Before I wrap up the week, I thought I'd share a photo of the SM2M deployment ... though this image is from 2-3 years ago! When I deployed the SM2M yesterday, the underwater visibility was such that at 24 ft deep, I could not see details of the surface, and vice versa. So, no photos were taken during yesterday's deployment!
We had a good week this year! Our group got in lots of dives and much bottom time. And, I was able to collect 3 hours of data with the MVA2 and a similar amount on the front-facing GoPro. The GoPro gives us a wider field of view such that we can confirm IDs and some of the behavioral exchanges. I'll be busy with video logs and photo-ID for these data over the next several months!
We also deployed the SM2M to record dolphin vocal behavior over the next ~2 months. We'll record 10 minutes of data for every hour while the passive acoustic recorder is deployed. Data analysis comes after we recover the unit.
Stay tuned to the DCP Dolphin Gazette newsletter for updates on our data analyses. And tune in back here on New Year's Eve when I return to Roatan and Anthony's Key Resort with a field course with students from Colorado State University and the University of Southern Mississippi!
The rainy season seems to have arrived to Roatan! Another rain-filled evening dawned to overcast skies and elevated wind speeds! The current was also quite strong! We made the trek over to Bailey's Key with the hope of collecting data with the MVA2. The dolphins were social and seemingly game! I was game, my crew was certainly willing to make surface observations. Mother Nature (or is it Father Neptune?!) had other ideas! The underwater visibility, even viewed from above water, was not good! The current was again strong and a squall was on the horizon.
So, we decided to wait an hour or two ... maybe the visibility would improve?
It did not. But, our group had a dolphin encounter and met Polly and Tilly at the beach. And, with Bill and Ron's help, I prepared the SM2M for deployment. Since I am returning to Roatan with a college group for a field course in animal behavior and physiology on 31 December, we received permission from Eldon and AKR to leave the SM2M (our passive acoustic recorder) out recording for the next two months! I secured it with 24 lbs of weight as well as tying it to a piling. The dolphins were VERY interested in the SM2M and me ... and maybe thought they were being helpful when pulling at my regulator hose and fins!
Today was a good day, even though no video were collected. We wrap things up tomorrow for the return trip. I'll provide a summary of the week tomorrow.
Kathleen & the DCP 2016 Roatan Eco-tour group!
Rain greeted us just before sunrise ... leading to a delayed research data collection session. I entered the water at about 7:40 this AM and had a good 30 min session observing the dolphins. The calves were receiving much attention from almost all of the dolphins. Of course, Mac, Lenca and Champ still thought my fins were the best toy available!
I was able to record Gracie and Alita on several occasions and we confirmed which calf went with each mom on viewing the video this afternoon. The dolphins were quite vocal and very social with one another. The underwater visibility was so-so but there was decent light and a visitation by the sun when I was in the water. The photo here shows a good view of Anthony's Key ... though we're not sure which end the pot of gold my be under!
Several of the divers in our group did a shark dive this morning. They swam among more than a dozen Caribbean reef sharks and weathered choppy seas and swells and rain to meet these sharks! The second two dives saw underwater visibility decrease to almost nothing. Still, the shark dive provided much fodder for discussion during dinner!
Tomorrow is our last day for data collection and we'll deploy the SM2M for collection of dolphin vocal behavior over the next two months. Though we've had more rain than was expected, it's been a good week for underwater time and data collection!
Kathleen & the DCP 2016 Eco-tour team
We finally had a break in the rain! It poured all last night! There was some thunder and wind thrown in and we woke to a gloomy looking sky and drizzles. But, the morning dried a bit and some blue sky showed through … enough so that we could collect data at about 12:30 for about 30 – 35 minutes! The visibility was ok in some spots and “silty” in others. Still, we saw several dolphins interacting, as you can see in this image from today of several dolphins circling in front of me and the MVA2!
At late morning, I and several of our crew (John, Chris K, GiGi, Chris R, Dave, Erin, Aly) met with the training staff to share with them a bit of the history of DCP and our research on the RIMS dolphins. I was reminded of just how many projects we have completed! Object play comparisons, vocal behavior associated with pectoral fin contact, calf associations with and without kin, use of neural networks to examine vocals, and more! It was exhilarating to share our videos and results with the trainers who work with the animals every day! They had some really good and different questions and I look forward to continuing our conversation(s).
The late afternoon brought us more dolphin ID clips (hurray for photographing Alita, French, Ritchie and Bill). Even though there was a bit of rain this evening (after dark), it is supposed to be drier and more sunny tomorrow … we will try another data collection session at about 6:15 AM tomorrow.
Kathleen & the DCP 2016 October Eco-tour team
Rather than show you the gray, gloomy skies that were often dropping heaps of rain drops upon us today, I am sharing with you a photo of Elli and Callie. Elli is showing her scuffed up rostrum as she tries to photo bomb Callie. On Callie's peduncle you can see a few white parallel lines that are healing rake marks! (Thanks to Kenly for helping me photo these ID shots!)
We spent the day dodging rain drops and a bulk of time in the morning and afternoon reviewing video from Sunday and Monday to confirm IDs and begin doing the session sketches for each dolphin. Some of the younger ones are readily recognizable and others are more clean - showing very few rake marks or other scars. Thank you to Regina, Chris R., Dave and Chris K. who helped review video today!
Our divers had several good dives, though the visibility underwater was less than yesterday due to the rain storms overnight and throughout the day today. I'm personally hoping for no rain tonight so I can hop back in the water at 6:30 AM tomorrow for more data collection!
Cheers until tomorrow!
Kathleen & the DCP Oct 2016 eco-tour group!
Two data collection sessions today made me a happy camper! Two to three dives today made most of our eco-tour team happy! We all got very wet today! Not just from entering the water for data collection or diving but from the rain deluge that visited us a few times today. That’s what the front photo depicts – rain viewed from underwater! The dolphins and divers did not seem to mind the rain. Drying off after the day was another story!
My early AM data collection session had me in the water by 6:26 AM – go team! The dolphins were social and interactive. Polly and Callie were a bit too attentive to my fins but overall everyone was playful. All our surface observers (thanks to Ron R., Regina, Ron B., Erin, Aly, Madison, Lisa, Chris, Dave and John) this morning were troupers – the rain approached and then became a downpour before the session was over! They helped all before breakfast and their first early morning dive.
During both early AM and PM (~noon) sessions, the current was “wicked” strong! Within minutes of entering the water I was on the other side of the enclosure … it almost felt like the dolphins were mocking me in the ease with which they swam against the current!
The afternoon was slow and rain filled and finished with watching some of the video from yesterday and today and chatting about the different scars and marks on each of the dolphins. We’ll begin the sketches tomorrow!
The team today took the boat over the Maya Key for diving and a picnic. Of course, their dive was punctuated by much rain! That was today’s theme – rain, rain and more rain!
Kathleen & the DCP RIMS October team
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!