Go sampling methods!! We began our day with a discussion on sampling methods. Then, we had a cool guest lecturer (Dr. Justin Gregg) talk about dolphin intelligence. He joined us via Skype all the way from Holland (where it was 5 o’clock). Despite the technical challenges, it was still very informative – Dr. Gregg knows a lot! And he makes things easy to understand and was clearly excited about the topic himself. Everything we’re learning is getting us more and more excited for actually observing the dolphins.

We headed on the boat, even though we could see rain everywhere. It was worth it: we saw yellow-tailed damsel fish, ocean tally (triggerfish) and…a nurse shark! At first, some of us couldn’t see the nurse shark, it blended in so well, but it was really cool to see it just hanging out under a rock. There were some cans littered at the site, so we brought those back to the boat. We were far from dry on the rainy (and we mean rainy) ride home, but hot showers were waiting for us, so we didn’t mind.

In the evening, we sat as a group before and after dinner, just chatting and hanging out.

Until tomorrow,

“Bobby & The Bimini Babes” (SHU 2013)

We started Wednesday morning with a discussion on ecotourism. It was a good brainstorming session on how we all interpret the term “ecotourism” and we’ll all be keeping this in the back of our minds as we progress through this trip. Then we learned about photo-identification – now we are really excited to get in the water with dolphins. It is cool to know that Kel can recognize so many individual dolphins.

In the afternoon, we headed to the beach to practice snorkeling – but just as we arrived, the rain arrived, so we headed back to the hotel for a few minutes. Take 2 was a bigger success. For some of us, it was our first time snorkeling! We saw a surprising variety of fish and one or two yellow rays. Walking back, wet and in the rain, the swim seemed that much warmer!

It was pretty sweet to hear Kel describe the recent beaked whale stranding. Obviously it was not a good story for the whale, but still very interesting to hear about. We ended our day with a PBS film and although we were tired, we found ourselves in a great discussion before bed. The film was a bit older, but it was great to see where some of the current wild behavioral research began!

What will tomorrow bring?

“Bobby & The Bimini Babes” (SHU 2013)

Well, the UNBSJ students have gone. They were a great group and it was a pleasure to have them on Bimini and to have the opportunity to show them so much. Despite some weather challenges, this group got to see so much of Bimini’s marine life and spent a lot of time observing dolphins! On the group’s last full day (7 May), they gave back to the island by completing a beach clean-up, just up the hill from the hotel they called home all week. It may be a small act, but it’s the least DCP’s educational groups can do. After lunch, we headed back on the boat – but this time, notebooks were put away (including mine!) and we all just soaked in Bimini’s ocean landscape one last time. Our first stop was Honeymoon Harbor and the students had a great time interacting with southern stingrays. Two nurse sharks even stopped by – and this group was thrilled about it!

Of course, although the students did not know it at the time, the nurse sharks were a warm up for our second stop – a nearby site to observe Caribbean reef sharks. Anytime you observe wild animals, you can never know what happened just before you arrive – but something had these sharks riled up! Our experienced captain made sure everyone was safe and the sharks made sure everyone got a good look at them. Both of today’s activities served as not only great first hand experiences, but give the students a chance to apply these experiences, and their experiences all week, to their evolving opinions on “ecotourism.” What do you think “ecotourism” really means?

We celebrated our last night with a cookout on the marina and a fairly early night – since the last day was an early departure for the students. A huge thank you goes to Dr. Turnbull, his fantastic TA and all the 2013 students. Can’t wait for next year’s group!

Cheers,

Kel

It’s the return of Sacred Heart University! This time, we’re joined by several students from other universities. We headed to Bimini from Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday afternoon; for some of us, today’s travel was the first time we’d ever been on such a small plane! Less than 20 minutes after takeoff, we arrived at the smallest airport we’d ever seen! We needed to take the water taxi to North Bimini and were entertained by the operator’s young son at the wheel.

It was great seeing Bimini’s blue water for the first time. We all settled into the hotel, two of us by accidentally popping a window out. Oops. Thankfully, they fixed it!

We soon started our first adventure: a ride aboard the Bimini Tram. It was fun, with lots of catchy Bimini songs! Sampling conch salad was the highlight; in some areas empty conch shells were even used as makeshift sea walls. We learned fun facts during the tour, including hearing about a few of Bimini’s haunted spaces. Our tour guide was proudly telling us about his son, who is an aspiring baseball player. We noticed how nice the people of Bimini are; many waved and said hello as we passed on the tram. After the tram tour, we headed to the beach for the first time – we thought we saw a human bobbing in the water, but it was a sea turtle!

It’s windy here, but thankfully we haven’t blown away….yet. It’s been great for all of us to meet each other, including our one lone male representative. So far, he’s holding his own! Tomorrow we’ll be practicing our snorkeling skills from the beach and we’re looking forward to it!

Until then,

“Bobby & The Bimini Babes” (SHU 2013)

On 6 May, we headed out early, departing the dock at 9:05 a.m., in search of dolphins. We saw our first group almost immediately! All the dolphins were bottlenose and there were at least 9 in the group, including at least one calf that was swimming alongside an adult. They were traveling, with lots of synchronized surfacing. At one point, they split into subgroups and we followed one of the smaller groups. One dolphin did a series of chuffs and tailslaps; later, there was another set of tailslaps. We followed this group until 10:43, at which point we decided to leave these traveling dolphins and look for more. But first, some of took a swim break and the folks on the boat saw a subgroup pass right past the swimmers!

At 11:25 a.m. we spotted Atlantic spotted dolphins! There were 8 dolphins in this group including 3 calves. The first group of students entered the water at 11:36 for a quick look; then the second group got in at 11:48 for their turn at a quick glimpse. Even though both groups had the same length of swim, the dolphins were closer to the first group. At 12:03 p.m., it was time to head back to shore for lunch.

BIM13_T7_SfMC_UNBSJstudentSoon after lunch, we went straight back to the boat – this time a larger boat, the Hatteras. At 14:45, we left the harbor, in search of more dolphins. The seas had calmed significantly, the water was clearer and the air was hotter! We first saw the dolphins at 16:32 – it was another group of 8 Atlantic spotteds. We sent three people in the water to test whether or not the dolphins would stick around; about five minutes later, everyone was able to join in. The spotteds were crater feeding a bit and some got very close to us. Again, we were able to tell when the dolphins used their echolocation to investigate us. They were at the bottom for much of the time, but when they surfaced to breathe they came quite close to us. After our long swim, we caught back up to the dolphins and had a shorter underwater observation. They ended up leaving us, but as the boat pulled away, some of the dolphins came back for a quick bow ride. At 17:43, we lost sight of the dolphins for good and continued toward home.

Back at the hotel we had a turkey feast. We were all exhausted from our double boat trip, so when we were told we’d have an evening lecture on the evolution of odontocete jaws, we were ecstatic – nope! Thankfully it was just a joke.

One day left in paradise,

“Aboot ‘em dolphins eh?” UNBSJ 2013

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Dolphin Communication Project
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