Bahamas 2000
We Swam with Dolphins!!
24 Jun 2021

We Swam with Dolphins!!

We snorkeled with dolphins! But, of course, first we did observations – and hopefully our smoothest ones yet – for space use data and the surface observations when Kathleen was in the lagoon with the dolphins. There was a lot of aerial activity when Kathleen got in the water. We saw them circle Kathleen a few times … they were close. Calli and a few other dolphins really wanted to play with Ashley and Sean. Maybe this was foreshadowing because Calli was the dolphin we met during the encounter. Overall, the dolphins were very playful this morning. And you can see our group shot with Calli on front!

Here's a close-up of Calli.

Breakfast was yummy and we also got a chance to speak with and listen to Don Julio, founder and owner of Anthony’s Key Resort. We got to see how involved he is with everything here at the resort. He was familiar with every aspect of the facility and did not seem frustrated or stressed but spoke highly of the guests and the employees. It was very obvious how much Don Julio cares about all aspects of the resort. He said everyone should laugh every day and he said his job is to please you (the guest). And, Don Julio also asked us how he could make our experience better … which was unique to us because he is the owner but was so involved.

We had to leave our chat with Don Julio to head over to Bailey’s Key for our dolphin encounter and swim. We met Calli who gave us French kisses! Kenly is Calli’s trainer and he introduced us to Calli’s behaviors and mannerisms. He also told us that Calli is not doing aerial behaviors because she is pregnant. Kenly shared with us his history of working with Calli and the story behind her name. It was a great session and their relationship was very evident and very affectionate.

After the encounter, we had the swim! It was amazing! Each morning, we’ve seen the dolphin behaviors from the surface but today it was like being part of a Planet Earth documentary. It was an honor to have Calli take some grass from my (Ashley’s) hand. The swim gave us a whole new perspective from what we already have – that is, surface versus underwater observation platforms and what they offer of dolphin behavior and interactions. I (Marc) felt more comfortable in the water snorkeling this morning – especially after 2-3 snorkel sessions – and it was appreciated to be this comfy with the dolphins.

Lunch … we worked up an appetite! Excellent dessert – a pineapple tart!

Our afternoon began with a talk from Teri, Assistant Director of RIMS. She told us about the RIMS history and the projects and research ongoing here at RIMS. Then we watched this morning’s video data with the RIMS interns and improved our ID skills even more. We all know Stan well since he was all about Kathleen’s fins this morning!

Then, Shane and Kathleen made us ask questions.

Tonight is Fiesta Night – we will have BBQ and learn about the Garifuna dancers and culture.


Dr. Kanatous’ Kindergartners (aka Roatan Rams 2021)

Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Octopuses (et al.)
23 Jun 2021

Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Octopuses (et al.)

We finally did both the surface observations and the space use data collection during Kathleen’s morning session. We felt more comfortable with the whole process. Standing on the finger dock, Marc saw more activity underwater and it was much easier to see into the water and across the lagoon when standing rather than sitting on the docks. The dolphins were active but not doing lots above the water or at the surface. There were some speed swims and pec slaps and tail slaps. There was also quite a lot of pair swims and much rolling over each other.

Breakfast was welcome – it’s the most important meal of the day! And it was delicious.

Then we went to the classroom for Kathleen’s presentation about communication. It was interesting to learn the nuances related to language and communication and that they are not the same. Kirsten noted that she did not know dolphins could not smell, though they have a sense of taste.

We had a bit of a break and then lunch and then the afternoon started with a talk by Jennifer, RIMS Education Director, about sea turtles. The sea turtle conservation information was fascinating and we learned more about natal homing and that beaches that might not have been used could be rehabilitated for sea turtles by moving nests and replacing their natal beach with a new beach. We learned also about the different species of turtles and their nesting, hatching and migratory patterns as they grow.

After the sea turtle talk, we watched the morning data video session. We shared this video with the RIMS interns and shared ID confirmation from the video of the dolphins. (CSU did great!)

We had about an hour and a half to prepare for our very FIRST night snorkel. We saw a puffer fish, a lionfish, several lobsters, a big octopus. And, Shane rescued an old iron that we learned after the fact had been a new home to two tiny octopuses. The cover photo is the octopus on Shane’s thumb before we returned it to the sea. (Thank you, Kirsten, for the photo!) It clung to Shane’s thumb before we were able to say bye.

Dinner was awesome and we were able to share stories and recap the day.

Tomorrow promises to be another great day!


Dr. Kanatous’ Kindergartners (aka Roatan Rams 2021)

Crazy Coral and Silly Snorkeling! (and Pseudo-dolphins)
22 Jun 2021

Crazy Coral and Silly Snorkeling! (and Pseudo-dolphins)

Of course, the day began as a typical Monday, even in the field. Manon and Kathleen got locked out of their room – before getting the gear (MVA, data sheets, snorkel gear) for our early morning observation session and data collection. This was at 5:15 AM! The front desk opens at 6 AM … they both did the 52 steps from taxi stand to front desk before meeting with Alexza for the spare key.

After the key fiasco, and Manon’s fourth straight day venting to the airline company (to remain unnamed), they finally found her bag! Of course, her bag is still somewhere in Europe and won’t actually be here until Thursday (we hope) but it still exists! And before our ride to Bailey’s we were observing nature and saw the puffer fish in our cover photo (Thank you Alexa or Alison!)

So, after these two sagas, the rest of the day was a piece of cake! Kathleen is just learning that three students overslept for the meet time this morning … so it would seem we all had a typical Monday morning start! And our day improved significantly as the day progressed.

Data collection in the morning was a great learning experience but the space use data was sort of a failure (according to the students) … mostly because clarity in the instructions and directions and understanding of what we were supposed to do. We also were juggling the regular surface observations with the space use data collection.

Thank you Marc for this panorama view of the main lagoon.

Breakfast was delicious and followed by a lecture on diving physiology from Shane. We loved the lecture because it took a lot of what we’ve learned before in other classes that were “weed-out topics” and Shane’s lecture brought everything together and made it more clear and understandable. We feel like we learned more because we were sort of put on the spot a bit … and we were challenged to think which was unique. This was our first in-person lecture in a year and a half … Shane really made us think and respond to his questions.

Lunch was meatball sandwiches or shrimp salad or veggie pizza … and a different but good carrot cake. This was the sustenance we needed for our boat snorkel session. This boat snorkel was the first time several of us EVER jumped off a perfectly good boat into the water to see what lives below. And we survived this emotional experience. Seeing in person what we have studied and watched in film over the years was a spiritual experience that did not really feel real but was truly exciting. Getting a bit scared because my snorkel buddy was gone and then I realized he was 15-20 feet below me!

We took a freshwater rinse together in the pool! Kathleen brought the MVA to the pool and we all got to practice using the MVA to record pseudo-dolphins in the pool (i.e., us in the pool). We’re grateful (and honored) to be participants in the DCP research and to be assisting Kathleen. To be able to hold the equipment that she uses to collect data and see what it feels like and how it works was a surreal and cool experience.  

It was a good day and we have another tomorrow … hopefully with everyone hearing our alarms and not getting locked out!


Dr. Kanatous’ Kindergartners (aka Roatan Rams 2021)

Happy Father’s Day!
21 Jun 2021

Happy Father’s Day!

We have another set of observations from our student group.

Brittany: incredibly long day but incredibly interesting day. It was really cool being able to see the dolphins in the morning and how active they were. And it was awesome to go snorkeling and see all the fish and coral. A long day but I learned a lot.

Marc: It was amazing to start the day seeing the dolphins and looking across to Bailey’s Key and not seeing lots of movement but then getting in the boat to the key and seeing their activity pick up after we arrived and throughout the session this morning. There was more activity than I thought there would be.

Alexa: I loved starting off the day getting to see how the dolphins behaved, even before breakfast it was neat getting to see the dolphins’ routine in the morning and seeing the scientific part of the research. And, in all this heat and humidity it was very refreshing to snorkel and to see all the species of fish I’ve never before seen.

Emily: Snorkeling was definitely a new experience but it was cool to see all the colors of the coral. My favorite was the common sea fan and all the little fish.

Ashley: I had a lot of new experiences today and all of them were super educating and interesting and I really enjoyed snorkeling for the first time and all that goes along with that. I also really really enjoyed getting to be close to the dolphins during feeding time because it was a good chance to examine their identifying marks.

Sarai: Today I was especially appreciative of our mentors Kathleen and Dr. Kanatous because today was a new experience – the snorkeling. The mentors fostered a lot of trust and that was very important to me.

Kirsten: I was fed a lot of information today in the most positive way. I learned so many things – for example what kids of fish are on the Roatan reefs. I got to practice identifying the dolphins and getting better knowing which dolphin is which by their marks. I learned the answers to some questions about dolphin sleep and I received clarification about dolphin physiology by doing pushups. (Thank you for supplying today’s photo of Lenca and French (on right).)

Nathan: A really eventful day and I think my favorite parts were the fish identification parts. And, we learned all the different signals the trainers use to ask the dolphins to do things. Meredith showed us the baby retrieval signal to ask Bailey to bring Tank back over to her.

Alison: it was really cool this morning when we were with the dolphins – seeing them come up to our group and to see they really wanted to interact with us. And, hearing the trainers talk about the dolphins and to see the types of training they do with the dolphins for enrichment was super cool.

Sean: The morning was alive with color and excitement for a day filled with good work. The data observation group I worked with was great and I appreciated their hard work and diligence to do good observations. The dolphins Bailey, Calli and Sandy (I think) came by our station. Learning the social curiosity and intelligence of these creatures is a privilege and consider it grace to continue to spend time with the RIMS dolphin pod.

Until tomorrow, we look forward to another great day!

Our new moniker is:

Dr. Kanatous’ Kindergartners (aka Roatan Rams 2021)

Our first day on Roatan at AKR!
20 Jun 2021

Our first day on Roatan at AKR!

Our first blog entry is everyone’s impressions of the day.

Emily: I’d been to Honduras before but not to this tropical of an area so when I got here it was amazing to see all the trees and the beauty. When we arrived at the resort, my favorite part was meeting the dolphins and seeing how playful they are.

Sarai: I really value biodiversity with people, animals, and plants. And, getting to see something in person is very different from seeing it on a screen – e.g., dolphins. Seeing them up close is very different. And also seeing mangroves is very exciting, especially to see aerial roots. Hanging out with zoology students is very different from how things are normally for me.

Kirsten: At first, I was really nervous because I’m an anxious person. Getting to the airport at 2:30 AM and getting off the plane and going to a new plane and getting delayed and waiting in line for customs’ paperwork were all stressful. Before arriving to AKR, I was not sure if the stress would be worth it but then getting here and seeing the resort and the wildlife and the hermit crabs and the dolphins and the iguanas … it changed my perspective drastically!

Mark: Flying in was beautiful and seeing the coral reef over Belize and how it continued to Roatan was amazing. And to see the dolphins and how interactive they are … and how they look at you took me by surprise, it’s not like my dogs, but more like a person.

Allison: The travel here was very stressful with delays and paperwork scrutiny but getting here was rewarding. Being around the dolphins was interesting because how they interacted with each other and how they paid attention to us was similar to the wolf dogs I work with. It is fun to be here with everyone who is so passionate about what they do.

Ashley: It’s my first time traveling out of the country and 2nd or 3rd time traveling to the beach, ever. It’s been breathtaking to see the scenery and to see dolphins up close for the first time. And I am a shy person so I was worried about talking to people but in this one day I made more connections than I expected. (thank you for the cover photo of the octopus!)

Sean: Navigating the waters of the predeparture airport experience was humbling but a great learning opportunity. Upon arrival, getting to see the beauty of Roatan was also just a great transition from a stagnant covid season. Seeing the dolphins and realizing the opportunity that will be had - career building experience – to learn how to ID them and chat with trainers is a great boon in my future to come.

Brittany: I’ve never been to Honduras before, but it’s been beautiful and the weather is awesome. It was cool to be so close to the dolphins. That was cool. It’s exceeded my expectations.

Alexa: I’ve been in awe by the whole scene – getting here and seeing everything. Seeing where the dolphins are and how close to the wild setting it is. Being on the docks and watching them shows a connection to the dolphins and that the research is a large part of this place – it’s not just focused on tourism.

Nathan: I was anxious at the start of the day and getting the negative covid test but after arriving it was very calming. And even though we only spent 20 min with the dolphins, it set the mood for the trip. It is awesome to walk around the island and to see an octopus – we were watching the sunset by the shore dive beach and it was hanging out by the rocks!

Manon: I would like my luggage please … the young dolphins have grown hugely since January 2020!

Shane: Safe, sound, and we’re off! Everyone was very patient and rolled with the punches.


Roatan Rams 2021!

Travel Prep, Packing, Last Minute Details
18 Jun 2021

Travel Prep, Packing, Last Minute Details

The week before travel (especially field research and field courses) always feels hectic, even when extra time is set aside to pack, prepare, and just get ready for two weeks of data collection and field courses! This week has been no different. And, the added logistics related to Covid-19 negative tests, vaccination cards, and pre-check registration(s) had all of us double checking our packing lists and paperwork (multiple times!)!

Shane and I coordinated with the CSU student group (who you’ll meet in tomorrow’s blog post) to get everyone’s precheck documentation completed, and to answer any last minute questions. Yeterday morning, I heard from Manon that she arrived yesterday to Roatan and Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR), even though her luggage seems to have taken a detour! And, Manon let me know she went over to Bailey’s Key to see the dolphins and she had a lovely afternoon! I look forward to the same view tomorrow afternoon!

Today is the final packing and preparations, getting boarding passes, getting to the airport (tonight for some of the group, early tomorrow for the rest of us), and just enjoying the buildup of excitement for our first field course of 2021!

Stay tuned over the next two weeks for daily updates from our student groups about their experiences, the dolphins (of course), and our research.


Kathleen (soon to be joined by our first group)

DCP Dolphin Lesson: Dolphin Personalities


In this Dolphin Lesson, DCP's friend Dr. Erin joins again! She discusses questions like: Do dolphins have personalities? How do researchers find out? What types of personality characteristics have we seen in dolphins? How does that compare to what personality traits we use to describe humans?

Dolphin Lessons are geared toward ages 6-13, but everyone is welcome. Nothing to do in advance – just tune and enjoy!

You can find more of DCP's webinars here on our website under the Education Tab or you can visit us on YouTube at our channel: Dolphin Communication Project!


Original Airdate: 15 June 2021

DCP Deep Dive: Investigating Strandings in the Sarasota, FL Area

*Content warning: images of stranded or dead animals and/or necropsies may be shown during this talk. Examples of animals who did not survive their stranding or injury may be discussed.*

In this Deep Dive, Amber Lea Kincaid, a stranding biologist with Mote Marine Laboratory's Stranding Investigations Program discusses how Mote responds to sick, injured, distressed, and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles in Sarasota, FL, and the surrounding area. Specific cases are highlighted, along with general information about how Mote and their partners use strandings to conserve Florida's protected species.

This program is geared toward ages 14 and up, but all are welcome.


Original Airdate: 10 June 2021

DCP Deep Dive: Driver-barrier foraging--a cooperative technique

In this Deep Dive, Becca Hamilton discusses Driver-Barrier foraging, a unique cooperative foraging tactic used by certain members of the bottlenose dolphin population in Cedar Key, Florida. For her master's thesis, Becca investigated the vocal communication occurring between individuals in order for them to coordinate their efforts in time and space.

This program is geared toward ages 14 and up, but all are welcome.

You can find more DCP DD and DL webinars here on our website under the education menu tab or on our YouTube channel.

Original Airdate: May 27, 2021

DCP Dolphin Lesson: How to Draw the Biggest Dolphin – an Orca!

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.

Contact Us

Write to us via snail-mail at:

Dolphin Communication Project
P.O. Box 7485
Port St. Lucie, FL, 34985

Email us:

info {at} dcpmail {dot} org


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