Bahamas 2000

Shane Kanatous, Ph.D.



Assistant Professor
Office: Anatomy/Zoology Building E308
Phone: 970-491-0782
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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.


DCP RIMS March 2016 Summary
21 Mar 2016

DCP RIMS March 2016 Summary

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!






We Don’t Want to Go Home!
19 Mar 2016

We Don’t Want to Go Home!


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!


The Day We’ve Been Waiting for!
17 Mar 2016

The Day We’ve Been Waiting for!


Not only did we do research in the morning, but we swam with the dolphins, too!


Not only did we have a great breakfast followed by an interesting acoustics lecture but we swam with the dolphins, too!


Not only did we do more water sampling and dolphin behavior observations for our individual projects but we swam with the dolphins, too!


Not only did we have a spectacular lunch, but we swam with the dolphins, too!


Our swim with the dolphins was in the early afternoon. We had encounters with Callie, Elli and Polly who gave us each a kiss and a hug and then the encounter was followed by a 30-minute swim with 12 dolphins. They seemed to come out of nowhere from each side. Ina received a pec fin rub from Polly. Gaby believed they are heavier than she expected when she held Polly for a photo. Sara really felt it was cool to hear their whistles and echolocation while she was waiting to see them underwater. Yasmin – they swam really really fast and much faster than I could swim. Toni did a pair swim with a dolphin (but scars and marks meant nothing to Toni so she did not remember who she swam with!). Brianna felt like a mermaid swimming with the dolphins and they circled around me when I blew some bubbles. Dr. Karlin felt the dolphins invaded her personal space! Alex felt like she was doing a pair swim with a dolphin and I seemed to be racing them but did not win. Tori – one dolphin was echolocating at my mask and it felt like my skin was moving or vibrating. Nancy – two dolphins were doing a pair swim and encircled me and several swam up and over me and I felt like I was part of their pod. Lupe enjoyed touching the dolphin skin – their tail, belly and fins. The fins have bone but the dorsal fin does not. The teeth were pointy and the tongue was big and thick. Paloma saw an infant swim but it was 7 dolphins all in a line below each other … just swimming along. It was cool. Anvy – the fact that the dorsal fins have a heat thermo-regulator is really cool and the tongue is also cool. Dr. Hill enjoyed channeling Kathleen – the dolphins were circling me and playing with my fins like we’ve seen them do to Kathleen in the early morning. Emily thought the coolest part was when you first got in the water and did not see anything and then all of a sudden a dolphin was in front of you and it was AWESOME!


Soil sample analyses, review of dolphin video and a lecture on nighttime adaptations on the reef filled the rest of our afternoon. And, our evening wrapped up with a night snorkel on the west side of Bailey’s Key. It was awesome and we overcame lots of fears (of the dark, fish and doing it all underwater). We saw a giant octopus partially hidden under a coral head. We also saw lots of lobsters and other fish compared with our morning snorkel on Tuesday. Our night snorkel was great and we also swam with dolphins today!


Until tomorrow,


Kathleen & StMU’s “Rattlers in Roatan”

PS: Enjoying reading about this great experience? Consider supporting DCP through our current - and limited time - shirt fundraiser. Whether in a short or long sleeve tee or a rash guard, you'll look great!


Official 2016 Shirt Fundraiser!

DCP is pleased to offer our supporters the chance to look good in classic white tees and rash guards. Short-sleeve tees are available in adult and youth sizes. Long-sleeve tees and rash guards are available in adult sizes only.

Tees are pre-shrunk, 100% combed ringspun cotton with shoulder-to-shoulder taping and double-needle stitched sleeves and bottom hem. Adult sizes are unisex; women may want to size down for a more fitted look. 

Rash guards have UPF50+ sun protection and moisture wicking. They are crew neck with flatlock seam construction and are perfect for the summer! 

Have extra money burning a hole in that pocket? Add a donation to your order! 

This special order period ends on 28 March. All shirts will be shipped on or about 18 April. Shipping is included in the price of the shirts. Regrettably, we can currently only ship to US addresses.

Questions? Give us a shout at info{at}dcpmail{dot}org. 

All shirt purchases help fund our research and education efforts. Plus, you’ll look good! Remember, these shirts are only available until 28 March! Click here to order now!

Flipper Fun, Free Time & Fiesta!!
16 Mar 2016

Flipper Fun, Free Time & Fiesta!!

Dolphins and Dolphins – with timing help to make our scan sample observations more efficient. We had a few students from Iowa State join us to watch the dolphins! It was a very eventful morning with dolphins that ignored Kathleen and were very social – lots of leaps! Kathleen had to retrieve a dropped-in-the-water pair of sunglasses and a towel.

A wolf discussion followed breakfast – odd since we are studying dolphins. But, Dr. Karlin’s presentation about red wolves was neat and we learned wolves can interbreed with coyotes. And, they form associations, which is why we were discussing them in the context of dolphin associations for comparison.

We returned to Bailey’s Key for water sample collection and coral and sea grass observations – some of us took the water taxi over and six of us raced kayaks to and from data collection. Dr. Karlin was the obvious kayak race winner, much to the chagrin of all the other student competitors!

We had a tad bit of free time before lunch, which facilitated a visit to the gift shop for some, a nap for others, and a chapter read in The Prophet by Tori. Lunch was again delicious … way too much good food cooked by someone else. Enchiladas here are actually tostados. Brownies were a delightful dessert … warm and chocolaty!

Even though lunch was great, it was clear we were all a bit fried as we passed the halfway mark of our field course week. Our professors gave us a wonderful, welcome treat – the afternoon to recharge our batteries! Free Time bonanza!!

We met again at 5 PM at the taxi stand for the water taxi over to Anthony’s Key for Fiesta dinner. The macaroni and cheese was worthy of second helpings by all! After eating, we all picked a crab in the crab race and even though none of our crabs won, we had the limbo queen and the dancing queen. We also enjoyed watching the Garifuna dancers who were amazing and it was great to see the cultural dancing. Garifuna were the native people and they shared their historical dances with us!

It’s been a really long day but we are rejuvenated for a huge day tomorrow – we get to have our encounter and swim with the dolphins tomorrow and also a night snorkel (along with more research – wooohooo)!

Until tomorrow,

Kathleen & StMU’s “Rattlers in Roatan”

Today was Off the Boat!
15 Mar 2016

Today was Off the Boat!

It was a Long, Long Day!! But it was a very good day! We made some dolphin observations this morning – seeing much socio-sexual play. Breakfast was really good! And it fortified us for the snorkel boat trip, which was the first time for most of us on a boat and to jump off the boat into water! We saw an eagle ray, squirrelfish, parrot fish, lots and lots of starfish, many fan corals and lots of tiny fish. Yesterday’s coral ID talk was very helpful and informative to our snorkel session today! We recognized many of the coral and were informed about the situation coral is facing.  


After our first boat trip, we collected water samples from around Anthony’s Key via kayak. Actually, we struggled a bit with collecting water samples from a kayak! Some of us were in the water while others were on the kayak measuring the pH and temperature. It was hard to keep the kayaks near the people without running them or the coral areas over … coordination took a bit of effort! A few other students were taking photos of sea grass and corals for their projects. Lunch was very good! And, we had a really good chat with our three female professors – a very empowering discussion!


Our afternoon then included soil sampling (which was great because it was in the shade!) and more dolphin observations (which were mostly in the sun!). A short bit of free time (an hour) allowed us to rest up or get ready for dinner (Delicious! We are eating very well!), which was followed by more video viewing as well as a discussion of dominance behaviors.


It was a very sunny day and we got sunburns on body parts that have barely seen the sun ever! (e.g., tops of feet, ears and knee caps!)


Until tomorrow,


Kathleen & StMU’s “Rattlers in Roatan”


Maya Key, Sharks and Research
14 Mar 2016

Maya Key, Sharks and Research

Another early morning session with the dolphins allowed Kathleen to collect underwater video/audio data while the students practiced their hand at conducting scan-sampling behavior documentation of the dolphins. This morning session was productive for the students but somewhat less so for Kathleen because of Ronnie and French’s interest in her fins, which made swimming difficult!


After the morning research, we took the AKR bus over to Maya Key – actually the bus then a boat to visit the Key where some of us snorkeled with sharks and rays, some of use collected water samples for pH and temp data, and others of us helped, watched or swam. You can see Lupe and Ina pointing out a fish to Dr. Karlin (who took the photo). In addition to these activities, we all got to visit the Mayan temple replica and the numerous animals residing on the key as rescues. These include a jaguar, margay, ocelots, SA sea lions, hawk bill turtles, Toucans, Parrots (several types) and more.


Our afternoon included more dolphin observations followed by a talk by Jennifer Keck on coral reefs, dinner and then more dolphin stuff – i.e., watching videos of the RIMS dolphins. It was a full day!


Until tomorrow,


Kathleen & StMU’s “Rattlers in Roatan”


New Experiences – it just gets better!
13 Mar 2016

New Experiences – it just gets better!


Early AM (6:30 AM) adventures brought 7 of us (Sara, Toni, Emily, Paloma, Tori, Brianna & Dr. Hill) along with Kathleen to see the dolphins at Bailey’s Key for the first time. So many dolphins, so close, so curious. One dolphin kept spy-hopping and getting closer and closer to us at the dock and one of the dolphins gave a ventral up pectoral fin wave! The sun angle made it a bit difficult to see all the surface activity, especially when the dolphins were around Kathleen.


Late morning was our first snorkel session – a few of us had never been in the ocean before! Kathleen gave us a lesson and kept us calm. The area we snorkeled was shallow and yet had lots and lots of fish – big and small and sea stars and coral, and some type of squishy weird animal that might be a squid (we still need to ID it). We also got to hold the MVA and try it out during this snorkel session – it was lighter than we expected. The best thing we saw was the big sea star and a school of fish – blue tangs, and also an angel fish.


Early afternoon took us into the classroom, after a hearty lunch, of course! We had an information session and then went back to Bailey’s Key to meet the dolphins and some of their human trainers. Several of us got kissed by a dolphin! We got to touch them and look at their specific scars and marks and watch some of their behaviors, even feeding a few fish to them. Their skin is smooth and felt like soft rubber. They make different sounds and are very imaginative.


Our evening wrapped up with a Fish ID talk with one of the AKR dive masters. We learned quite a lot about the different fish we might see on the reef. This info will be helpful tomorrow when we visit Maya Key and snorkel more and learn more about Roatan’s cultural history!


Until tomorrow,


Kathleen & StMU’s “Rattlers in Roatan”


We’re Here! We survived the Airports!
13 Mar 2016

We’re Here! We survived the Airports!

It was a long bumpy day but rather easy travel to get from Houston to Roatan. To all of our families … we are all in one piece!


It is beautiful, green, hot, humid, so many trees! The water is so blue and warm. We saw a purple sea star and a sea fan. Most of us decided not to unpack until after kayaking and examining the mangroves and shoreline of Anthony’s Key.  The sunset was really beautiful.


We had our first meal and after a long day, it was like we were eating like queens (comiendo como reynas)! After dinner Dr. D overwhelmed us with an introduction to the MVA – it was easier to understand in person than in reading the paper but now the information in the paper is more clear to us.


We also had fun watching the agouti run around the hill side!


Some of us will join Dr. D in the morning at 6:30 (!) for data collection … and to meet the dolphins!


Until tomorrow,


Kathleen & StMU’s “Rattlers in Roatan”


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