Dolphin Communication Project (DCP)
What is the Dolphin Communication Project?
The Dolphin Communication Project (DCP) is focused on the dual goals of scientific research and education: we take results from research projects and disseminate them into educational programs for students of all ages. DCP has a team of researchers (graduated professionals, graduate students, undergraduate interns and volunteers) who work together to examine how dolphins communicate in order to shed more light on the meaning of the interactions between individuals and groups. With access to a data archive collected since 1991, questions focus on communication among Atlantic spotted dolphins in The Bahamas, Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Japan, and common bottlenose dolphins in human care in Honduras and The Bahamas. In addition to studies of communication and behavior, DCP research associates also investigate comparisons between species, geographies, and habitats, as well as their own research topics. We are dedicated to continuing the long-term, longitudinal observations of dolphins in our four study locations.
The Dolphin Communication Project is organized to further the following goals:
- To increase knowledge of communication behaviors between and among all dolphin species
- To promote awareness of marine mammal conservation
The Dolphin Communication Project works toward advancing these goals by:
- Organizing/conducting underwater research expeditions/studies in dolphin communication
- Encouraging internship and volunteer experiences
- Fostering collaborative endeavors with scientific and educational programs
DCP team members use specially developed underwater video and directional bioacoustic recording equipment (the MVA) to identify and localize individual dolphins as the source of sounds. Understanding which dolphins produce sounds and how the sounds might be used facilitates examination of relationships between dolphin sounds and behaviors. This unique study of dolphin communication, both in the wild and with dolphins in human care, collects data under water and uses non-invasive methods to observe and record dolphins in their own habitat. DCP is also the only group to apply the exact same protocols for data collection and analyses on wild dolphins to observations of bottlenose dolphins in captivity at two facilities - at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS), Roatan, Honduras, and at Dolphin Encounters in Nassau, The Bahamas.
Dolphins are considered highly intelligent creatures because of their apparently complex communication system and complex cognitive capabilities. A better understanding of the minds and social lives of non-human animals is one result of examining their methods of communication. Still, dolphins, in fact all non-human animals, must not be measured according to how close they come to equaling human intelligence and development, but rather accepted and appreciated for what they are. It is through studies of this type that we may learn how better to interact with our environment, and its inhabitants.
An aquatic lifestyle has resulted in the evolution of unique adaptations for communication among dolphins. Information might be exchanged by physical, acoustic, or visual contact or by a combination of these channels. Contact among individuals may be modified by posture, behavior, or internal and external referents: posturing by dolphins seems to function specifically to indicate intent or message meaning in differing contexts. For more details on research at each location, visit the current research topics page on this site.
Several programs and curricula have been developed to teach both school groups and the general audience about dolphins, dolphin research, ocean conservation, and related topics. These programs are offered as auditorium-style lectures (100 or more viewers) or as more "up-close and personal" discussions with groups of smaller size. Presentations include slides, video, or "prop" demonstrations. For more information, see our Education page; for information regarding each educational activities or to discuss a special presentation, contact DCP. For information on tailored, invited lectures or speaking engagements, please check out the biographies for the scientists collaborating with DCP.
Volunteer and internship opportunities are offered on a limited, individual basis. Assistance is needed in the processing and analysis of data at the DCP office in Connecticut. Field internships and volunteer work in the field are not available from DCP. For more information, contact DCP.
Swimming with Dolphins: A Position Statement
Humanity's interest in dolphins and whales has increased at what seems to be an exponential rate. This trend shows no sign of declining. With our heightened interest has come a desire to observe and interact with dolphins and whales in their natural environment. One positive effect of this interest is a renewed sense to protect the environment. It is important to remember that swimming with dolphins in U.S. waters is prohibited. If you participate in a swim program outside the U.S., we urge you to learn more about the dolphins/whales in that area and be as respectful as possible - do not chase, do not touch the animals. Be as non-invasive as possible. For more specific information on this topic, please see the Code of Conduct .
dolphin communication, dolphin research, study dolphins, swim with dolphins