The weather was still overcast with periodic drizzly rain but no lightning meant we could collect data. I was able to get about 28 min of video this morning, even though the underwater visibility was a bit less than earlier in the week. The dolphins were quite playful with each other. Champ and Dory and then Champ and Tilly each decided to play with my fins and circle swim me a few times during my observations. Carmella and Bailey both whistled with bubble streams. We tried for a second session but the visibility was less later in the day and there were encounter and swim groups that were interacting with the dolphins.
Still, the week was productive with almost 4 hours of video data collected with the MVA2 and the GoPro3. Our eco-tour volunteers (Chris, Dave, Bill, Ron, Jill, Don, Madison, Nat, and John) all contributed to data collection (thank you!) and had fun either snorkeling or diving. Numerous other sea critters were observed and photographed in addition to dolphins: hawksbill and green sea turtles, nurse shark, grouper, snappers, tropical fishes, corals, sponges, and more. The afternoon also included a statistics discussion about Nat’s independent study project. All neat topics and all fun chats!
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour Gang!
Our day (Thursday) began with a bang thanks to Mother Nature. Lightning kept us off the dock in the morning and me out of the water. So, no data collection occurred today. We did, however, assist Jennifer with a Coral Tree Cleaning (aka Coral Christmas Trees – in October!). RIMS and AKR have a forest of PVC trees adorned with coral clippings. The coral is grown in situ and when it has grown enough, is transplanted to the reef. In this way, there is an effort to help the reef. The PVC tubes that are the backbone of the trees need to be cleaned regularly to keep algae from growing on them and harming the fledgling coral growth. You can see me and a buddy doing a safety hang after cleaning a few trees in this photo. Toothbrushes and scrub brushes were our friends for an hour underwater today! I also include before cleaning and after cleaning views of one of the trees. The afternoon offered a chance to review video clips from earlier in the week. Even though rain was the predominant weather pattern of the day, we got much accomplished!
Let’s hope tomorrow is better and offers a chance to collect more data!
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour Gang!
Thank you to Madison for sharing the coral christmas trees and our cleaning efforts!
Before cleaning and after cleaning
It was a wet day but a bright day in our activities! Two data collection sessions brought another 45+ minutes of video to our data collection for the week. The dolphins were vocal and social. For a school research project, Nat is looking at infant position among the dolphins and we saw a good bit of that posture and swim position today. The morning session also had lots of floating seaweed and flotsam. Great play toys! The dolphins tried to entice everyone near the pool to play with some amount of seaweed. At one point, Poli was trying to get me to play keep away with a leaf. When I refused to play, she left only to return with a bigger leaf! (My plan of being boring to the dolphins does not always work!) The rest of our group got in 2-3 dives today and some snorkeling on the reef. Sea turtles, many fishes and two free swimming moray eels were observed and photographed! Tonight was Fiesta night … which, in addition to meeting Garifuna dancers, was also mac and cheese night! Conversation was light and much laughter was shared.
We are all game for another early morning start tomorrow … to data collection on the dolphins, that is!
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour Gang!
October 2nd started like other days when in the field at AKR – with observations of the dolphins around Bailey’s Key! The sun was shining and the underwater visibility was excellent (~5-6 m with minimal suspended silt). The dolphins were into their own thing – very social and playful with each other. Lenca, Champ and Stan or Lenca, Champ and Ronnie were playing with each other. Dory was curious about my fins but also played with Tank and Poli. I even was able to conduct a follow of Carmella and then also of Mrs. Beasley with Gracie. It was a great early morning session. Several (Ron, Bill, Madison, Nat, Don) of our group went on the first morning dive with Madison and Nat meeting Chris, Dave, Jill and me at Bailey’s at about 9:45 for a second data collection session. The activity was a bit lower but there was still some playful chases and seaweed play games. Jill, Madison and Nat (to the far right in the photo) participated in a dolphin encounter and met Alita after which Nat and Madison spent 30 min snorkeling with the dolphins, with a few other humans too! Their smiles on water exit were almost as large as the dolphins … almost!
Everyone split off a bit to do their own thing in the afternoon, which was punctuated by a heavy downpour and an afternoon of drizzly precipitation. I was able to log the notes from the second data collection session and review and transfer the footage collected. I number each session’s video data sequentially for the full year. This October is my third field session at AKR/RIMS and I filmed the 20th video clip of data this year (so far)! Indeed, this winter will be a busy time for processing video data!
Tomorrow promises more data collection, more snorkeling and more diving.
Kathleen and the DCP Eco-tour gang!
My early morning session was truncated because French was too curious about my fins. Calli and Dory were also but it was French’s tight circles that confirmed my early AM session was complete. I was able to get a second observation session at about 10 AM – before the second encounter group met Maury and Alita. The youngsters – Dory, Stan and Tank were very playful and curious … mostly with each other which was a nice switch from the early morning session. There was some jawing and circle swims and some white water! Chris and Dave helped me with data collection as much of the rest of our team were diving and taking the boat over to Maya Key for the picnic. The afternoon had me reviewing data and chatting with Chris about the statistics for the final pec fin paper – comparing mom’s and their calves for their pectoral fin exchanges. Neat stuff!
The early evening offered lively conversation about several topics and some laughter during dinner. Everyone has a good day and the conversation revolved around some of the different critters seen during the scuba diving today. Tomorrow is our groups’ dolphin encounter and swim.
Kathleen and the DCP Eco-tour gang!
It’s a great morning that starts with a clear sky, a strong cup of coffee, and a plunge into clear water with social dolphins! Everyone was up early and our trek to Bailey’s was complete by 6:35 AM. I was in the water at 6:50 and greeted by Bailey and Tank, Poli, Tilly and several other dolphins. Champ and Calli decided my fins were REALLY interesting for a few minutes. Even French and Ronnie came by to investigate. The first session is always punctuated by more inquisitiveness around me and the MVA than subsequent sessions. By the end of the 26 min session, the dolphins were back to playing and socializing with each other, which was what I’d hoped for would happen. I also had the opportunity to join the group for the second morning dive, to “White Marker #21.” It was a nice dive that included observations of a scorpion fish and toad fish (see the photo here by John). The water was warm and clear and the current slight. Everyone had fun. Out afternoon was wrapped up with observations of the dolphins during a training session. I wanted to confirm the rake marks and other ID details of the dolphins for the ID sketches. And, Nat, Madison, Ron, Chris and Dave helped and also learned a bit more about how we recognize each individual in the group.
We had a great first day that finished with a good meal and lively conversation! We look forward to more tomorrow!
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour gang!
Saturday was travel day for the DCP RIMS/AKR eco-tour this week. John and I (and the rest of our group) took various car routes to get to the airports from which we departed. Three different airlines (and train rides between terminals in Atlanta – ok, it’s a stretch but it gets another mode in there) and several flights brought us to our destination – ROATAN! The boats will be used daily between islands to observe the dolphins and to snorkel or dive! Bill and Ron had a week head start on the rest of us as they came down a week early for diving. Dave, Chris, Nat, Jill, Don, Madison, John and I all arrived, unpacked and settled in. Of course, a few of us took a taxi boat over to Bailey’s to see all the dolphins – the gang was all there! The underwater visibility looked good and I hope it holds for Sunday morning!
We look forward to a week of data collection, snorkeling and scuba diving!
Stay tuned for more!
Kathleen and DCP’s October 2018 Eco-tour gang
P.S. my apologies for not posting this report last night … fatigue won last night’s battle!
It has been a couple of hectic days as we pack gear and prep for DCP’s Eco-tour to Roatan and Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR)! John is joining me along with 8 other participants – several of whom have joined DCP on previous eco-tours both to Roatan and to Bimini. I’ll be sure to introduce the team once we are settled in at AKR. Not only will I be collecting the daily non-invasive observations with the MVA but I’ll also be field testing two new protocols for collecting data about dolphin behavior from the surface. This will be a first for me because mostly I’m positioned underwater to observe and document dolphin interactions and behavior!
Because this is the third visit for me/DCP to AKR and the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS), I’ll be starting on MVA tape ID # A21816! That’s right! We will begin this research visit on tape session #16! I look forward to seeing the dolphins and the trainers/care givers and catching up on the last couple of months!
Stay tuned to the DCP home page for daily updates from RIMS!
Saturday was our day of travel. Luckily, our flights were in the afternoon on Saturday. That meant we could do an early morning kayak (to Bailey’s!) and some morning yoga. Dr. H and Dr. D let all the Snorkelin’ Snakes know they could join us at ~6 am for these events! Still, we had only one participant – Kassandra! Our kayak was lovely – with a calm sea and slight breeze. We said good morning to the dolphins and wrapped up the early morning with a relaxing stretch yoga session!
The airport on Roatan was BUSY! The wait lounge is much expanded and we had a relatively calm wait for our flights.
The week was a huge success with several student projects completed and a better understanding of what it takes to conduct field research imparted (we hope!). And, for my (Dr. D’s) research, about 3 hours of video with stereo audio data were collected. We observed social-sexual interactions, play behaviors, a few chases, and some pair swims. The trip was a huge success, at least from my perspective!
The students will take the next several days to analyze the data they collected and write up their research projects. I will take the next few months to log the video data collected and add the details to our assessment of dolphin dyad relationships.
Thanks for following along with our field program!
The snorkel after data collection on dolphins was amazing! Kassandra’s favorite fish was the parrotfish. And we saw a sea turtle and a barracuda from the boat – both were amazing!
Paige had her best dolphin observation on our last day – the dolphins were extra loud this morning which was good for Paige because she was documenting dolphin vocal behavior.
Tank visited Alex P and Jessica three times … just to see us and play and hang out!
Kim confirmed that the dolphins were very vocal and active during morning observations – it was a two-thumbs up session!
Sam was pleased to be able to experience Gracie’s echolocation this afternoon. Teri had all the students get into the water to experience Gracie searching for a PVC loop when wearing eyecups – so she used her echolocation to find the loop.
Emily pointed out the sea turtle from the boat when they were heading to the snorkel spot off West End. Paloma saw an eel on the west side of Bailey’s Key during her last afternoon snorkel session. Jesus remembers the large school of blue tangs also over by Bailey’s Key during the last snorkel.
Alex has a whole new standard for snorkeling after today’s last snorkel trip to West End; the water was beautiful and the experience was life-changing. Soledad went way beyond her comfort zone when Alex C held her hand when they were in the water to experience Gracie’s use of echolocation; the echolocation seemed to tickle Soledad’s ears … in a good way!
Poli brought Gonzalo leaves and sea grass during the morning dolphin observation sessions – it was hard not to play with her during data collection!
Ashley is not ready to go home; she will miss the dolphins and the reef. Mike really enjoyed the echolocation experience with Gracie, too. Grant was pleased with the housekeeping time to review data … and get an overview of the data collected.
Pat enjoyed getting up early this morning for the first time this week and observing the dolphins and their behavior. Jessica: even though I did not go on the be-all-end-all snorkel trip, I got a chance to interact and swim the dolphins again and got an unsolicited kiss from Calli while Dory nibbled on my fins! Dr. H and Dr. D are happy that everyone survived with only minor scrapes but with much gained from new experiences and imparted understanding.
St. Mary’s Snorkelin’ Snakes