We had our first introduction to the dolphins after our boat taxi ride to Bailey’s Cay. The ride was full of anticipation and culminated with Kelly’s reaction, “oh! They’re right there!” They were so close and within reach, not behind 6 inches of glass! There did not seem like there could be 23 dolphins in the enclosure … maybe 12, but then we got to see the different dorsal fins. They swam close to our positions and checked us out. It was definitely hard not to interact with them more.
We spent a few hours after data collection on photo-ID learning about their different scars and marks. We also discussed the different behaviors we saw on the first research dive of the day. After lunch, we returned to Bailey’s Cay and met some of the trainers and dolphins close up. The morning session had us not really seeing all the details Kathleen pointed out about individual IDs but sitting with the trainers and actually meeting a few of the dolphins clarified the scars and marks and the tiny details. It was fun meeting the dolphins. “Carmella is really shy but eventually took the fish from me,” said Micaela. Mrs. Beasley was more finicky with each fish. Gracie is a ham and thoroughly enjoyed the attention. Calli was stinking cute and had a distinctive bite because her mouth does not close all the way on the sides. We also got to watch the calves playing and they tussled with each other while their moms ate.
Our day wrapped up with a very informative fish ID talk. In this talk it was not so much individual ID for the fish but species ID. The talk was a great prep for tomorrow’s first snorkel trip. We feel quite prepared to recognize all the species, maybe not the 500 on the reef but maybe a dozen or so! And, we learned about all the conservation and good work of the Roatan Marine Park. We will definitely be supporting their mission and getting our bracelets!
Kathleen & the funky bunch*!
* the funky bunch includes Micaela, Kelly, Lindsey, Riley, Katie, Chelsea
PS: Time is running out to register for our 2017 field courses at our Bimini, The Bahamas field site! Click here for more info!
Happy New Year’s Eve!
DCP/Kathleen is finishing out 2016 in and welcoming 2017 in research style … with a week of data collection and a college field course on Roatan at Anthony’s Key Resort! And, thanks to John, the MVA2 has new hydrophone arms that allow for the MVA2 to be in carry-on luggage (small black bag on left)! The arms are back to the original design and made of PVC - the green my added touch! I’ll be sure to post a photo of the MVA2 all assembled in a day or two so you can see the full effect of the new arms.
Today is travel day! I’m writing this post as I sit in the airport waiting for my flight to Roatan. I’ll be joined by students from Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) for a week of data collection and study into dolphin behavior and physiology. We’ll be merging the disciplines of animal behavior and exercise physiology. Dr. Shane Kanatous, Biology at CSU, is joining me and we’ll be co-teaching this week’s program. Stay tuned to our blog for daily updates from the field!
On Friday, Kathleen was back on the Indian River State College campus, this time to attend the IRSC Semi-Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Kathleen was supporting Ashley Locher, who participated in the Service Learning program between IRSC and DCP in May and June 2016, and continued through the summer and early fall to develop a presentation from her experience for the program at IRSC. Ashley’s poster presentation title was: Comparative studies on pectoral fin contact behaviors between wild and captive dolphin species. Ashley stood by her poster during the three-hour program and skillfully answered questions from members of the audience about the research and results. Ashley graduates this fall with her degree from ISRC. Congratulations to Ashley for a well-done presentation and for finishing her degree!
In this photo, you can see the 2016 IRSC/DCP Service Learning group as they work through photo-identification methods and techniques.
We are eager to once again welcome Dr. Deirdre Yeater to our Bimini, The Bahamas field site for our collaborative course in dolphin behavior and research. Applications are now being accepted on a rolling basis. That means first come, first serve!! With an additional online component, students will participate in field research from 4 June - 10 June, 2017. All participants must register through SHU. Click here for more details and apply today!
Field updates, holiday specials & more!
The latest issue of the Dolphin Gazette is now available! The fall issue of The Dolphin Gazette is always a fun one to write. Kathleen has returned from Roatan, holiday specials are in the air and collaborators share news! This issue is no exception. We hope you enjoy reading about upcoming field opportunities, our t-shirt fundraiser, holiday bundles, new papers....and, we hope you'll pass the Gazette on to a friend!
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!