Bahamas 2000
Go Rams!
13 Jan 2018

Last Day in Paradise … with dolphins!

We had another sunny beautiful morning that was all quiet on the surface during our observation session. It could be said that it was “all quiet on the western front!” More often than not we were able to recognize the dolphins that swam by our observation stations. And, Bailey’s calf was being a dolphin and was swimming between several different other dolphins. Several of the dolphins had new rake marks, so they must have had fun last night! Several of the dolphins were throwing seaweed above the surface, almost like playing catch with each other.
After our early morning session, we had a delightful breakfast. And following our morning meal, the last two of us, Chandra and Macy, helped with the innovate/create study. The rest of us entered data, transcribed notes, enjoyed the hammocks and took a brief nap – the first fleeting “free hours” of our week. Our rest prepared us for our physiology lecture in a chilled classroom (who would have thought at the start of the week that we would welcome an air-conditioned room!).
During the physiology lecture, we learned it all comes down to energy and water. The importance of the shape of the dolphins was discussed such that we realized how it is advantageous to their success as fully aquatic mammals. Dolphins have 1/3 more blood than we do, also. Lunch followed our talk and we enjoyed pasta and burgers and yummy salads.
After lunch, we returned to Bailey’s Cay for our last session of data collection on fluke strokes per breath for Ritchie and Bill. The underwater visibility was back to excellent, which was good for counting fluke strokes. Ritchie was a bit distracted by what might have been going on in the main enclosure as he kept looking that way. We were able to collect 4 sessions with Ritchie and 3 with Bill. This brings our total sessions to 14: 7 per animal. The average strokes per minute over all sessions was fairly stable and also breaths per minute were quite consistent. We will look at the data more after back at CSU for our projects.
We wrapped up our day at Bailey’s Cay with a photo of us and the CSU study abroad flag and French and Ronnie! Denry helped us get the image (Thank you!).
We finished our day with some souvenir shopping and paddle-boarding and kayaking! Macy did yoga (cobra and down-dog) on the paddle-board while Lauren N. and Delaney finally made it to a standing position (with only 1 or 2 flops!).
We finished the day with a final delicious supper. Tomorrow, sadly, we return to Colorado taking many new memories, lessons learned, and new friends made with us.
Until next time,
Lauren (#1), Kenna, Caitlyn, Lauren (#2), Casey, Julia, Serena, Delaney, Cailey, Macy (like the store), and Chandra (the CSU crew) with supporting roles from Shane, Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & Maria

P.S. Have fun University of Rhode Island group – enjoy the food! We did!

night snorkel
12 Jan 2018

Not a Cloud in the Sky!

We were greeted by the sun this morning on our way to data observations. Our notebooks stayed dry during observations and we had to apply and reapply sunscreen, though we are not complaining. The surface observations were much less – the animals seemed to be less active at the surface and more interactive underwater. Some of the dolphins were a bit playful with seaweed to us. Kathleen was able to get a longer session as the dolphins were social and the underwater visibility was good. The calf kept getting corralled by other dolphins who seemed to want him around.
We also started our own research project and confirmed our methods. We had 5 sessions in the morning: 3 with Bill and 2 with Ritchie. We had 6 sessions in the afternoon (3 each with Bill and Ritchie). The afternoon underwater visibility decreased significantly … and it was also harder to see Bill or Ritchie because of the glare off the water surface.
After our delicious lunch, Teri B. gave us a really cool lecture about Dolphin Training. Her enthusiasm was contagious. We learned the importance of eye contact and timing when training, and that not everyone can be a trainer. We learned about operant conditioning versus classical conditioning. We learned about the relationships that can be and should be built with the dolphins. And, that if you work with them for a long time, you can read their behavior.
Jennifer spoke to us about Nighttime Adaptations on the Reef – before we did our first night snorkel. We learned that some fish change colors at night as compared to during the day. The best part was we could use what we learned right away during our night snorkel. We started the snorkel from a floating platform behind the dolphin area at Bailey’s Cay. We saw an eel, baby squid, an octopus, squirrel fish, blue tang, puffer fish, and parrot fish (lying on the sand for the night!). It was a little scary at first snorkeling at night but it was also super cool because of all the life we saw. The coral polyps were neat because they made the coral seem more alive as opposed to a rock-like item. We saw a brittle star and nudibranchs and crabs, too. On our way back from Bailey’s Cay on the taxi boat, Macy saw a shooting star in the bright and clear sky.
Dinner was after our snorkel and included a tasty tomato/basil soup.
Until tomorrow,
Lauren (#1), Kenna, Caitlyn, Lauren (#2), Casey, Julia, Serena, Delaney, Cailey, Macy (like the store), and Chandra (the CSU crew) with supporting roles from Shane, Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & Maria

Project Chat
11 Jan 2018

Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Sea Jellies, Fish and more …

Many of us woke to find that we slept through an earthquake last night, or did not feel it. After letting our families know we were alive and well, we headed to collect dolphin behavior observations. It was our first set of observations without rain. The dolphins were splashing and noisy at the surface. We had more success also in recognizing individual dolphins. We saw Ronnie, Lenca, Tilly, Carmella, French, Ritchie, Dory and Polly. Calli and the calf were also easy to ID this morning.
We did a brief break for breakfast (since food is a motivating factor this week), then went back to Bailey’s Cay to test out and decide on the methods for our project that focuses on respirations that might be associated with tail strokes. It was a struggle but every idea we had got us closer to what we might actually be able to do for collecting data on the last two days here. We’re excited to try our hand at data collection for our project tomorrow.
A few of us participated in data collection on the innovate/create study. Then, before lunch, we spent some time learning a bit more about confirming dolphin IDs from video and the video log process. Confirming the IDs is a lot harder than we all thought it would be – recognizing the individual dolphins is straightforward but confirming all their marks is not that easy.
After a hearty lunch, we listened to Jennifer in a lecture about sea turtles and their conservation. We learned about the Arribada for the 10 million eggs that are laid seasonally by between 75,000 and 100,000 sea turtles in Costa Rica. Then we went on our group’s first boat and drift snorkel on Butcher’s Reef. We saw a puffer fish, sea jellies, and a good-sized nurse shark. Serena saw a moray eel. Cailey saw a lion fish, too! Though there were no whitecaps, there was a 3 ft swell that felt a bit like a roller coaster.
Tonight’s dinner was a fiesta night on the cay – a BBQ picnic with delicious ribs and cheesy mac ‘n cheese! Oh yes, brownies for dessert! There was a hermit crab race and a limbo contest (woohoo Delaney!) and we also learned a bit about the culture of the islands with a presentation by Garifuna dancers.
This is our first clear night with a vivid view of the stars! We look forward to tomorrow and the potential for the sun to greet us on Bailey’s Cay!
Until tomorrow,
Lauren (#1), Kenna, Caitlyn, Lauren (#2), Casey, Julia, Serena, Delaney, Cailey, Macy (like the store), and Chandra (the CSU crew) with supporting roles from Shane, Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & Maria

10 Jan 2018

Dolphin Swim – Where Did They Go?

We shifted the morning schedule having a continental breakfast before collecting data at Bailey’s Cay. This was because we had our dolphin swim this morning! We got to swim with the dolphins after meeting them during a beach encounter. Shane tried to let Kenna know she had 6 dolphins right next to her but she was just swimming forward looking for dolphins!
Baby dolphin! Baby dolphin! Bailey’s calf was all around us swimming but mom was none too pleased that he was curious about the split-fin humans! Cailey completely forgot to try to recognize or ID any of the dolphins when seeing them under water!
It was true that if they did not want to be seen, they were not. We heard their clicks plenty and their whistles but we’d turn around and not see any dolphin. Then at other times, they just appeared right next to one of us or below one of us.
In the gazebo, after data collection and before our encounter, we chatted about physiology and metabolism.
Of course, the highlight of our mid-day was lunch! We thoroughly enjoyed a hearty lunch after swimming against a current when observing the dolphins during our encounter and swims.
Our afternoon had Kenna, Julia and Serena helping with data collection for the innovate/create study and the rest of us observed the male dolphin subgroups in the back areas as comparison to the early morning surface observations.
The afternoon wrapped up with a classroom discussion on behavioral observations. We learned how behavioral observations should be conducted – for data collection, analyses and then internal and external validation applications.
All in all, it was a great day … punctuated by much rain, again. Supposedly the sun is planning to visit us tomorrow. Let’s hope so!
Until tomorrow,
Lauren (#1), Kenna, Caitlyn, Lauren (#2), Casey, Julia, Serena, Delaney, Cailey, Macy (like the store), and Chandra (the CSU crew) with supporting roles from Shane, Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & Maria

P.S. my apologies to Delaney’s mom for misspelling your daughter’s name on the first few entries.
P.S.S. we were not impacted by the earthquake earlier tonight. Thank you for your thoughts and concerns.

CSU group on snorkel boat to Maya Cay
09 Jan 2018

Don’t Touch the Reef!

We had a very wet data collection session, which yielded data sheets that were soaked through. But, we could recognize several of the individual dolphins. We could chat among ourselves to confirm some of the markings and so learned a few new dolphins by their scars and marks.
After breakfast, we spent time reviewing the video from Sunday morning. Caitlyn did not think they made that much noise when underwater but there was a lot of noise from them on the video. And, watching the video of dolphins it seemed to require more mobility than when Julia tried the MVA in the pool yesterday.
We visited Maya Cay today. We got to learn about the Mayan culture and toured the replica ruins with the inclusion of a real Mayan ball court. This court is an arena for a ball game played by ancient Mayans. The leader of the losing team of the game was often sacrificed to the gods.
We also got to tour the rescue zoo of confiscated, rescued, rehabilitated exotic animals; for example, there was a jaguar, a few mountain lions, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, American crocodiles, numerous birds and a few reptiles. After observing the animals, we entered the food chain by taking our first coastal snorkel. The water temp was 79°F but it felt a tad chilly. Edwin was our snorkel guide and he showed us many colorful fish: barracuda, lobster, peacock angelfish, blue tangs, disco fish, indigo hamlets, groupers, brain coral and sea fans. Of course, snorkeling allowed our appetites to grow and lunch was welcome and delicious! A short post-prandial relaxation period (a nice little nap) followed lunch before we returned to AKR. The excursion of the snorkel session required a relaxing afternoon.
A belated Happy Birthday to Matthew (Heather’s now 16-year-old son) and an early Happy Birthday to Nate (Dee’s husband) and to Dixie, the mini seabeagle (6 years old tomorrow).
Tomorrow is our dolphin swim adventure. Let’s hope it is not raining!
Until then,
Lauren (#1), Kenna, Caitlyn, Lauren (#2), Casey, Julia, Serena, Delany, Cailey, Macy (like the store), and Chandra (the CSU crew) with supporting roles from Shane, Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & Maria

observing dolphins
08 Jan 2018

Dolphins and SUN!

The nighttime deluge of rain was with us through the first part of our morning observations. But, our wishes last night were eventually granted with the sun eventually peaking from behind the clouds. Of course, Initial introductions were overwhelming and crazy with the dolphins! There were a lot of dolphins with names and faces to learn at the same time. We sort of struggled with IDs on our first morning but we were really excited about trying our hand at recognizing each individual dolphin. Many of us were very focused on trying to keep our balance while walking on the dock around the enclosure to our watching spots. The Honduran breakfast was savory, salty, delicious and filling. After waiting 30 minutes, we ensured our snorkeling skills were proficient with a practice session in the pool. We each got to use the MVA to practice being a dolphin researcher. It was easy to swim with but not necessarily to record our fellow students underwater. Lunch was just as good as breakfast. We had our first lecture, shared with students from the University of MN, from Kathleen. We learned about the dolphins here at RIMS and a bit more about DCP’s dolphin studies overall. We then went back to Bailey’s Cay to watch a couple of training sessions with the dolphins and to get closer to several of the dolphins to see their markings up close. We could refer to this part of our day as “Dolphin Kisses and Lost Sunglasses!” Casey had tried to gift her sunglasses to King Neptune as an offering for sunshine tomorrow but the awesome trainers retrieved them for her. (Thanks!) We thought the dolphin “lips” (rostrum) would be softer and their stuck-out tongues were more mocking than anything else! The fish ID talk was informative and engaging. Dinner was scrumptious! We’ll dream of sunny, warm skies for tomorrow! Lauren (#1), Kenna, Caitlyn, Lauren (#2), Casey, Julia, Serena, Delany, Cailey, Macy (like the store), and Chandra (the CSU crew) with supporting roles from Shane, Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & Maria
wind and rain view
07 Jan 2018

Travel Challenges followed by Rain, Rain, Rain

We each had varied travel experiences to get to Roatan from the USA. The CSU students with their intrepid professor (Dr. K) arrived without incident, which was good since they began travel at about 02:30 AM. Dee, Heather and Maria each had uneventful trips from Miami and Houston, respectively. I, on the other hand, had a never-before experience: my first flight was delayed because the pilots got locked out of the cockpit. (Not sure where they left their keys!) I received the last standby seat on the next flight to Atlanta and made my connecting flight to Roatan. My checked bag, however, decided to stay a night in Atlanta. I’ve never been so glad to have the MVA as a carry-on!
We had a great first afternoon with a RIMS/AKR orientation from Jennifer, a delicious dinner and then a wrap up chat about the research, the MVA and the plans for tomorrow. We did the evening chat with the ambiance of rain, which is still falling. We hope it will clear in the morning as we will start observations at 6:45 AM.
Tomorrow’s post will be from the student team! Stay tuned!
Kathleen with Heather, Dee, Marie and the CSU crew!

AKR aerial view
05 Jan 2018

Starting the New Year Right! Research and Field Work!

Tomorrow, January 6th, I will travel south to Roatan, specifically to Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR) for two weeks of data collection on the dolphins at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS). I’ll be joined by two groups of students for a week each. Our first week will also include a few colleagues for the continuation of the dolphin innovate/create study. (More on each of these topics in the next day or two.)
Personally, I’m very much looking forward to observing the dolphins and recording their social behavior and vocalizations. Each visit is like catching up with old friends (who also include the trainers and other folks at AKR/RIMS!). The added incentive for my strong desire to travel farther south today, in particular, is the REALLY cold weather we are having in Florida! It was 34°F (1°C) this morning!
For the next couple of weeks, stay tuned to regular (daily) updates on our research progress, the dolphins, and of course, the field course. Each group of students will help me write the field notes/blog update, beginning Sunday (Jan 7th) night. Here’s hoping we have warm, sunny weather, good underwater visibility, intricate social interactions (among the dolphins!), and lively, engaging discussion on a variety of topics with the students!

Nicole visits Our Sisters' School

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,


Intern Tori Presents on DCP

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.

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Dolphin Communication Project
P.O. Box 7485
Port St. Lucie, FL, 34985

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