian High School, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss a career in marine biology with the Director of the New York Aquarium, Dr. George Ruggieri. Dr. Ruggieri encouraged me to pursue a degree in Marine Science at Southampton College of Long Island University.
In addition to an excellent academic program, Southampton offered an extensive internship and co-operative educational program, which played an essential role in sculpting my future career. As a sophomore, I undertook my first great adventure, when I spent a semester at sea crewing on a 110 ft schooner from Glouchester, Massachusetts north to Appledore, Maine and then down the Atlantic coast, ending in the Dominican Republic. While on seamester, my crewmates and I were required to take a full semester’s worth of courses, which included Marine ecology, Ichthyology, Literature and of course sailing. What made the trip so amazing, besides the dolphins, whales, and sharks we were seeing on a daily basis, was the fact that everything we were learning about in the classroom was only a field trip away. My semester at sea has provided memories and experiences that I still call upon some fifteen years later. During my college career, I became fascinated with how an animal’s body works while swimming underwater, or gliding through waves. What I came to learn was that I was fascinated with the physiology of animals. My interest in physiology was further solidified during my senior year when I became an intern for Dr. Gerry Kooyman in the Physiological Research Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California. During that year, we studied the diving physiology and metabolism of California sea lions, harbor seals, thick-billed murres, and king and emperor penguins. At Scripps, I developed the basic ideas that would later develop into my Ph.D. topic and set the groundwork for our current project in Antarctica.
After my time at Scripps, I went on to receive my PhD. in exercise and skeletal muscle physiology from TexasA&MUniversity under the guidance of Dr. Randall W. Davis. During my Ph.D., I had the opportunity to participate in a host of different studies. In specific projects, I have studied diving behavior and physiology, fuel homeostasis, reproductive behavior and energetics, foraging behavior and energetics, thermoregulation, and swimming energetics in a variety of marine and terrestrial mammals. My research has not only been limited to physiology, but has spanned a number of biological and oceanographic disciplines investigating different ecological questions. In additional projects, I have studied reproductive and courting behavior, migratory patterns, deep-sea benthic environments and the distribution marine mammals in relation to oceanographic characteristics in the Gulf of Mexico. This diverse research experience enables me to provide a broad perspective to my current research dealing with physiological and ecological topics.
Upon completion of my dissertation, I returned to the University of California at San Diego as a National Institute of Health Minority Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Physiology section of the School of Medicine working with Dr. Peter Wagner and Dr. Odile Mathieu-Costello. My research dealt with biochemical and morphological adaptations of skeletal muscles to hypoxia in breath-hold diving and high altitude adapted mammals and birds. After San Diego, I joined the lab of Dr. R. Sanders Williams at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. While in Dallas I started to learn the molecular techniques that are now a core area of my current research. After our last expedition to the ice, I moved from Dallas to Fort Collins Colorado; where I joined the faculty of the Department of Biology at Colorado State University as an Assistant Professor.
While my basic ideas have matured beyond being the next Jacque Cousteau, I guess the answer to the question of how a kid from New York City becomes a marine biologist is, that he followed his heart and dared to dream big. The best advice I can give is to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal, and never let anyone or anything discourage you from achieving those dreams. Seek the advice and guidance of your parents, teachers and mentors, and remember the road may not always be smooth, but the journey will be an amazing one.
Saturday was our travel day to return home. Sunday was a recovery day from a very productive, action-filled week and a long day of return travel! You can see from this photo that Dixie was very glad I was home … and she and I took a good nap on the couch on Sunday!
Our trip was productive in that I collected about 3.5 hrs of video on the video camera and another almost 1.5 hrs of concurrent GoPro footage. Our team of 13 St. Mary’s students each were able to collect data for their various class projects; these projects focused on the dolphin behavior, water pH and temperature according to differing depth and distance from shore, and soil sampling. The students will be busy over the next couple of weeks analyzing their data and writing their reports. Similarly, I will be busy completing new sketches of the dolphins for this week’s data and logging the videotapes.
Thank you for reading along and thank you to our St. Mary’s Roatan Rattlers for participating in our March 2016 field course!
Today - Friday – was our last full day on Roatan, unfortunately!
We finished analyzing our soil samples – yeah! We did our last morning observation at 6:30 AM – maybe we can sleep in tomorrow? The dolphins were quite curious about Dr. D but she got a full 30-minute session recorded.
After breakfast, we went to the classroom to listen to Jennifer give a talk about turtles. There are 7 different species and only the females come on land, to lay eggs. These turtles cannot retract into their shells. The eggs are “parchment” eggs meaning they are soft and don’t break when dropped into the nest. Their first year is called “the lost year” because no one really knows where they go or what they do. Their immediate ancestor was GIANT! They evolved from a land animal and have been on the planet in one form or another for ~150 million years. The turtle talk was Lupe and Anvy’s highlight for the week!
We had 1-2 hours of productive time before lunch for homework, data entry, and data processing. Lunch was tasty (note the theme related to our meals, which were spectacularly delicious all week!!). Our afternoon lecture was held in the pool and it was a cool, rejuvenating discussion about conservation biology and Roatan. Of course, we all tried to stay as covered as possible by the water since the wind had died and the sun was HOT! Luckily, none of us got sunburned!
Our afternoon included a few last observations of the dolphins for our projects, snorkeling and a late day paddleboard race, which Dr. Karlin won, of course! Dr. Hill stayed on the paddleboard longer that the rest of us …
Tomorrow is our return trek to Texas … it has been a fantastic, unforgettable, wonderful, exciting, memorable, surreal, exhausting, educational, tropical, thrilling, anxiety-provoking, aquatic, salty (literally), early week! We’re ready to do it again in a year!
Kathleen & StMU’s “Rattlers in Roatan”
PS: Remember - you have until 28 March to order your DCP tee or rash guard! A meaningful portion of every shirt sold helps fund DCP's awesome research! Click here to get yours!