Marie Trone, Ph.D., is a DCP collaborator (see her DCP page here). She left on June 8 for Peru. Because internet access is sketchy in the jungle, Marie will send Kathleen updates about once every week or two for posting to DCP’s field blog. So, stay tuned for updates from the Amazon on Marie’s studies of the boto (aka Amazon river dolphin)!
Cheers - Kathleen
June 11, 2016
I made it! I am in the jungle now. I flew all night on Wednesday (8 June), and arrived in Iquitos on Thursday morning, totally, 125% exhausted. Then on Friday caught a boat down to Explorama Lodge (http://www.explorama.com/) where I am based for the summer. Internet is not reliable. I could not get on line Friday or this morning. It is also like dial up as far as speed. But, it does allow one to communicate without smoke signals and drums :-)
I don't have access to boats until Monday. I am grateful because I so needed to sleep. I have done a lot of that in comparison to normal, and I know I need it. I will put the two-hydrophone array together tomorrow. Thursday I plan to go back to Iquitos to get materials to build a four-hydrophone array. The additional hydrophones and DAQ should arrive with people from the Detriot Zoo on the 23rd.
Explorama has started building my lab space. They ran electricity and put in lights. They are making 2 work tables! So cool! Herve Glotin is considering putting out a full time hydrophone in the river to record 24 hours a day, but there are lots of logistical issues involved, like water levels chainging between 11 and 15 meters each year (low water and high water season), large debris flowing in the river, etc. We shall see on that one.
There are plans for me to go into the indigenous communities and work with the people there with the Adopt-A-School program, which is exciting to me! I also did a presentation on river dolphin natural history today for a school group from Michigan. All great stuff, and I LOVE doing it!
Anyway, that is all for now,
Smiles from the Equator,
Thursday was the last boat trip for the SMC group and everyone was hopeful it would be a great one, in part because high winds kept all of us on land on Tuesday and Wednesday. The wind was to our backs at the start of the trip, which was a good thing because the seas were still rocky! Thankfully, we did not have to go far to see the dolphins.
With a radio tip of a large group traveling, we stayed close to shore. But, boat traffic got a bit too heavy, so we opted to go our own way and look for other dolphins. I’m always grateful that the Captain Al agrees with limiting the number of boats interacting with dolphins at the same time. And this time, his choice still led to success! Soon, we were following a mother/calf group: Lil’ Jess (#35), Stefran (#82) and Noodle (#94,) each with their own calf in tow, were swimming with another adult who I could not ID from the boat. Despite our best intentions to avoid other boats, this dolphin group led us right back to the other boats! Captain Al maintained radio communication with the closest boat, ensuring safety for all.
Over the course of the next several hours, we observed at least six different subgroups, making up what was conservatively over 35 Atlantic spotted dolphins in the area, and very likely over 50 dolphins. Large groups like this are not common, so we get very excited when it happens! In the broad group, in addition to the mothers listed above, were a known, female juvenile (she’ll be added to the catalog soon!), Split Jaw (#22), Tina (#14, with calf), Juliette (#12) and Romeo (#10, with calf – and babysitting another!). The absolute highlight for me was observing Juliette (#12) under water. She is very pregnant and I could actually see movement of her calf (or, movement of her body, causing the baby to shift). I was ecstatic!! We’ll see what is obvious in the video and what other dolphins we can ID from video and stills.
So, a big thank you to the Saint Mary’s College of Maryland students and their professors, Dr. K and Dr. E, and the whole Bimini Adventures crew for a great start to 2016!
Until next time,
PS: If you are interested in supporting our 2016 research efforts, please consider a donation to our current fundraiser. Your gift will be matched by DCP board members if received by 30 June! Click here to learn more and to donate today.
If you donate $8 to DCP this month, the Dolphin Communication Project's board will match* it, turning your $8 into $16. Donate $22 and it becomes $44. Donate $107 and you really give $214.
DCP relies on the financial support of our supporters and now, you can have an even greater impact that you thought possible. Why does DCP need your money? DCP has just begun our annual research season studying wild Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins off Bimini, The Bahamas. Each year we record these dolphins - via photographs, video and acoustic recordings - keeping track of individuals, locations and behaviors. We host and collaborate with university courses and provide information to tourists seeking out these incredible creatures. We share our efforts, and the stories of individual dolphins, via our blog and turn our data into peer-reviewed journal articles and conference presentations. DCP has been following the dolphins off Bimini every single year since 2001. And we hope we never stop. But, this research requires equipment and supplies. So far, we have already needed to replace our hydrophones (the cool underwater microphones that record the dolphins' vocalizations) and restock our SD cards. Our student research assistant returns soon and needs a roof over her head. That's about $500 + $100 + $700. Ours is a labor of love. Unfortunately, stores don't take love. So, will you Double Down on DCP and donate before 30 June?
*matching funds of $1000 are available
On Wednesday morning, I visited the students and gave a talk on photo-ID; why it is important and how it is done. They are a great group and I hope they enjoyed my visit as much as I did. Thursday brought another opportunity for me to join the visiting researcher & student group. So far, 2016 has been a high-return year! Only 27 minutes into the dolphin trip we came upon feeding bottlenose dolphins. The bottlenose dolphins off Bimini tend to be less interactive with boats and humans than the spotteds – whether this is shyness, fear or indifference, I don’t know. But, when the bottlenose are “crater feeding,” or searching for and digging out prey from the sand, they are often quite tolerant of us observing them. Today was one of those days! For over an hour we watched as the dolphins, including at least one youngster, feasted on sand-loving creatures. At one point, we even watched one dolphin disrupt an animal, which then tried to swim to the surface before being chased down and eaten. The question is: what was this animal? It was very long, narrow and appeared to have a banded coloration pattern. I did not realize a bottlenose would eat an eel (?) that long! This one sure did!
Underwater visibility began to deteriorate, so we boarded the boat and headed in search of clearer waters and different dolphins. Though we didn’t find any more dolphins, everyone was quite pleased with our hungry bottlenose day!
Until next time,
On Monday, the second wave of students from St. Mary’s College of Maryland arrived on Bimini. After an evening of settling in, I met with the students on Tuesday afternoon to show them the still cameras and slates, and give them tips on taking underwater photographs for the purpose of photo-identification. Shortly after 1500, we were leaving the Sea Crest and headed in search of dolphins!
This group got spoiled and didn’t have to search long at all! Soon, we could see dolphins in the distance and as we got closer, one bottlenose dolphin checked out the boat and dove down to what appeared to be 3 more dolphins on the sea floor. These dolphins headed in the opposite direction of the boat, as we continued a bit further toward a different set of dolphins. Soon, two young (older calf or young juvenile) Atlantic spotted dolphins were swimming about – to the boat, away from the boat, to the boat, away from the boat. The sea was very calm and though we got information from another boat operator about a group of bottlenose just beyond us, we decided to hop in with the young spotteds.
Once underwater, there was only one young male spotted dolphin, cruising around with his presumed mom, Noodle (#94)! We got some great looks at this pair, as well as a known, but not yet catalogued juvenile female. The three were very interactive with each other (but very quiet for the first part of our observation!) and soon, the dolphins were having a fun game with sargassum. It was a great session of data collection and a great first observation for the students, who have many more opportunities to come!
Until next time,
The latest Dolphin Gazette is here! We hope you'll enjoy everything in this issue - from Kathleen's update from her spring break university course at RIMS, to a fun dolphin coloring page, to a call for donations - which will be matched by members of our board if received before 30 June!
Click here to download your copy. Thank you for reading and for sharing!
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,