In this Deep Dive, DCP is joined by Kat DeStefano. A professional SCUBA diver since 2005, volunteer and seasonal staff at New England Aquarium Rescue Rehab department for 10 years, and DCP alum (Intern class of 2003-04), Kat has been studying marine animal behavior anecdotally for 20 years. Kat covers basic sea turtle biology and species ID (with a focus on Caribbean species), as well as the rehab and conservation of the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle.
This program is geared toward ages 14 and up, but all will enjoy Kat's presentation and stories.
Check out more webinars from DCP here on the Education tab of our website or on our YouTube channel (Dolphin Communication Project!)
Original Airdate: February 11, 2020
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.
In this Deep Dive, DCP is joined by Dr. Nicole (DCP post-doc at FIU). She gives a general introduction to social network analysis, a technique Nicole used to understand the Bimini spotted dolphin social system. She briefly shows how the technique can be used to compare the different types of data that we collect from the dolphins and how this type of analysis can help us better understand relationships between individuals.
This program is geared toward ages 14 and up, but all should enjoy the topic and the presentation.
Check out more webinars here on DCP's website (www.dolphincommunicationproject.org) under our Education tab! Or check out DCP on YouTube for our webinars, also!
Original Airdate: January 28, 2021
This has been a very productive week here at Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR) and The Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) for me and DCP. With Ron’s assistance, I was able to collect about 6.5 hours of video data with the MVA and GoPro cameras. (I’ll be busy for a few months logging these clips!) The weather mostly held for us – the underwater visibility was great and the current strength was variable (I earned my breakfast most mornings!). It was wonderful (invigorating and reviving) to see the dolphins at Bailey’s Key but also to touch base with the people at AKR and RIMS. And, to know that folks are not just surviving the global pandemic but doing well. The safety protocols in place are focused on making sure all visitors and staff remain healthy and safe – from maintained social distancing and mask wearing to numerous hand sanitizer stations (and more).
I look forward to returning to Roatan this spring with groups and to resuming our research and education programs to share with students and eco-tour participants the wonders of our natural world, especially from the underwater perspective.
Kathleen & Ron
P.S. this blog's cover photo was from the early morning session yesterday ... a great way to remember this week here at AKR/RIMS!
Our last day of data collection went well, with the exception that the stronger current was back. Thus, I got a good workout with each underwater session! The day was full of play – moms with their calves, young dolphins (both male and female) were wrestling again, and there was seaweed and seagrass play, too! I was invited a few times to play with seagrass, and it was tempting, but I remained the observer to collect the video. I.e., I try to remain an impartial observer when recording video data.
Ron’s dive in the afternoon was to Pete’s Place – lots of fish and lots of sponges. It was walls, canyons, channels – a mixed reef topography.
The afternoon was spent cleaning and drying gear, packing the MVA and other gear in prep for tomorrow’s travel day. It’s been a week – but it went by swiftly and feels shorter than the 7 days! I’ll have a summary tomorrow before travel.
Kathleen & Ron
P.S. oops … sorry not to have posted this blog late yesterday!
It is amazing how swiftly we can get into a pattern … early morning coffee, plus pastry, then data collection (twice) followed by logging notes, lunch, and then an afternoon dive for Ron and video review for me. This is a pattern I welcome!! And, one we have followed each day this week. Once more tomorrow …
I was greeted by continued good underwater visibility, though there was a bit of freshwater from an early rain squall at the surface. Several dolphins greeted me on entry (see cover photo of Stan, Tank, Champ, Elli, Lenca). This morning’s data collection also featured several “wrestle” sessions among the dolphins. Usually, it’s 3-4 male dolphins rolling all over each other while periodically mounting each other and chasing each other. Lots of whitewater and bubbles are associated with these events! Elli and Poli also joined in several of these bouts this morning. In these photos you can see a bit of the wrestling and also Elli, Stan and Tank!
The mom/calf pairs stayed away from the fray of these rambunctious younger dolphins. Still, I was able to observe Sandy and Tilly doing a bit more hunting and fish chasing. And, Alita and Rona were social – Alita was nudging Rona along and they also shared some pectoral fin contacts. I spent a total of ~45 minutes observing the dolphins during this first morning session. Once out on the platform, I usually spend a few minutes observing any of the dolphins who come by. As I was doing this, I heard a loud splash … thinking a dolphin leaped nearby, I scanned in front me … but nothing. Not even a ripple. Then, I heard the security guard yelling … and turned around to see Ron bobbing in the water adjacent to the dock! He’d spied what he thought was a Styrofoam ball and tried to retrieve it only to lose his balance. The item was biodegradable and turned out to be a pealed pineapple! Ron’s ego was the only thing bruised during this incident as he walked out of the shallow water. Ron has the distinction of being the only person to accidentally fall into the water – in a back holding area – during a DCP eco-tour to AKR/RIMS!
The second morning observation session was shorter because the visibility decreased. This gave us more time to log the surface observations/data and then review the video footage. Neat stuff!
Lunch was delicious and Ron’s dive was “shitty” … but not because of what you might think … I was confused when he returned with a huge smile … and told me the dive was “shitty” in response to my query “how was your dive?” Turns out, the dive site is called “Green Door Outhouse Reef!” The outhouse is no longer present having been dispatched by a hurricane of the past. But, the site was originally named because of a vivid green door on an outhouse along the shore for where this reef is. Ron tells me it is often a night-dive spot. They saw a turtle, scorpion toad fish, crabs, a grouper at a cleaning station, French angle fish, and many more along the wall that makes up the reef in this spot. Everyone had a great time!
Tonight’s dinner was Fiesta Night, which is typically a buffet dinner with fun activities on Anthony’s Key. Because of social distancing, dinner was in the dining room and there were no activities … still, the dinner was BBQ and very delicious! Some guests chatted, from 6+ feet away as the tables are spaced, which was not quite the same as the limbo contest or crab races. It was a good evening.
Tomorrow is my last day for data collection on this trip. Until then,
Kathleen & Ron
The morning was very quiet and I woke early to greet the day and watch the sun brighten the sky! I also watched an Egret get breakfast before we prepped for data collection. I was delighted by nearly zero current during our first observation this morning. Of course, I think some of the dolphins took every advantage of the clear water and no current because there were rough-and-tumble social groups in several spots in the lagoon at the same time. Ron filled two slates this morning with his notes! Stan, Champ, and Tank alternated playing with each other and with my fins. Lenca spent much of the morning with Lenca, which was fine by me. I also watched Calli and Poli take turns with Rocky and Rona, the newest additions. Maury and Alita hovered nearby whenever their calves were with someone else. Tilly did more hunting today … I am not sure what she might have seen, nor the fish she might have stirred up but then neither were a few other dolphins as they checked out the coral head Tilly focused on … seemingly to no avail! (see photo)
The second session was a bit more “quiet” behaviorally because French, Champ, Lenca, and Stan were in the back area working on other training behaviors. It was pleasant to swim without someone pulling at my fins! And, I was pleased to be able to spend a bit of time observing Gracie, Ritchie and Ronnie … the latter two also spent a bit of time interested in Tilly. Sandy and Tank spent some time wrestling in the middle of the lagoon area while Poli alloparented Rocky and Bailey swam with Rona. The morning yielded more than an hour of video in two sessions. The visibility was so good that I know we’ll be able to log and confirm IDs of dolphins in the foreground and background of these videos!
The afternoon was punctuated by a heavy downpour that lasted about 30-40 minutes but was during lunch. It did not impede Ron’s afternoon dive. They went Gibson’s Bight and the rain did not impact the visibility poorly. Ron said they saw three seahorses, several eels and at the end of the dive a sea turtle made an appearance.
Our afternoon was spent reviewing the video and planning for tomorrow’s day … more of the same! Data collection and diving.
Kathleen & Ron
P.S. For all our previous student and eco-tour participants, we would be lacking if we did not mention the delicious meals! Tonight’s was vegetable sea bass … which meant the fish was baked with a covering of vegetables that gave a succulent flavor!
The morning dawned calm with a slight breeze and I experienced a mild current and good visibility underwater. I was a happy dolphin researcher! Ron was also happy to stay dry while logging surface observations. And, there was much social activity above the water, as well as below the surface this morning! Of course, Lenca, Stan, Champ, and Tank repeated their fascination with my fins but I was VERY surprised by Ronnie’s behavior early in the first morning session! Ronnie seemed to get agitated with Stan when the latter was pulling at my fins. So much so that Ronnie chased Stan away from me and then swam a circle around me … almost as if to say “there, you’ve a few minutes of peace!” Of course, I am being very anthropomorphic with that sentiment. But, if you’ve followed along with my blogs from RIMS over the years, you will know that Ronnie has always been fascinated by my fins … until this session! Ronnie and Ritchie spent the remainder of the morning following Gracie. The photo you see is of Ritchie (left) and Ronnie (right) behind Stan, who is looking at me! (i.e., pre-chase!)
This morning also brought two intriguing observations of Tilly. The first had her contort in the water and “kick at the water” somewhat close to a shallow coral head – cavitating a few tiny air bubbles from the water. She did this a few times and, at the last one, I saw what might have been “fish bits” (I need to check the video to be sure.) Along with this same type of behavior, Tilly and Sandy were “puffing” water at a different coral head to push at the fish, or so it seemed. I shared those observations with Teri and she said that Tilly and Sandy like to hunt for crabs and tiny fish. It was a hoot! The second observation of Tilly was about 2/3 through the first morning session and I noticed a dolphin up-side-down at the surface and slapping her right pec fin on the surface. Ron noted this action too and I was able to confirm that it was Tilly … and she swam about 100 m from one side of the lagoon toward the other doing this behavior! No idea why but she finished and swam back by me underwater with Sandy above her. Very cool!
Ron did the early afternoon dive again while I transferred footage and reviewed some of the clips. I also got a chance to briefly chat with Teri about our research plans and we’ll continue that conversation a bit each day this week. And, the sun made more of an appearance this afternoon requiring me to apply sunblock! Hurray!!
Tomorrow morning will start with our sixth underwater data collection session. My fingers are crossed for continued good underwater visibility and calm seas, as well as socializing dolphins who might consider ignoring me!
Kathleen & Ron
It might have been raining topside, but the underwater visibility was great! And, the dolphins were playful! While it’s true that Lenca, Stan, Tank, and Champ thought my fins were their long-lost toys, the dolphins also had fun playing with the seaweed and sea grasses. The current was still there and moving the flora along at a swift pace. Calli, Lenca, and Bailey each tried to entice me to play seaweed fetch, or maybe toss, with them! It was hard to decline, but I did until just before I got out and the MVA was on the platform. Then, we shared a toss or two.
Ronnie and Ritchie still have their sights set on Gracie, who made a few slow passes by me in the deeper water. Bailey seemed to toggle between her son, Tank, who was very interested in my fins, and Rona with Alita nearby. French and Champ spent much time together with a few chases and several passes by me.
My second session of the morning was about 1.5 hours after the first one and the weather was much the same, with the exception that it was a downpour! Thankfully, Ron had his rain poncho and was able to continue with surface observations. The underwater visibility was less than earlier and the top foot was blurry from the rain. Still, it was a second good session with much social behavior observed and recorded!
Ron did a dive this afternoon while I logged the footage from the morning and began sketching the dolphin ID sheets for this session. The dive was nice (Melissa’s Reef) despite being a bit surge-y depending on the depth over the reef. And, Ron was glad to get back in the water, since his last dive was January 2020 – pre-COVID 19!
The rain lessened by late afternoon and we have high hopes for a drier day (at least morning?) tomorrow. Data collection will begin at 7:30 AM, as it did today … and maybe we’ll have good visibility and a slackened current. (fingers crossed!)
Kathleen & Ron
I had a slow morning that was punctuated by clouds, gusty winds from the North, and a REALLY strong current! I woke early to assemble the MVA and prep my gear for the first session of data collection in 2021. Since Ron arrived in the afternoon, I waited to conduct my first underwater session until after the training team arrived and moved dolphins around and fed breakfast. It was a good feeling to observe the dolphins from the dock AND remember everyone … there are a few new rakes on a few individuals, which I’ll share as the week progresses. This view is Sandy and Tilly – Sandy is more to the right and you can see a few healing rakes on her back. They were chasing each other near the corner dock while I watched. I also saw them underwater several times but the underwater visibility was less than 2 m and quite silty. I spent an equal amount of time swimming against the current as I did observing dolphins this morning! (you can see the grass flowing in the current near Sandy in this blog’s photo!) Still, I saw just about everyone in the main lagoon: Gracie was often flanked by Ronnie and Ritchie while Bailey played with Rona and Alita and Tank and Calli got reacquainted with my fins and the MVA face plate! I also watched Champ and Stan play and chase each other a bit. Even though the current gave me a work out and the silty visibility means IDs will be a challenge, it was rejuvenating to collect data!
Ron arrived about mid-afternoon and his trip presented a few more challenges than did mine! His negative covid results paperwork was not quite “official” looking but he was able to get a faxed copy with more details. He had a connection through Houston on his way to Roatan, so his day was long but overall it was a long but good day. And, he finished by arriving to AKR in time for a late lunch. Ron’s impression of the safety protocols here on Roatan are like mine … very well done and people seem to adhere to the policies and protocols mostly. I’ve not seen folks without masks when social distancing is not an option (e.g., indoors). Even the water taxi boats here at AKR are limiting the number of people per trip to maintain social distancing. It still feels odd to me that mask wearing and social distancing seem to transcend culture. It drives home the global nature of the pandemic and how people are pulling together to address the situation.
The wind and current are supposed to lessen a bit tomorrow … we hope! As it’s just Ron and me, we’ll head over to Bailey’s Key at about 7:30 AM.
It had become a sort of tradition over the last 5-6 years to begin each new year with time at AKR and RIMS. I am fortunate to be about to continue this tradition in 2021!
Kathleen & Ron