Blog & Field Reports

 
Monday began with a field trip to South Bimini. We hopped on the water taxi, after waiting for the rain to pass, and then boarded “the fun bus,” a colorful old school bus from Bimini Sands. Grant & Katie introduced us to a Bimini boa and they stressed to us that it is extremely unlikely to be hurt by this type of snake. The Bimini boa is only found on Bimini and they are endangered. The one we saw was 3-4 years old and about 5 feet long.

 
On Sunday, we worked on more photo-ID. At one point, there was a picture that was taken at a challenging angle. But we were still able to identify it as Split Jaw (#22). We would have thought that Split Jaw would always be easy to identify – but angles, water quality and distance aren’t always perfect! After photo-ID we discussed two scientific articles on dolphin play – since our Skype guest lecture had to be postponed due to unreliable island internet.

 
On Saturday morning, we discussed last night’s movie, which was very interesting. Then we worked on more photo-ID from Friday’s boat trip. We already knew that Lil’ Jess (#35) was there with her calf, but we were also able to positively identify Freckles (#15), another adult female. It is likely the second calf in this group was hers. After a break, John Anderson (Terramar Productions) showed us a video clip from Friday’s trip, set to some nice music! Then we had a showing of “Understanding Dolphins,” his latest project with Dr. Dudzinski.

Tag – You’re It!

 
On Friday morning, we discussed research methods and ethograms. Even though we know those are important, we’re finding ourselves still so excited when we see the dolphins first-hand, that it is hard to apply what we know. With the ethogram, we learned the official terms for behaviors we had already been observing and taking notes on. DCP’s ethogram is very thorough making it clear and reducing confusion. In our second class session, we did more photo matching.

Our Thursday morning began with an introduction to photo-ID, with practice time matching old photographs to the DCP catalog. We looked at #79 and Lil’ Jess (#35). Then we began looking at photos from yesterday’s dolphin trip. Right away we successfully identified Tina (#14).

We Found Atlantis!

 
On Wednesday, we had a general dolphin discussion as we had read the first two chapters of Dolphin Mysteries before class began. Then, we got a more formal introduction to DCP, learning about their field sites and programs.
Our boat trip began with a snorkel stop (The Bimini Road, aka Atlantis). It wasn’t a reef, but there were fish everywhere! We thought that there might not be much fish around an area without coral, but we had never seen so many fish. Before we even arrived at our snorkel stop we saw flying fish.

Welcome to Bimini!

 
On Tuesday, I had the privilege of welcoming the 2014 Sacred Heart University field course. With students from several universities, I’m thrilled to have this group, led by Dr. Yeater, on Bimini for the next 13 days. I hope you enjoy reading their field reports! -Kel
As we all met and chatted during our layover in Fort Lauderdale, it gave us a chance to get to each other. We hail from Sacred Heart University, Eckerd, Delaware Valley College, UNCONN, Rutgers, Wheaton, and Skidmore.

 
Wednesday, the sun was shining and, like the last week, the wind was gusting. The forecast called for rain and scattered thunderstorms which had us wondering how our boat trip would go in the afternoon. Fortunately, a little rain didn’t stop us from getting out so we set off at the normal time and hoped for the best.
We had not gone far when we came across another boat that had found a group of about ten bottlenose dolphins.

 
Another windy day, Tuesday began with more photo ID and office work.  It was actually rather sunny at some points which bode well for our afternoon boat trip. We left just after 14:30 and battled against the wind on our usual path to find dolphins. The waves quickly grew in; nevertheless, we persisted, and an hour and a half after setting out we found a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins.

 
Now that the UNBSJ students have gone home, it is back to business as usual for us on Bimini. Monday began with catching up on office-work and photo ID. Then we set up the cameras and clipboards so that everything would be ready for the afternoon boat trip.
Unfortunately, I (Nicole) was on my own on the boat, while Kel stayed on shore. The boat set off at 14:30 as usual, this time with a full group of European guests.  It was another blustery day on the water, much worse than any day last week.