Kelly Melillo Sweeting
Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.
Thursday, 9 September, 7:00 PM ET (NYC, Miami - Zoom details below)
Spawning Patterns, Diet, Mercury, and Reasons Why Goliath Grouper Should be Protected In Perpetuity
In this Deep Dive, Chris Malinowski, a biologist who is passionate about conservation of marine and aquatic systems will discuss not dolphins, but a fish: the goliath grouper. The Atlantic Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara), a large indigenous tropical reef fish, approached local extinction in U. S. waters by the 1980s as a result of intense fishing pressure. In 1990, federal and state laws intervened to protect this species. The resulting fishery closure, over the intervening years, allowed limited, slow population recovery in Florida waters while populations outside of the United States remained vulnerable (IUCN 2019). The closure led to the blossoming of a dive ecotourism industry catering to local and international divers seeking opportunities to see and photograph these enormous fish. This fundamentally changes the paradigm for goliath grouper from a fishery resource to a non-extractive resource with a commercial value vastly greater than that gained through fishing. While federal and state agencies attempted to re-establish the fishery, all three stock assessments were rejected. During this special Deep Dive, Chris will discuss goliath grouper’s biology, the controversy surrounding its protection, and the drawbacks of re-establishing a fishery – especially in light of the recent FWC Commissioners vote in favor of having FWC staff develop a draft plan for a limited fishery – including: loss of nursery habitat, increasingly destructive episodic events like red tide and cold snaps, and the effects of mercury contamination on fish health and survival, and also human health implications.
DCP Deep Dives are geared toward ages 14+, but all are welcome. This talk is expected to run ~50 minutes, plus Q&A.
Learn more about Chris at www.chrismalinowski.org or on Instagram (@conservation.chris)
Want an intro before the talk? Check out Terramar Productions' short film, Goliaths in the Stream.
Sept 9, 2021 7:00 PM Eastern Time (NYC, Miami, etc.)
Join URL: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82989899885
Meeting ID: 829 8989 9885
In this Dolphin Lesson, Raina guides participants through drawing an orca (aka killer whale), the largest member of the dolphin family. With orca facts thrown in along the way, this lesson will be fun for young and young at heart!
You can simply watch along, or grab paper and a pencil/pen or a drawing tablet to try your hand at drawing an orca!
Dolphin Lessons are geared toward ages 6-13, but everyone is welcome. Click here to download our orca coloring sheet.
In this Dolphin Lesson, recorded on 16 March 2021, DCP heads out of the ocean and into the river! Our friend Dr. Erin Frick, of Eckerd College, talks about what the river dolphins are, where they live, their behavior, how they communicate, and how they are different/similar to saltwater dolphins. This program is geared toward ages 6-13, but all are welcome to enjoy!
In this Deep Dive, recorded on 11 March 2021, DCP’s former master’s student and current collaborator, Manon Themelin discusses relationships, and more precisely the quality of relationships, in dolphins. She describes how we are studying “RQ” with dolphins at RIMS and Bimini. This program is geared toward ages 14 and up.
It is also available on DCP's YouTube channel to find more archived programs. On our website, you can also find free, downloadable STEAM activities for kids (look under the education tab). Stay tuned to our social media for upcoming webinars, field programs and more!
Do you know how many dolphin species there are? Which species DCP studies? Your favorite? In this Dolphin Lesson, DCP will guide listeners through some of the dolphin species out there – from the well-known to the obscure.
This program is geared toward ages 6-13, but all are welcome. Bring your questions!
Missed our earlier webinars? Check out the recordings on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC857aGJwD6zheRlH996BOlw
Bring some dolphin love to your Valentine's Day this year! Check them out at Kids Science Activities (under Education tab) or the links below.
Rarely offered for sale via the website, we're excited to have reusable DCP water bottles for sale. These 16 oz, vacuum insulated bottles are just $29 including shipping*! Offer available until 5 January, 2021. While supplies last.
*Price includes standard US shipping. Expedited and international shipping available for an additional fee.
Ordering for Christmas Delivery?
Standard shipping: Order by 18 December!
Expedited shipping: Order by 21 December!
For just $49, including shipping*, receive a Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin print kit and DCP-Edition Dolphin Wanderer Bracelet. This bracelet features DCP's colors and is only available directly from DCP. Click here to place your order now!
Select dolphins only. Offer available until 5 January, 2021. While supplies last.
*Shipping = standard shipping to US addresses. Shipping to non-US addresses and expedited to US addresses available for additional fee. Hoping to get your order to a US address by Christmas? Order by 18 Dec for standard shipping; by 21 Dec with expedited shipping.
All Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin Print Kit, Patron Adoption Kit (print or electronic) or T-Shirt orders received between 23 Nov - 1 Dec will get a choice of one free DCP Hoo-rag or 10 randomly selected DCP trading cards. Once DCP receives your Adoption or Shirt order, we'll reach out via email (check your spam folder!) to find out your selection.
*Note: Bonus only applies to Print standard adoption kits (not electronic), but does apply to both print and electronic versions of Patron kits. Shirts must be ordered directly through the DCP website (CafePress orders are appreciated, but do not qualify for this offer). Bonus offer good only on orders received through 1 December 2020.
That's not all!
Special #2: For just $49, including shipping*, receive a Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin print kit and DCP-Edition Dolphin Wanderer Bracelet. Select dolphins only.
Special #3: Rarely offered for sale via the website, we're excited to have reusable DCP water bottles for sale. These 16 oz, vacuum insulated bottles are just $29 including shipping*!
*Specials #2 & #3 are available until 5 January, 2021. While supplies last.
11 - 16 July 2021
Our research & education efforts on Bimini were effectively paused on Bimini in 2020. But, we are hopeful travel will be safe in summer 2021 - so we hope you'll join us on an ecotour! A DCP-led ecotour ensures we can collect valuable data on wild Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins. Participants are able to assist as much or as little as they'd like all while experiencing these amazing creatures, the beautiful waters and the character-filled, off-the-beaten-path island of Bimini. Click here to learn more and email info[at]dcpmail[dot]org to reserve your spot!
Thank you everyone who participated in our "Pay It Forward" Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin campaign! We hope everyone enjoyed their adoption "e-kits." After 5 months of donated e-kits, we're pausing this program to focus on our fall webinar lineup. Your financial support ensures webinars stay free. Be sure to tune in this Thursday, 10 September at 1 p.m. EDT, for a Deep Dive reboot: Drs. Bernd & Melany Wuersig discuss mentorship (Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87623339802).
Want to sneak in a qualifying purchase and select a recipient to receive a free Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin "ekit?" Spend at least $15 on any of the items listed below - but get your order in by Wednesday 9 September!
For every $15 spent on any items below, you can select one person to recevie a free, electronic "Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin" kit:
Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin (print or e-kit)
Donation (min $15)
Earlier today, our PhD student, Nicole Danaher-Garcia successfully defended her dissertation! Using data from 2003 – 2018, Nicole successfully painted a picture of the social bonds among Atlantic spotted dolphins off Bimini. DCP could not be more proud – our face muscles are sore from smiling! Congratulations to Dr. Danaher-Garcia and thank you to her entire UMass Dartmouth committee.
Curious about Nicole’s project? Click here for the recording in which Nicole discusses Chapter 2, which has already been published, in a DCP webinar from the spring. And, stay tuned for more chapters in an upcoming webinar.
Congrats again, Dr. Danaher-Garcia! We just can’t say it enough!
Guess what?! DCP Webinars will be back with brand new content in September! Woo-who!
Dolphin Lessons will be scheduled most 1st and 3rd Tuesdays each month, at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Deep Dives will be most 2nd and 4th Thursdays each month, also at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Remember, Dolphin Lessons are geared toward elementary ages and Deep Dives are for 14+, but everyone is welcome! Stay tuned for the exact schedule and topics. And, catch up on previously recorded programs on our YouTube channel.
New Kids Science Activity Alert!
Click here to download our latest KSA - a jumble activity focused on dolphin species. A big thank you to remote volunteer Olivia for her design and remote intern Raina for the artwork.
Interested in more free activities? Just head to our Kids Science Activities page by clicking here or navigating the Education tab above.
By late June, I would have hoped for close to 30 days on the water, searching for the Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins off Bimini. Nicole and I would have led two field courses, an ecotour and interacted with other tourists, all eager to experience the dolphins while DCP collected data. But. Well. COVID-19.
As you may have seen, DCP did our best to regroup and retool – our shirts and Hoo-rags are available online, our two webinar series are available on YouTube, our Kids Science Activities are now available as free downloads, our interns are doing data analysis remotely and we have two new remote volunteers/interns. We’ve been social distancing, but we haven’t stopped our mission!
And, in Bimini, I’ve been able to get on the water a few times, which is, of course, better than zero times. And what did these three trips yield? A busy, mixed age group with several moms & calves, a day with no dolphin sightings at all and a day with a group of 12, active, mating spotteds. A little bit of almost everything! I’m happy to remote that we have seen:
Tina (#14) was still with her older calf, Kiwi (#121). Kiwi was getting lots of freedom to zip over to the boat and play with other youngsters.
Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36) and Leslie (#80) were looking good (could Leslie be pregnant?!). With no calves in tow, they were actively pursued by Split Jaw (#22) and Tim (#69). I think Buster (#04) and Prince William (#64) were also there, but I’ll have to check the video to confirm. And, Paul (#99) was right there with the older males, but took more breaks for bowriding too. You can learn more about these individual dolphins here.
I’m hopeful more opportunities to search will come up, but of course, health and safety of the Bimini community come first. We’re continuing to keep an eye on our 9 – 14 August 2020 ecotour; if you are interested in joining, give us a shout at info[at]dcpmail[dot]org.
Until next time,
PS: Join us remotely on Tuesday 30 June at 7:30 p.m. EDT for the premiere of our 20th Anniversary film! Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85158792285
World Premiere: DCP's 20th Anniversary Film
June 30, 2020 7:30 p.m. EDT - Use meeting link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85158792285 or meeting ID 851 5879 2285
DCP is thrilled to invite you to the public premiere for a 32-min film celebrating our 20th Anniversary! Come see how DCP got started, Kathleen's hairstyles through the years and of course - the dolphins! Grab a drink, some popcorn and then stay for the live Q & A.
Huge thanks to John Anderson (Terramar Productions) for this awesome creation.
DCP Dives Deep & Dolphin Lesson webinars will return. Stay tuned for details.
New to DCP? or Missed an earlier webinar?
Check out our intro webinar, recorded on 2 April, to familiarize yourself with DCP or visit the main webinar page to find all our previously recorded programs! Webinars are also available on YouTube. Just search Dolphin Communication Project.
**Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin PRINT kits received between now and 5 July will be processed and shipped ~7 July. Print kits ordered during this time will be provided with a digital adoption certificate before the kit is shipped. We apologize for any inconvenience, but appreciate your support. Electronic adoption kits ("e-kits") will continue to be filled during this time.**
Thank you to everyone who has been participating in our new webinar series, Dolphin Lessons and DCP Dives Deep into…Kathleen and Kel have enjoyed leading programs, but we also owe a big thank you to our guest presenters, Daisy Kaplan, PhD, Alexis Levengood, PhD, Annette Dempsey, Heather Hill, PhD, Teri Bolton, Nicole Danaher-Garcia, Justin Gregg, PhD…and the list is going to continue to grow!
We’ve really enjoyed the live Q&A portion of these webinars, but we’re also thrilled to have each program recorded. Check out our webinars page (under the Education tab) or visit Dolphin Communication Project on YouTube. Remember to subscribe!
UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who supported DCP & shared the dolphin joy through our "Pay It Forward" campaign. We paused this program on 9 September 2020 so we can focus on our fall webinar series. Your support ensure these webinars happen and are free for everyone! Thanks again!
Want to say thank you to an essential worker? Send a pick-me-up to someone feeling down? For every $15* you spend supporting DCP, we'll send an Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin "e-kit" to someone of your choosing! Sound cool? Keep reading for more details:
As many of you know, 2020 is the 20-year anniversary for DCP. During these difficult times, there are many things for which we are grateful, and we wouldn’t have reached 20 years without your support.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our spring field programs have been postponed until 2021. After some time to feel that frustration, we regrouped and are thrilled to have three brand new STEAM online programs: Kids Science Activities (downloadable for free) plus two webinar series (free to join live or watch recordings). Every day, we look forward to getting back into the field. Every day, we recount the things for which we are so grateful. And every day, we wish you all safety and health.
The reality is that the postponement of our field programs has dealt DCP a significant financial blow. As such, we’re pleased to offer DCP shirts for sale once again and “Hoo-rag” bandanas for the first time. We are grateful for your support and want to pay that forward. So, with every purchase of $15 or more, made directly through the DCP website (qualifying items listed below), we will send an electronic dolphin adoption to an essential worker or person who has been financially or emotionally negatively impacted by the pandemic. The coolest part? With your purchase,* you can choose someone in your life to receive this adoption e-kit gift from DCP. And yes! Spend $30, we'll donate 2 e-kits. $45? 3! No limit!
Tuesday 14 April 2020, 1:00 p.m.
DCP Dolphin Lesson: Who is who? Telling dolphins apart
This webinar was recorded on 14 April 2020. Kel Melillo Sweeting, M.S., Bimini Research manager, talks about how to recognize and identify dolphins.
Can you tell dolphins apart? Squirrels, Rabbits? Pet dogs? It's pretty handy if you can! In this Dolphin Lesson, your child will learn how dolphin researchers tell dolphins apart - and why it's important. This program is geared toward ages 6-13, but dolphin lovers of all ages should enjoy it. And, of course, the DCP team answers questions at the end.
Check out the other webinars on DCP's website and YouTube page. And, you can also find free, downloadable STEAM activities for kids (look under the education tab). Stay tuned to our social media for upcoming webinars, field programs and more!
Thursday 9 April 2020, 11:00 a.m.
DCP Dives Deep into...Dolphin Communication
This webinar was recorded on 9 April 2020. DCP Director, Kathleen Dudzinski, PhD, discusses animal communication in general and dolphin communication specifically. And, of course, the DCP team answers questions at the end. This webinar was the first in our series, "DCP Dives Deep into..." Check out the DCP website (https://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/index.php/get-involved/webinars) or this YouTube channel to find more archived programs. On our website, you can also find free, downloadable STEAM activities for kids (look under the education tab). Stay tuned to our social media for upcoming webinars, field programs and more!
Our new webpage is live: Kids Science Activities. Found under the Education tab, this page is your source for free, downloadable, STEAM activities. Created with elementary students in mind, activities can be adjusted for younger or older students. Of course, everything is for the young at heart!
New to DCP? Curious about who we are and what we do? Be like this bottlenose dolphin and backflip yourself to our first Zoom meeting for an introduction and short Q&A session.
Ideal for 13+, but all ages welcome.
15 minutes presentation + 15 minutes for Q&A
Thursday, April 2, 11:00 a.m. ET
You may wonder why you are seeing a blog post about a giant reef fish and what it has to do with dolphins. Quite simply, the answer is “conservation”! With all of our oceans in trouble, and the extinction of animal species hardly making news anymore, it becomes important for each one of us to help, or consider why we have not helped. Whether it’s a common bottlenose dolphin or an endangered Goliath Grouper, we all have an obligation to tread lightly on our blue planet’s other inhabitants and treat them with care. It’s not all about us.
30 years ago, Goliath Grouper were nearly extinct because of human’s over exploitation of the species. Sound familiar? It ought to. It’s the same tune humans have been playing for the opening act of the sixth mass extinction for decades, for a millennia! The good news is that some Goliath Grouper populations have made a tenuous and tumultuous journey towards recovery. Good fishery management decisions, a fishing moratorium, and an artificial reef program have allowed some of these giants to thrive again for now. They still face an uphill battle against a tide of toxins flowing off of Florida’s coast into the sea, environmental upheaval such as cold snaps and red tides, or what the sponge fishermen called “The Blight”, loss of suitable habitat for juvenile recruitment and heavy metals such as mercury present in the eggs and flesh of each animal.
If you are asking yourself if these animals live is a squalorous, toxic coastal environment, the answer is a definite, sometimes! A lot of variables affect the coastal conditions in South Florida, but humans are not doing any favors to this environment by allowing these issues to persist.
Let me introduce you to the Goliath Grouper, the largest reef fish in the Caribbean. Please enjoy this short form documentary “Goliaths in the Stream” and my hope is that you take away an appreciation for a species that you may not have known existed.
Also, I invite you to sign the below petition to keep the Goliath Grouper populations closed to fishing. The science behind this is mainstream and verifiable.
We all have a voice! This is your chance to speak out!
-John Anderson, Terramar Productions
In this special podcast episode celebrating 20 years of the Dolphin Communication Project, Laura and Justin interview Kelly Melillo-Sweeting, Bimini Research Manager and all-around awesome scientist. Kel explains the findings form her recently published article on laterality in bottlenose dolphins – that is, a preference that dolphins seem to have for the right side of their bodies when hunting for prey in the sand. Just before dolphins stick their heads in the sand to grab hidden prey, they almost always twist to the left, maybe allowing them to use their right eye (i.e., their preferred eye) to give the ocean floor one last look before plunging their faces into it. Or maybe it’s because dolphin echolocation works best on the right side when it comes to searching for prey buried in the sand. Whatever the reason, the bottlenose dolphins off Bimini, The Bahamas are almost all (with one exception) left twisters when crater feeding. In the episode, Laura goes head-to-head with Kel in a science quiz focused on a recently published article on lateral behavior in bottlenose dolphins. It’s going to be an uphill battle for poor Laura since Kel is one of the authors of the article.
Click here for the episode or head to your favorite podcast-downloading site.
The first issue of 2020 for DCP's newsletter, The Dolphin Gazette is ready for you! We hope you enjoy reading about Kathleen's time collecting data & teaching at RIMS (Honduras) and upcoming opportunities to join us in the field at both our Bimini, The Bahamas and Roatan, Honduras field sites. Kathleen shares some thoughts on DCP's 20th Anniversary, along with some old photos. And, we feature Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin Split Jaw and share a just-for-fun word search. Click here to download your free PDF. Thanks for reading!
On Tuesday morning, I was welcomed back to Bimini Primary School. I chatted with grades 2, 3 and 4 about DCP and the dolphins found around Bimini. The students were eager and respectful – thank you! Though, any time I’m talking to students and explain that I have been studying Bimini’s dolphins for longer than they’ve been alive….sure does make a gal feel old!
Thank to you to the Principal and teachers for having me. I hope my visit was a small part of inspiring Bimini’s youth to value and prioritize their ocean home. Once again, I find myself already looking forward to my next visit.
PS: In all the excitement, I forgot to get a photo! So, here’s a throwback to one of our first Bimini school visits (2004?) – when the Bimini Catholic School was still open!
DCP is pleased to offer you an unexpected chance to get your hands on our limited-edition 20th Anniversary DCP t-shirts featuring the original DCP logo on the front pocket! This special design is available for our short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts - both priced at the special anniversary price of $20.20 (to celebrate our 20th anniversary in the year 2020, wink wink).
Short sleeve shirts are available in white, gray, light blue, teal ice and key lime. Long sleeve are available in white and gray.
This is a brief, pre-order campaign. The chance to order disappears on Friday January 31st, so click here to order now. Shipping is additional ($5) and is only available to US-addresses. Shirts will be shipped in early March.
Click here to check them out and place your order today. Thank you for your support!
Interested in an Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin kit or Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin kit + Dolphin Bracelet bundle as a Christmas or Hanukkah present?
Order by 12/19 for expected delivery* by 12/25 with free, standard shipping.
Order by 12/21 for expected delivery* by 12/25 with expedited shipping (additional fee).
*To US address. DCP can ship to non-US addresses, but cannot estimate arrival dates.
2019 is nearly over! As we reflect on our gratitude for all your support, you can check out new opportunities to join DCP that are right around the corner.
Plus, meet DCP's newest named dolphin - Kiwi, check out holiday gift ideas, help folks in The Bahamas & learn about our recent & upcoming publications & presentations.
This issue of the Dolphin Gazette is perfect for reading by the fire or under a palm tree, depending on where you live!
Thanks for reading - and sharing!
Long-term Bonds: Social Structure of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) off Bimini, The Bahamas (2003-2016) – WMMC & upcoming publication!
DCP is very excited about our poster presentation at the World Marine Mammal Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Lead author and long-time DCP assistant/student, Nicole presented our work on associations among the spotted dolphins off Bimini. If you saw the poster in person, thank you for your interest in learning more!
This study is the first to investigate the social patterns of a population of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) off Bimini, The Bahamas, during a 14-year period (2003-2016). We generated association indices and conducted cluster, network, and temporal analyses using SOCPROG 2.8. Dolphins in this group display long-term, year-round residency around Bimini, as well as long-term preferences in association with a combination of rapid disassociation, constant companions, and casual acquaintances. We found no evidence of distinct social clusters within the study group; however, we discovered at least one subgroup of males with higher association than the rest of the population. Despite strong relationships between males, we found no evidence for the existence of alliances or coalitions. Bimini spotted dolphins do not experience the same social forces thought to drive such supportive relationships in other study groups; they do not experience repeated aggressive interactions with sympatric bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), nor are males limited in their access to females.
Over the course of this 14-year study, we completed 804 boat trips in search of dolphins. This resulted in 3,609 hours of search effort. On 628 (78.1%) of those boat trips (“surveys”), we saw dolphins from the boat and this resulted in 1,609 separate dolphin sightings. On 524 (65.2%) we were able to observe them under water at least once, and we actually had 873 underwater observations.
Take away lesson:
The Bimini Atlantic spotted dolphin social network is characterized by fission-fusion dynamics. Dyads form long-term preferential associations lasting years, especially between same-sex pairs.
A group of five male dolphins had the highest association throughout the study period (2003-2016). These males are similar in age and have been observed consistently since 2003. You might know them as Buster (#04), Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64), Tim (#69) and Speedy (#78). Split Jaw and Prince William have the highest strength of association over the full 14-year period (.68, where 1 would mean they were together all the time).
Another way of looking at things:
In this graph, you see the standardized lagged association rates for all individuals (2003-2016). Basically, this tells you the probability of seeing a pair together after a given amount of time. The technical stuff is: moving average was set to 50,000 associations; standard errors were calculated by jackknifing over 30-day periods. Best-fitted model was combination of “rapid disassociation” (within one sampling period), “constant companions” (social units that associate permanently), and “casual acquaintances” (social units disassociate but may preferentially re-associate). If this is interesting to you, make sure you grab a copy of the full paper when it’s published.
Why might dolphins form associations rather than just associate at random?
Preferred associations may improve foraging success or predator defense in deep Gulfstream waters. Or, preferences may have developed in early life from joint membership in mother-calf groups.
This work has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal, acta ethologica. Click here to access it or jot us an email.
Thanks for visiting our poster at the 2019 World Marine Mammal Conference. We're excited you wanted to learn more.
DCP has been studying bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins off Bimini, The Bahamas since 2001. In 2014, we published a short note on the evidence of failed shark attacks on the spotted dolphins. Now, we've conducted a similar assessment on the sympatric bottlenose.
At least 28.7% of catalogued bottlenose dolphins had at least one injury or scar that could confidently be atttributed to a shark. Another 27.1% of catalogued individuals had injuries or scars that we couldn't be sure where they came from. This means that at a minimum almost 29% of catalogued dolphins survived at least one shark attack....but, it could be as high as 56%. This is higher than the 15% of spotteds with confirmed attacks and the 16% of spotteds with undetermined scars (for a maximum of 31% of the spotted catalog).
Plus - we don't get to see 100% of every individual's body. Only seven individuals (5.5% of the catalog) had images or video of 100% of the body. 21.7% we could see about 75%, 25.6% about 50%, 38.8% only 25% and 8.5% only the dorsal fin. This means that even our conservative estimates of how many dolphins have scars from sharks is likely an underestimation.
We also asked: "How many individuals had injuries or scars that could be confidently attributed to separate shark attacks?" This is at least 5.4% - but again, because we are conservative in declaring a scar shark-induced + we don't see every dolphin's entire body, this is a big underestimation. And, another 8.5% had scars that we could not say whether they came from the same or multiple attacks, bringing the potential, but still conservative estimate to nearly 14%.
Nearly all (97.3%) shark-induced scars were on the dorsal side of the body. Does this mean that sharks rarely attack the ventral side? That assumption is unlikely; what is more plausible is that the vental injuries are the most likely to be fatal.
When comparing the evidence of failed shark attacks on these two sympatric species (bottlenose 29%, spotteds 15%), or comparing dolphins off Bimini to dolphins elsewhere in the world, we cannot conclude that the bottlenose are actually attacked more (or less) often. Why? Because we do not have information on successful shark predation. The dolphins that do not survive, do not show up with scars for us to document.
Even with our conservative estimates, it's clear that sharks do prey on the dolphins off Bimini. Understanding this as best we can will shed light on behaviors we observe, from group formation to habitat selection.
Thanks again for your interest in our study. This study was presented as a poster at the 2019 WMMC in Barcelona, Spain. Stay tuned to see if it ends up as it's own short note, or a section on our larger bottlenose site fidelity assessment project.
It's baaaaaaack! Your chance to get a DCP shirt! This year, our adult short sleeve (5 colors) and adult long sleeve (white & gray) feature a throwback to DCP's original logo. 2020 is our 20th Anniversary!
Women's tanks (2 styles, 4 colors each) and UPF50 rashguards (4 colors) are also available featuring our current logo.
This special order period ends on Monday (Nov 18th). Shirts and bundles are expected to ship ~26 December. So, while they won't arrive for Christmas & Hanukkah, they will be worth the wait. By pre-ordering your shirt, you help DCP reduce the overhead of placing the shirt order with our printer (Thank you!!).
DCP is teaching several field courses at our Roatan field site. But, there is ONLY course with space available:
7 - 14 March 2020, Field Course in Animal Behavior & Psychology, in collaboration with St. Mary's University (StMU)
Remaining spaces are now open to non-StMU students. The course is taught by DCP's Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski and StMU Professor, Dr. Heather Hill. Tuition credits with StMU are not included, but are not required. Cost per student is $1550 (USD). This includes lodging, food, instruction and a dolphin swim and encounter. Tuition credits and airfare are not included. Email info[at]dcpmail[dot]org right away if you are interested! Remaining spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. To learn more about Dr. Hill, find her among our collaborators under the About menu.
Dr. Deirdre Yeater is gearing up for her 7th field course with DCP, at our Bimini, The Bahamas field site. Field dates are May 26 - June 1, 2020. All participants must take the course for SHU credit, but with online and field components, non-SHU students are welcome & encouraged to apply. Click here to learn more and apply today! Application deadline is Dec 15th.
What is a Bimini field course? This cross-listed, 200-level Field Course in Cetacean Ecology gives students the chance to learn about dolphin behavior, ecology, cognition and research - but not just through books and lectures. You'll learn by actually observing wild dolphins, from the boat and in the water! This isn't a traditional study abroad course; it is a research course at DCP's active field site. That means it's a lot of work packed into a short time and you'll actually help collect real data that will be used by real scientists. All in an amazing island setting and for school credit. Sign up now!
DCP has asked a lot of questions about how dolphins use their pectoral fins to touch each other (check out Kathleen & the team's long list of publications on the topic!). Our latest peer-reviewed article (that means other scientists had a read and agree the study is sound) looks at pectoral fin contact between Atlantic spotted & bottlenose dolphins. You can download the PDF for free until Nov 28th! https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1ZtNsmjLqKcw A big thanks to our co-authors for getting this done and out into the world! Enjoy!
This issue is your chance to hear about the busy Bimini research season, including thoughts from our summer interns. We also include links to our podcast, The Dolphin Pod, and a belated update from Amazon River dolphin researcher, Dr. Trone. And of course, stories from Kathleen!
So, put the world aside for a few minutes and enjoy The Dolphin Gazette!
We hope you enjoy this guest blog post from our August ecotour participant, Bonnie. Thanks for the contribution, Bonnie!
Roger, my husband, and I with our three granddaughters, Allie, (almost age 11), Rayanne (age 12), and Taylor (age 10), met with Kelly Melillo Sweeting, DCP Eco Tour coordinator, and two other participants of the program, Megan and Sue, for a brief orientation on August 2019 Eco Tour Program Agenda that included swimming with wild dolphins in Atlantic Ocean every afternoon. This will be my granddaughters’ first experience in swimming with wild dolphins, and this is Roger’s and my second time. We love swimming with Bimini dolphins. So wonderful.
We boarded the boat at 2:45 p.m at Sea Crest Marina. When we arrived on board, we tucked away our fins, snorkel, and masks on the stern of the vessel. The three young girls carefully walked to the bow of the boat to begin their search for wild dolphins. Shortly after leaving the harbor, Sue spotted one Atlantic spotted dolphin, then another, and another. So we had three Atlantic spotted dolphins that came to play with us. We grabbed our cameras and started taking pictures of them.
After, observing them for short period of time. Kelly gave us the sign to put on our gear. All eight of us moved toward the swim platform of the boat and one by one slipped gently into the warm ocean. You could see the dolphins’ dorsal fins in the distance before we entered the ocean. I feel, they were waiting for us to join their pod. The girls swam ahead of Roger and I and followed Kelly as she filmed dolphins for DCP research projects. The three young girls would stop moving for a moment, look for dolphins, spot the dolphins and take a picture. I received a tap from Allie after a dolphin, passed in-between us when I was filming another dolphin. We both turned our heads toward each other underwater with amazement in our eyes that he picked us to swim by.
After the dolphins left our pod, we returned to the boat. I felt the joy and enthusiasm from the girls as they explained their own encounter with Atlantic spotted dolphins. They began to ask these questions; What are the dolphins names? What kind of dolphins are they? Can we swim with them again? Throughout the Eco Tour Program, they learned dolphins’ names, looked at photographs that they took, how to identify dolphins, and much more.
As we waited on ferry to depart to South Bimini where we board the airplane for home, Kelly sat by the ferry dock in her golf cart with her two children. She asked the three girls, what was the best part of this trip for you? The girls said, “the dolphins and taking pictures of them!” The ferry moved slowly away from the dock, Kelly and her children created hearts ️with their hands. A beautiful Bimini, Bahamas goodbye.
Bonnie Dolphin Ambassador
Our August ecotour group has been fantastic. Though we couldn’t end the week on a dolphin-high, it has been an absolute pleasure leading this program – and I hope this isn’t the last time on Bimini for these folks! We started our Thursday morning with a beach clean-up, followed by a much needed swim. Then, we gathered at the Sea Crest and they worked together to compose the following post – enjoy!
Our group is a mix of return guests (Roger – 65 yrs, Bonnie – 53 yrs & Megan – feels 22 yrs) and newbies (Sue – Megan’s mom, Rayanne – 12 yrs, Allison – neeeearly 11 yrs and Taylor – 10 yrs). We journeyed from California, Minnesota, New York and took taxis, trains, planes (even a small propeller plane!), van and ferries. And, all those steps were well worth it!
Seeing so many dolphins that we do not have the opportunity to see at home was amazing. We met up as a group on Day 1 and we had a talk to understand more about the dolphins, what we’d be seeing and how we needed to behave. Those of us who have been before feel more addicted to the dolphins and this whole experience – it gets better each time! Each day we would set off at 2 or 3 p.m., enjoying the amazing water views as we searched. We saw different dolphins and it’s been cool to keep a list of who we’ve seen. Seeing the calves is one of the most exciting parts!
Each day, we enjoyed watching the dolphins from the boat, but of course, we couldn’t wait to get our gear on and slide into the water. The feeling of them checking us out as they pass by, sometimes echolocating right on us, is just amazing. They even make eye contact; even more enjoyable than watching them, is the feeling that they are really watching us. Who is studying whom out there? It’s fascinating when they really want to interact with us! There is still so much to learn.
The rides home were beautiful too; Bimini’s sunsets are just glorious. We have great trust in our captains; even when the seas picked up, they kept the boat safe and comfortable. And, we won’t forget their head counts each time we get back on the boat!
We also had the chance to do some extra snorkeling at the Bimini Road, after which we really, really enjoyed getting to jump off the boat! So much so that during the next day’s swim break, we jumped in a few more times! Worked up our appetites for snack time on the boat!
Sue & Megan had a chance to explore the island by bike one morning. Another, they went to see the mangroves, literally the other side of Bimini, with Eagle Eye Fred. He pointed out lots of stingrays, a leaping eagle ray and took us to the Martin Luther King Jr monument, placed right within the mangroves. Back on the dolphin boat, we’ve seen lots of leaping of flying fish while we’re searching for dolphins.
Our visit to the SharkLab was incredible. Hands on, getting to touch the baby nurse shark was a treat. The young girls have touched a baby shark before, but at an aquarium. It was cool to see the sharks here and learn about the Lab’s volunteers and research projects. Watching the stingray “workup” was right up Megan’s alley.
Back on land, we’ve really enjoyed our time together, especially the hair braiding parties! Bimini itself is very different from our homes; different types of stores, money, driving on the other side of the road – and delicious Edith’s pizza! Accommodations at the Sea Crest have been great. We have adjoining rooms and a shared kitchen, dining and living room at this simple “mom & pop” hotel. It really helped our group dynamic and gave the experience a home-feel. The sea is such a beautiful blue, with so many shells on the beach. We spent Thursday morning doing a beach clean-up, and even though it was hot, it felt good to get that trash in trash bags, where it cannot hurt any sea creatures. With our trash piled, it felt great to get in the water and cool off. We even did some handstands and tosses in the warm, clear sea!
Until next time,
The Dolphin Squad (DCP’s awesome August 2019 ecotour group!)
Wednesday was a busy, busy day for the current ecotour group (who are just delightful, by the way!). We met up at 9 a.m. and were soon headed to South Bimini. Destination? Bimini Biological Field Stations, aka “SharkLab.” While Kel gave a talk to visiting students from University of Minnesota and some Lab staff & volunteers (thanks for the invite!), the DCP group enjoyed a great tour (thanks for accommodating our schedule!). They learned all about the sharks of Bimini, especially nurse and lemon sharks, Lab’s research and even watched a “workup” of southern stingray. After a very enjoyable and educational experience, we headed back to North Bimini for lunch and rests before our 3 p.m. dolphin trip.
The seas were calmer today and the sun was shining. I was already thinking about how long to wait before suggesting the first “swim break,” when we saw splashing, then a big leap, to the west. We cruised over and found a lone bottlenose dolphin with a very distinct dorsal fin. It wasn’t terribly interested in the boat (though we did get some nice looks near the bow) and was swimming in an erratic pattern. So, I collected some dorsal fin photographs to match to our photo-ID catalog and we said goodbye.
That first sighting energized us for more and the day did not disappoint. We were able to watch a group of 12 Atlantic spotted dolphins (there were others scattered in the distance) for a while and saw them under water. I ID’d Sulfur (#102) from the boat and then saw Paul (#99) under water. After our first swim, the group size shrunk to five; Niecey (#48), her male calf and Paul remained, along with two older juveniles. We saw lots of pec-to-pec and pec-to-body rubbing, especially between Paul and another male (pictured here). The guests giggled at the calf, who was very busy zipping about, showing off his pink belly and overall just being goofy. We got two chance to swim with this smaller group….and, as always, it was a privilege.
Back on land, I gave the team a ride north to pick up their pizza from the famous Edith’s. Yum!
On Tuesday morning, two of our guests headed to the mangroves with bonefisherman and mangrove guide Eagle Eye Fred. They may have been a little nervous in “The Healing Hole,” but they certainly enjoyed cruising through the mangroves, seeing tons of stingrays and a leaping spotted eagle ray and taking a moment at the Martin Luther King Jr monument. Back at the Sea Crest, the remaining guests and I chatted about photo-ID. Shortly after 11, word reached us that “Lady J” had arrived outside the Bimini Museum. Class was paused so the guests could grab some delicious lunch – right from the back of her car! With full bellies, we resumed our photo-ID chat, looking at photos of Split Jaw, Speedy, Prince William and Swoosh.
The boat departed at 2 p.m., giving everyone a chance to snorkel “The Bimini Road” (aka, Atlantis or the Road to Atlantis). Though everyone enjoyed the snorkel, I think the biggest smiles and loudest laughs came when everyone started jumping off the side of the boat. It might sound strange, but it’s one of my favorite things that boat guests do – they always seem to have a blast!
Next up was our search for dolphins. And, search we did. And then searched some more. Hopped in the water to wake up and cool off before searching some more. Snacked on brownie brittle and popcorn and then searched some more. But, the dolphins were simply not where we were. Still, we’re grateful for the previous two days and looking forward to the last two!
On Monday morning, the ecotour crew and I sat around the table and talked about DCP, our research off Bimini, the species found here and our role in The Bahamas Marine Mammals Stranding Network. They had a lot of great questions and we were all excited about the afternoon’s boat trip.
We once again departed at about 3 p.m. and we were not disappointed with the weather. The seas were calm and there was just enough breeze and cloud cover to keep us at least a little bit cool. After about 90 minutes of searching, it was time to hop in the water just to cool off and wake up. We then resumed our search and even though I chatted with the guests about my personal policy of not giving up on finding dolphins until we are turning back into the harbor, I’m not sure they believed me. But the dolphins sure did wait until almost the last moment! Suddenly we could see 8 Atlantic spotted dolphins, including Swoosh (#36) and, presumably, her calf. Most of the other dolphins were older adults and since it was getting late, we quickly got in the water. We had a hilarious observation of one older male (I’ll try to ID him later from stills and video). He was hanging upside down, just letting us all check him out! Later, Buster (#04) came through, as if he wanted to be sure we had good video for his adoption kit like yesterday’s “boys’ club.” It was great to see him!
Needless to say, we were all glowing as we returned to the dock. Now it’s time to get this blog posted and head to bed!
Until next time,
Sunday was Day 1 of Ecotour 2! Our July program was a lot of fun (& really productive) and I’ve been looking forward to this session ever since. Our small group settled in at the Sea Crest and at 2 p.m. we jumped into orientation – then jumped on the boat in hopes of jumping in the water! First up, it was a gear check, a “dolphin drill,” if you will. Everyone got masks, fins and snorkels on and got in and out of the water as if they trying to swim with dolphins. Half of the group has done this before, but the newbies did great too! Soon, we were back on the boat, resuming our search…
Then, right in front of us, were calmly surfacing dolphins! I grabbed the clipboard (no Nicole and no interns, woe is me!) and jotted down the time and location. Then, I headed to the bow to see if I recognized anyone. Sure enough, it was some fan favorites: Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64) and Speedy (#78). You can see Prince William (top) and Speedy (bottom) pictured here. They were cruising, so we observed them from the surface, seeing some seaweed play and pectoral fin contact. Suddenly, they stopped – that was our sign. We got in the water and the observations did not disappoint. I think we’ll definitely be using video from today for Split Jaw and Speedy’s adoption video updates this winter.
After a nice observation, the dolphins picked up speed again, so we returned to observing them from the boat. It never gets old! As the time ticked away, and storms built to the west, we got in one last time for a final observation and goodnight. The seas really kicked up on the ride home, but we were all so thrilled with the day, we didn’t mind!
Late July flew right by, but not without two dolphin trips with two of my favorite Bimini Adventures customers. This delightful couple has been coming to Bimini for years and even though they privately charter Captain Al’s boat, they always invite DCP along for the ride. It was a blast catching up with them and seeing some exciting favorites, including Tina (#14) and her calf (#121), Leslie (#80), Stefran (#82) and Vee (#101). There were some really great moments – which we’ll hopefully be able to add to the next video creation for DCP’s Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program!
Fast forward to today and while squalls delayed the dolphin trip, I had a delightful roundtable chat with this week’s Bimini Adventures guests. They asked such fantastic questions! As the weather cleared, we went in search of dolphins – and we were not disappointed! We found dolphins early and spent much of the afternoon in the company of seven spotted dolphins, including Leslie (#80). The dolphins were on the move and taking advantage of some small fish so most of our observations were from the boat. It was still exciting, especially the little one’s big leaps! Soon we were watching another active group in the distance; a mixed species group! We didn’t get to see the bottlenose for long, but we watched the spotteds, including Sulfur (#102), for the rest of the afternoon. What a day!
Until next time,
Island life has left me behind on blog posts once again! Last Thursday, I was able to join the Bimini Adventures’ group on one more dolphin trip – and it was a wild one! There was searching, there was a big squall and of course, there were dolphins! Later that night, I joined the group for dinner (yum – the group chef does such tasty meals for us!) and chatting. Thanks to everyone for their support this week.
Following this group was a mid-season break, filled with family time. It was great – but since our air conditioner at home broke, it meant my laptop could only handle short running times. Inside temperature was a mere 96°F and the ol’ computer wasn’t impressed. Thank goodness electricity on the island is pretty stable again, so at least the ceiling fans could cool us down enough for snoozing…
I’ll spend the coming week catching up on emails, data and maybe, just maybe, convincing a few more folks to join us on our August 11 – 16, 2019 ecotour. Are our updates from Bimini calling to you?! Email us (info[at]dcpmail.org) or Facebook message us if you are interested!
On Wednesday (Happy Independence Day, Bahamas!), the day began with a light breakfast for Nat & Taylor at my house. There was just enough time to touch base before helping them get their suitcases to the ferry dock – they headed back to Florida today. It’s been a pleasure working with these interns and DCP got more done this summer thanks to them. And, they were even able to squeeze in a quick beach clean-up this morning; how great are they?!
After they headed out, I got myself back into solo researcher-mode as the dolphin trip was leaving at 1400. Though I’d met this week’s guests earlier, during the camera and photo-ID intros I led, it was my first time joining them for a dolphin search. They were alert and eager, but first: a snorkel stop at 3 Sisters. We didn’t have to wait long after the snorkel to find dolphins; they made themselves known with lots of splashing at the surface. It was a large group and they were on the move. They were somewhat spread out, so a group count was challenging, but there were at least 32 Atlantic spotted dolphins. Throughout the afternoon we had several opportunities to watch the surface activity and bow riding as well as observe them underwater. We made note of Cerra (#38), Niecey (#48) and Stefran (#82), all with calves, Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64), Speedy (#78), Paul (#99), Sulfur (#102), “Lamda” (#104, pictured here. He has some new scratches on his other side, but he’ll be just fine)
Back on land, it was camera rinsing, battery charging and emails. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!
Tuesday was our last full day on Bimini. We began by met Kel for early pickup by the Coral Reef II’s dingy. We bounced our way out of the harbor and soon were climbing aboard the Shedd Aquarium’s research vessel to chat with their first round of Teen Science Expedition students. It was a whole new take on Kel’s presentation – a large flat screen TV, cool A/C….and a gently rolling boat! It was great for Nat and me to share our recent paths through undergrad with these high schoolers.
Soon, we were back on land, prepping for our last boat trip aboard Renegade. We hoped it would be filled with dolphins, and encounters under water. Although it was our last boat trip, being aboard Renegade and searching for dolphins was a feeling of true bliss. It was another hot day and it was a bit rough providing us with tricky conditions to look for splashes or dorsal fins breaching the surface. Early during our trip, Captain Al spotted dorsal fins in the distance and we were met with 10 or 12 dolphins. This encounter was special for us because Nat and I were able to enter the water together!
Nat quickly grabbed the GoPro, and I grabbed my camera to take still photos of the dolphins. Nat was second in the water after the fearless group leader, and quickly caught up to dolphins to record video data. I entered the water last and made my way to the dolphins. At first, I couldn’t see anything because the visibility under the water’s surface wasn’t the best. Suddenly, I saw a big group of dolphins right under the surface. Dolphins seemed to be everywhere, and dolphins from various directions were joining the big group. I observed the dolphins for a moment, and then they went out of my view. They came back weaving their way through all the people in the water. Perhaps they were checking the unfamiliar objects (humans) that were in their environment. When I thought the encounter was over, I saw the massive group of dolphins along the bottom. They were too far for me to take still photos of them, but in unison they came up to the surface and took a big breath of air. I was able to swim with them for a little bit before they went out of view once more. Renegade picked us up, and we continued our search before our next sighting of dolphins came along.
This time Nat got in the water with the guests and a group of 12 spotted dolphins. Nat told me that during this encounter the dolphins did not seem to care about personal space. A couple of dolphins seemed to beg for her attention while she was trying to record the focal animal in the focal follow technique. Nat also told me this was the closest the dolphins had ever gotten to her. I was excited that Nat had a great last encounter with the dolphins before we said our final goodbyes, just as I had a great last encounter with these beautiful creatures.
Our last adventure on Renegade was nothing short of amazing. It was a combination of playful dolphins, glassy water, and great encounters that made the last day one to remember. It was a period of reflection as well, thinking about our time on the island and how much it would be missed when rejoining life in the States. Our flippered friends gave us a good send off. Tomorrow is our travel day back to Port. St. Lucie for the second half of our office portion of the internship. This is my last entry; I would like to thank all the readers out there for taking time the time to read The Daily Dolphin and following the adventures of the interns. “Life is not about the destination, It’s about the journey”.
Taylor and Nat
On Monday, Taylor and I woke up and made breakfast as we usually do and then headed to the Sea Crest for a DCP talk for the Sea Crest guests. Kel talked all about why photo identification is important for research and how to tell the spotted dolphins apart based on their spot pattern! It was a fun talk and Taylor and I always enjoy listening to the lectures. We also helped to outfit some of our cool DCP swag to the guests who wanted to rock a DCP shirt on the boat. After, Taylor and I went back to have lunch at CJ’s Deli right along the beach. Then we decided to have some fun at the beach and cool of in the water. After we went to the beach, we grabbed the sighting sheets and GoPro and headed to Renegade for our boat adventure.
We started looking for dorsal fins at 3:00 amongst some fairly rough seas and rocky waves. It was definitely one of the rockiest days we’ve been out, so the boat was swaying back and forth. We stopped for a swim break and sure enough there was also a strong current in the water. It was like a water treadmill as we swam against the current and got almost nowhere! After the swim break we continued searching for a long time. Eventually, after hours of searching, Taylor spotted the spotteds! There was a group of eight spotted dolphins riding the three foot waves of the rough seas all around us. It was so much fun to see them surf the waves. Among this group was Romeo (#10) and Swoosh (#36) – again! – as well as Inka (#93) and an inquisitive adult male who we’ll need to ID later. Taylor and the guests got in the water for a nice long encounter as the dolphins swam around in the waves. They also put on a show for the people remaining on the boat as they made huge jumps in the air. I got to see Romeo jump fully out of the water and body slam right into a wave. It was so awesome to watch! Then the encounter was over and we began the journey home.
But, the dolphins weren’t done with us: on our way back home we came upon 20 more spotted dolphins! It was just a little too rough to try another encounter, so we just made some surface observations. It was harder to ID the dolphins in these sea conditions, but Taylor and I were able to make out Sulfur’s (#102) distinct dorsal fin! Although we didn’t get in the water, the dolphins still put on a show as they leaped out of the water and played in the waves. Who knew rough seas could be so fun! Soon it was getting late, so Captain Al turned the boat around so we could head back to shore. We docked and then Taylor and I went right back to our cottage for a quick lights out! We had to get up early the next day for a talk aboard the Coral Reef II. More on that to come in the next blog!
Until next time, cheers!
-Nat and Taylor
On Sunday, Renegade embarked on the usual to look for our flippered friends with some unexpected delays due to weather. We stopped along the way to do a gear check, or for the interns, an excuse to jump in the water and cool off from the scorching sun. During the gear check one of the guests referred to us as mermaids, which I though was very funny. After the gear check we resumed our search…
Soon, we saw some dolphins in the distance. Everyone on board concluded that they were common bottlenose dolphins (T. truncatus) visiting us. Nat quickly unpacked the surface camera to try to capture their dorsal fins (pictured here). These dolphins were not into our agenda. They were moving fast and staying underwater for long increments of time, so after some time we left them in search of other dolphins.
After many hours of searching, and the sun was about to set over the horizon Renegade was making its way back to the dock. Suddenly, Nat and Captain Al saw some dolphins in the distance. This time they were spotted dolphins. The vessel sped up a little to catch up with the dolphins. As soon as we were close to them, Captain Al gave us the order to get our gear on. I was second in the water this time with the GoPro to take some video footage of the dolphins. This was classified as an encounter attempt because we didn’t actually see any dolphins underwater.
Later that evening, we came upon another boat and dolphins, but we weren’t able to collect anymore underwater data. Still – considering the rain delay, it was a nice first day on the boat for this week’s Bimini Adventures group. Stay tuned to find out how the rest of the week goes!
Taylor and Nat
Thursday wasn’t just the fourth of July but also the DCP eco-tour’s last boat trip! The boat departed at 2:00 pm so we could go to the Three Sisters for a nice snorkel stop. Taylor and I had fun rocking our new DCP rash guards while we went and checked out the huge schools of fish under the crooks and crevices of the Big Sister rock. I love free diving down into the big school of fish because it makes me feel like I am one with the school. We also saw a huge barracuda swim by and scare some of the smaller fish around the rocks. Soon we were back on board Renegade and searching for dolphins. It was a rocky and windy day out on the sea. It was definitely the rockiest Taylor and I have experienced so far out here in Bimini. The waves made it hard to see any dorsal fins out in the distance because of the frequent white caps, but Kel reminded us that it was still both safe and worth the search – sometimes Renegade is out in even rougher seas! I think I imagined a dolphin jumping about a hundred times because the white caps often look like splashes.
After a while of looking, three bottlenose dolphins appeared out of nowhere right at the bow of the boat. I quickly took out the surface camera and snapped a couple pictures of their dorsal fins. They were slowly on the move, so we didn’t try to have any encounter with the bottlenose dolphins. Soon they were out of sight and we continued our search for some spotted dolphins. After we looked for as long as possible, we had to start heading back home because it was getting pretty late. Unfortunately, we didn’t run into any spotted dolphins, but sometimes these dolphins need a break from us too. We came back to the docks and quickly showered for a late dinner. Taylor and I were able to join the guests during their last dinner and then we said good-bye to everyone Friday morning before they headed to the airport. We had a lot of fun with the DCP eco-tour group this past week and hope to see them again one day on future DCP trips and tours!
Until next time, cheers!
-Nat and Taylor
PS: A huge, giant, enormous thank you to Bimini Adventures and the Sea Crest teams for making our first ecotour of 2019 a great success. We’re so proud of this collaboration and look forward to many more – including our August 11 – 16, 2019 program! Snag a spot now – time is running out to meet the minimum of 10 which is required for delicious meals included.
Wednesday was one of the hotter days aboard Renegade. We boarded Renegade with all the gear including the GoPro, the surface camera, and the data collection sheet. I was ready to help guests board the vessel to start our journey to look for our daily dolphins. It looked like a cloudy day to be on water, but the sun was still shining strong making it hot on board. As we searched, we thought we saw a splash. As we continued on, we received a radio message from another dolphin-seeking boat that they had just left some dolphins. The captain followed our course to head in the direction where the dolphins could still be. The dolphins were still in that spot and were just cruising along. We waited to start our first encounter because yet another ecotour boat was also interested in watching the dolphins before they headed back home. We joined the DCP passengers for a well-deserved swim break before we tried to start an encounter with the dolphins.
Soon, we pulled up to them and the captain lined up Renegade for a drop. Nat went down the ladder to get her snorkel gear on and grabbed a camera to take still photos of the dolphins. I monitored everything from the surface and practiced taking some pictures of dorsal fins with the surface camera. It’s a skill that still needs some work, but it was a good attempt. Captain Al gave the all clear for the passengers to enter the water, but the dolphins didn’t seem to stick around for long. So, the captain asked the passengers to come aboard but to stay ready in preparation for another drop in the water. Being a new sighting of dolphins, this time the dolphins seemed to be more relaxed than before. Nat, Kel and the guests were able to have a good encounter: Kel is pretty sure she saw Cerra (#38) with a male calf, and Niecey (#48). At several points in the day, Stefran (#82) was also present with her calf – we’ve seen so much of them this week! After some time in the water, Kel called for a switch of teams. I was able to enter the water with team 2.
I was last to enter the water, and it seemed like the other guests in the water were following the dolphins in a different direction. As soon as I entered the water, there was a group of dolphins right under the platform. Naturally, I followed this group away from all the people to try to get some good still photos of these beautiful creatures.
The sight of dolphins on Renegade is always a good day. Having the opportunity to observe the dolphins in their natural environment was a breathtaking sight. Nat and I joined the guests for a delicious dinner because the power still had not returned by the time our journey was over. We have about a week left at DCP’s Bimini field site, which is a touchy subject because we both don’t want to leave the island. Thankfully, we still have more adventures to come before that time arrives. Adventure is out there!
Taylor and Nat
Tuesday was another great day out at sea! In the morning, Taylor and I continued our office work with some photo sorting, then right after lunch we met Kel at the Sea Crest to inventory the highly fashionable DCP shirts, tanks and rashguards. I couldn’t help myself and bought a bright green rash guard shirt with the DCP logo on the front. I wear it in the water whenever we snorkel with the dolphins and I absolutely love it. Taylor couldn’t resist either and got same one in bright yellow! We love representing DCP onboard Renegade!
After the inventory we set out around 2:00 to search for dolphins. We made a snorkel stop at Bimini Road so everyone could see the famed “road to Atlantis.” It is a great spot, but Taylor and I had already snorkeled there before, so we decided to skip the real snorkel site and have our own fun swimming around the boat (It doesn’t sound as much fun, but to us it was nice!). Everyone was soon back aboard the boat, and we continued our expedition to look for those dorsal fins. It wasn’t too long until we came across three spotted dolphins. Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36) and Vee (#101) (yes! Romeo & Swoosh were together again) hung around the boat for a while until we were ready to try an encounter. Everyone was able to swim with these three for a little while, but then they seemed to move away. We decided to have some snacks on the boat while we looked for other dolphins. It wasn’t long until Romeo, Vee, and Swoosh led us to another group of spotted dolphins! Now there were about eight dolphins around the boat. Leslie (#80), Tina’s calf #121, and #114 was among the new dolphins we saw that afternoon. Kel thinks Tina is starting to give her calf some space because although we saw Tina’s calf, we didn’t see Tina (though, maybe we’ll notice her on video or in still photos). Time for the little calf to start learning on his own! We had another encounter with these dolphins, during which Tina’s calf was very active. He was swimming all around us! Soon it was time to say goodbye to the dolphins and head back home. It was then leftovers for dinner, wait for the power to come back on, and a quick lights out for Taylor and me so we can do it all again the next day!
Until next time, cheers!
-Nat and Taylor
PS: Remember – time is running out to grab a spot on our August 2019 ecotour. Click here for more info! We it’s short notice, but…..oh, it’s going to be amazing!
Monday was our second boat trip with DCP’s eco-tour group, with Bimini Adventures. The day started with our normal routine of waking up with the sun, getting caught up on our office work, and then having a lunch break. It was an exciting day because we finished the office work that was assigned to us upon our first arrival on the island. We really felt a sense of accomplishment when we finished our last video log. We decided to celebrate a little bit and headed to the beach after lunch to cool off in the crystal-clear water. As soon as we were done with our beach trip, we were met with a power outage. Luckily, we were getting ready to head to the dock, with hopes that the power will return when we were at sea.
We boarded Renegade, put all our equipment in the proper place, and helped all the guests board before we were ready to search for our daily dolphins. It was a hot day to be on a boat, and there was no ocean breeze to cool us down (the wind was ~5 kts). It didn’t take us long before we spotted some splashes up ahead. The captain headed straight for the splashes, and we were met with a big group of juveniles, including Paul (#99), and mother-calf pairs. Nat was excited to see them swimming in infant position! The final count was 13 spotted dolphins that seemed to surround the boat. The tricky thing about this group was that they were moving too fast and didn’t seem interested in slowing down for us. There were also several other boats in the area, all trying to swim with the same group of dolphins – not an ideal situation for the dolphins or the boat operators. After waiting patiently for our turn, the group plus Nat geared up and entered the water. Kel had the MVA to record the dolphins, and Nat had my camera to take some new stills of the dolphins. The dolphins split up into two different groups, and soon they were moving too fast for the swimmers to keep up. I was watching everything from a bird’s eye trying to give signals to the people in the water of the location of the dolphins. The swimmers boarded Renegade and stayed ready for another drop.
After the second encounter, it was my turn to head into the water to take pictures for DCP’s photo-ID catalog. By now the original 13 dolphins joined up with another group making one massive group of dolphins. Kel entered the water with the MVA and I entered the glassy water soon after with my camera. As we were heading toward the dolphins all I saw was this massive ball of juvenile dolphins just beneath the surface. They were more interested in socializing with each other than playing with us humans – which from a research perspective, is exactly what we want. After we observed the dolphins for a little bit they went out of our view and so we did not pursue them. I thought the encounter was over, but the big group of dolphins headed toward us. As we approached the group, I saw Stefran (#082) and her calf swim by. Kel was able to confirm that the sex of the calf was female, so Stefran has a little baby girl with her. Upon further observation Kel suspects that Swoosh (#036) and Romeo (#010) (both pictured here) could be pregnant – that would explain why we haven’t seen them with calves this year and, perhaps, why we’re seeing them together so much. I love the thought of new dolphin calves, soon swimming around in the ocean. After this encounter, Captain Al tried to put people in the water twice more before heading home.
Today was a great day with the dolphins on the perfect glassy water. Though the dolphins weren’t always interested in the humans, we still had a total of 5 encounters yesterday, which was more than I have witnessed thus far. I think we got some good footage of the dolphins, and some still photos that will be useful when updating the catalog. Despite the heat of the scorching sun it was a beautiful day to be on the water – and our guests are absolutely wonderful! Can’t wait for our next adventure!
Taylor and Nat
PS: Curious about Romeo, Swoosh, Stefran & Paul? You learn more about them and the other dolphins through our Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program. Or, join our 11 – 16 August 2019 ecotour program. It’s last minute, but it’s going to be awesome!!