Assistant Professor of Animal Studies, Eckerd College
Dr. Erin Frick is an Assistant Professor of Animal Studies at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. Originally from Sparta, NJ, Erin earned her B.Sc. in Zoology with minors in Animal Behavior and Spanish from the University of New Hampshire. She then went on to complete her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Brain and Behavior Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, working in the Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory with director Dr. Stan Kuczaj. Erin has been active in research for more than 10 years, and her research interests include animal behavior, animal welfare and conservation, and applied behavior analysis in animal models. She has experience conducting research with wild animals and animals housed in managed-care facilities, including: bottlenose dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, sea otters, Asian small-clawed otters, hippopotamus, polar bears, sea lions, Pacific walrus, sea turtles, zebrafish, and rats. Dr. Erin Frick currently serves as co-director of the Animal Studies Research Collaborative at Eckerd College, and is the Director of the Frick Animal Behavior Laboratory, where she and her students are collaborating with the DCP on analyzing data on bottlenose dolphin and Atlantic spotted dolphin behavior and acoustics collected by the DCP in the field. 'Dr Erin' is passionate about educating the public and and furthering research on dolphin behavior and communication!
Today, we share the last day observations from each student individually.
Victor: The morning was data but also a chance to say goodbye to the dolphins. I’m still not sure who is who but I can recognize 1 or 2 … especially Poli. The other highlight for me today was snorkeling in the afternoon at Bailey’s Key near the dolphin area. This made getting my covid test in Coxen Hole and away from the dolphins ok.
Alessandro: Today was a relaxing day. After the last data collection, we had one of the best snorkeling sessions around. We took our time and swam from the shore dive and saw the coral reef trees for the restoration project. It was a new experience. Lunch was a very delicious falafel. I tried to watch the football but I decided it was better to be in the Caribbean and enjoy the day. I said bye to the dolphins but not a forever bye.
Marica: This afternoon I saw an eagle ray while snorkeling, and I was able to record it feeding, which was neat.
Laura: We woke up and we unfortunately did our last data collection for this week. The dolphins were more active today from the surface. We saw a few breaches. We got to say goodbye to the dolphins and some of them came close to the platforms, which was nice. After breakfast, we went snorkeling and we saw the coral trees. There were a lot of big fishes near the trees. While swimming back, we swam over the eel grass and all got a few bites from the jellyfish larva. We saw the dolphins again in the afternoon but from outside their enclosure when we were snorkeling.
Riccardo: Today I touched dolphins for the last time. I enjoyed very much this afternoon’s snorkeling session because the water was clear and warm and we had no rush to finish … we had all the time we wanted to enjoy the afternoon snorkeling.
Annalisa: It was a quiet day mostly “off” but the best moment was when I was able to take some video on my own of the dolphins. And, Bailey seemed very interested in my GoPro. Having the dolphins all around was wonderful!
Sonja: Had a nice morning, although as bit sad because we had to say goodbye to the dolphins. The rest of the day was relaxing and enjoying a bit of free time and snorkeling. And we finished the night with a quiz of 27 dolphin ID images, which was quite fun! (And Davide and I tied with recognizing 18 of the 27 images!).
Davide: The trip to the coral trees (snorkeling from shore) was a nice moment together and seeing the trees. It was nice but also sad to say goodbye to the dolphins. I will miss the little ones – Sandy, Stan & Ronnie … Ronnie is adult but I’ll still miss him, too.
Shannon: We had a nice last morning with the dolphins and they were very friendly and came to say goodbye at the platform. I got sunburned when I went paddle-boarding. I avoided it all week but got sun this week and have a really cool sandal tan! We saw the dolphins one last time in the afternoon and also snorkeled and saw an eagle ray. And, I am covid negative, so I can go home!
It was a great week and we all learned lots!
The UofB stvslmv group
This morning, surprise! We collected data with Kathleen’s observations. The dolphins were a bit more active this morning compared to yesterday. We saw some breaching. And Bailey did a weird curved posture for Laura (see cover photo) while Stan did a “fluke-stand” for her. (Thank you, Laura).
The weather was better with sunshine and a slight breeze. Sometimes the dolphins were chasing each other at the surface. And, several dolphins paid a visit to platform 1 to try to entice us to play … away from our observations. The space use data collection is much more easy to collect than when we began and the scans don’t feel as rushed any more.
Here, Sonja, Alessandro, and Victor conduct a space use scan from the Palapa.
After data collection, we stopped by our rooms to collect our gear.
We came back for a quick breakfast before two snorkels from the boat. On the snorkels, some of us were lucky and saw a squid, stingray, lionfish, triggerfish, damsel fish, fairy basslets, sergeant majors, wrasse, and barracuda. We also saw grouper and parrot fish. They were two good snorkels – the first was off Man-o-war key and the second was off the reef closer to AKR.
The reef looked beautiful from the surface – thanks Manon for sharing this photo!
After lunch we had a talk from Jen on coral restoration. Some of us might try to snorkel out to the coral “Christmas trees” tomorrow to take a look at them. The talk was interesting and it was informative to learn how we might actually be able to protect the reefs and encourage new growth.
We watched the morning video and saw Lenca, Stan and Tank pay way too much attention to Kathleen’s fins. We will have a couple of hours “off” before our night snorkel.
The night snorkel presented us with “cold” water! But, we saw a big puffer fish, an octopus, a couple of lobsters, and other nighttime critters. The animals made the cold water worth it!
After dinner, we saw a spotted eagle ray adjacent to the water taxi stand. A great day!
The UofB stvslmv group
We did our morning observations and data collection. No sunrise this morning but a cloudy day and windy. And the dolphins were quiet, sleeping it seemed – maybe like a hangover in humans.
After breakfast, we prepared ourselves to get ready for our encounter and snorkel with the dolphins. We had more than Bailey during our encounter – French and Tilly were chasing each other and trying to swim between us. Tilly seemed to be hiding behind our legs watching for French. And Bailey was also keeping an eye on Tank because he seemed to be half-interested in his encounter program. When Bailey and Tank did behaviors together, Tank seemed distracted but came around to Bailey. Not all of us had our pictures taken with Bailey … but there were four of us who did document our meeting with Bailey.
Here is Marica and Bailey
And, Shannon and Bailey
And Sonja and Bailey
When the dolphin kisses you on the cheek, we did not realize how much pressure they exerted – See Davide with Bailey to get an idea!
Our swim followed the encounter. Annalisa did not expect to be able to hear them before seeing them in the water. Shannon did not realize that they could be constantly vocalizing. Laura kept hearing the sound get louder and then started when she realized the dolphin was right behind her! Sonja did not even realize that Sandy leaped just behind her. And all of us had 2-3-4 dolphins zip around us and leap near us and we were amazed that they did not touch us or hit us. Shannon had a great sea grass game with Calli and another dolphin. Sandy mouthed several of our fins and seemed to like Riccardo’s white fins especially.
After the swim, we stayed at Bailey’s Key to test out the MVA – outside to the north of the main lagoon area. It was easier and light than it looks to swim with the MVA.
Lunch was a welcome reward for a day spent in the water. And, at lunch a few of us could have easily slept at the table. So, after lunch we took a bit of a chill-out on the small Anthony’s Key beach … to bask in the sun and catch a power nap before heading to the RIMS classroom for a sea turtle lecture and more details about the PSP study by Manon and Kathleen.
Our lesson on sea turtles was good – a nice recap on some of the topics we had during our large marine vertebrate lectures. Then, we had a presentation by Manon about PSP (pair swim position) that was interesting … to learn about the different positions that dolphins will assume when swimming with others.
Here we listen intently!
Then we watched the video from the morning. And, we will wrap up this field report now so we can head to the fiesta night to enjoy ribs, limbo, and Garifuna dancers.
The UofB stvslmv group
P.S. here are two photos from yesterday’s space use data collection observations!
Each student presents their summary of the day. The cover photo is Bailey playing with water – Thank you, Manon.
Laura: we woke up and we went to collect data at 6 AM. We did a great job and are more comfortable with the data collection. I’m focused and faster when I search for dolphins for the space use data collection. I also liked learning how to log the videotapes and how patience and focus are important when doing those analyses. This morning when we finished the first part of data with Kathleen, there was a dolphin that came close to the palapa and then vocalized. A second dolphin pushed the vocalizer away …
Shannon: my favorite part of today was when we went snorkeling and all the dolphins were looking at us – we were outside of the main lagoon and outside by the fence. Maury kept bringing us a rock and tried to get us to take it through the netting. Sandy was pulling on a piece of the netting. It was really fun to try to ID the dolphin underwater for the first time – in real life, not from video.
Riccardo: Finally, I was able to learn one name of the dolphins – because I was watching directly, not from video, but I remembered Bailey. It was a very intimate moment … we staired at each other and played the game of who will blink first. Bailey blinked first.
Annalisa: I enjoyed today to see how the students worked together and how they had fun not only working (for data collection) but also on their “free time.” And I am happy I saw an agouti as I came up for dinner. It was very cute and funny the way it looked at the fellow who was cleaning the pathway.
Marica: I liked everything today! I loved doing the observation and the work with the dolphins. Her peers said Marica was exceptional at knowing where Kathleen was at all times.
Sonja: Today was a perfect sandwich day – the morning was data collection and then the middle of the day was learning more about the IDs and logging video and then the afternoon was seeing them underwater and remembering them. A perfect sandwich day!
Alessandro: We had a lovely data sampling and discussions with Kathleen (and Manon) in the morning before a nice veggie burger. In the afternoon, we had a bit of free time and did some snorkeling around the dolphins adjacent to the main lagoon … and I am still a bit confused about recognizing the dolphins. I had a nice moment swimming off into the sunset with no fins before returning to reality. This is a nice reality.
Victor: I liked the first moment of the morning before we do the data sampling that the dolphins were playful at the platform. I was able to touch the dolphins and they were whistling and vocalizing. It was also a good data off collecting data.
Davide: I like that we are gearing up with data collection – for the space use data, we are getting better with activity levels and the grid (Thank you, Manon, for the photo below), and we are also getting better with the photo-ID. And we have a very supportive group – we can talk about everything and anything. I had some photos of the dolphin acrobatics today.
The UofB stvslmv group
We woke up and prepared to collect morning surface observations and space use data from 6 am; actually, we took the water taxi at 6 am to Bailey’s Key. The dolphins were having weird zoomies across the lagoon. They were giving us a private show – there were numerous leaps and breaches and lots of vocal behavior. This was a small group near the palapa socializing (Thank you, Davide).
We are still working on our data collection techniques.
After breakfast, we had a class to learn about the DCP history and current research projects. We spent a couple of hours in the RIMS classroom and some of us were chilly while others were warm. We also watched this morning’s video and learned more about the individual ID marks and scars and tried to recognize the individual dolphins. It’s gonna take a while to recognize all of them! We also compared the differences between underwater and surface observations and the details we could get from each vantage point. And, we discussed the differences between kin and non-kin behaviors and interactions.
Lunch was followed by a snorkel to a reef off West End. The reef was filled with fish but we hope to see the turtles on our next outing. Still, we saw a puffer fish and a barracuda. We saw the queen angel fish, triggerfish, and a few schools of blue tang. And we saw a black durgeon. There were also lots of scuba divers below us. We shared the reef and played with their bubbles. The trip back was uneventful.
We spent some time over at Bailey’s watching and trying to identify the dolphins. We hung out with the dolphins and Rocky was quite talkative. It was a nice way to spend an hour or two this afternoon before supper.
As we write this blog in the lobby, we had a tangent to look at some still photos of the dolphins to try our hand at recognizing them. We have a bit of work to do! And, we have a live music background keeping us dancing in our seats.
The UofB small terrestrial vertebrates studying large marine vertebrates (stvslmv) group
P.S. the bat species is Artibeus jamaicensis. See last night’s blog for the photo of this species. And, they are multiplying as we have 1-2 at a few rooms in the eves.