Tropical Storm Matthew affected our recently planned eco-tour to RIMS - it canceled the trip! We have rescheduled the trip to April 2011. The new dates for the next RIMS eco-tour are set for April 30 to May 7, 2011.

Because of the change, we now have a few spaces open for the ecotour.

Contact DCP at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or check out our RIMS eco-tour page under Get Involved or click here to learn more about our research trips to RIMS.


I am writing this just before I pull the zippers closed for my trek to the airport and then my travel home. It is another beautiful day with minimal clouds in the sky. If I could bottle the warmth and climate and bring it back with me to Connecticut, I would indeed.
We had a very successful field season with 11 hours of data recorded with the MVA. Wu-Jung, from the MIT/WHOI joint program joined us for the second week and collected 2.25 hours of DTag data (simultaneous with the MVA) and another roughly 2 hours of data of ambient sounds and echolocation clicks as dolphins swam by two omni-directional hydrophones.

We'll be analyzing these data over the coming months and will post updates to the Dolphin Gazette or maybe even field reports as the season heads into spring.

Thanks for following along.

We were up and out and then in early on Friday, as is usual. I was in the water by 6:40 am but the visibility was not cooperating - very silty and so the distance was only about 4 meters for me to see or confirm there was a dolphin in view. They had to be within 2-3 m for me to identify them! But, a few of the dolphins were socially active and we recorded some neat sounds - whistles and click trains. The MVA was again wearing the DTag and so the recording bandwidth for the units overall was up to ~86 kHz. For those of you reading this report with an acoustic background, the sample rate was about 170 kHz.

During Wu-Jung's, visit we were able to collect about 2.25 hours of data with the MVA and DTag simultaneously. It will be very interesting to see the almost full range of the dolphin's vocalization capability during these observations. The MVA records in the human hearing range, which has a max frequency of about 22 kHz. We'll keep you posted with updates in future issues of the Dolphin Gazette about these data analyses.

Wu-Jung and Penn departed late this morning and I spent a bit of the afternoon cleaning and drying out my gear to pack it for my departure tomorrow. I did join the trainers for their last session of the day and was able to spend a bit of time with Gracie and her calf. I fed Gracie while the trainers worked with some of the other dolphins. We had a grand time - or at least I did. Gracie was quite tactile and so I enjoyed rubbing her, when she was not retrieving her calf. Gracie's calf is a bit more than 2 months old and very much self-entertaining! She wanders and just plays and plays. This was a nice way to wrap up my January field season here at RIMS/AKR.


RIMS2010_WuJungA cloudless day greeted us Friday as we took the taxi boat to Bailey's Key. We were set for another hour session, but the dolphins had other plans. They were into their own social games with the males chasing each other around. There was lots of leaping above the surface and buzzes heard below. French, Ken and Ronnie were all quite pushy and mouthy on my fins. There are days (like today) when I believe the dolphins have absolutely no concept of personal space! It is really hard to conduct a behavioral analysis of the side of a dolphin’s body or a single eyeball in the lens.  

The underwater visibility also contributed to our shortened session because it was very silty and the light was low. So, I ended the session at about 16 minutes. No need to push the observation session if the dolphins are either too far to be seen in low visibility conditions, or are too close to confirm ID because their body fills the frame! We were able to record with the DTag for those 16 minutes and Wu-Jung has more data to analyze during the chilly winter months.  

Wu-Jung was also able to record data for about an hour of the ambient sounds and dolphin clicks with two omni-directional hydrophones from the dock area. The hydrophone was outside the netting so the dolphins could not play tug-of-war with it. The click calls are quite interesting and the ambient noise is very low here; hardly any snapping shrimp were heard, much less recorded. In the above photo, while recording echolocation, Wu-Jung confers with dolphin as Casey watches.

Tomorrow is our last day with Wu-Jung and Penn. We'll have a last ~40 min data collection session and then begin to dry and pack gear for the end of this year's data collection session. 



We conducted an hour data collection session Thursday morning that had great underwater visibility, socially interacting dolphins (mostly with each other and not my fins!), and both the MVA and DTag in use. We captured many click trains and even some burst pulses. The following link is a sample of a burst pulse series from Ronnie.


He had been investigating my fins and circle swimming around me. Then, he swam in front of me and looped back with the first 4 short bursts followed by the longer 3 calls. Each burst was accompanied by a bubble stream and after he was done he swam off. I'm not entirely sure he was vocalizing at me or maybe at some other dolphin that might have been behind me. Still, his calls made an impression!

All the dolphins swam by with the calves mostly playing with each other more often than hanging out with mom. Ken, French and Anthony were hanging around each other while Hector, Han and Dixon were in formation as they swam by me several times. All in all, we had a very good morning. The afternoon provided us an opportunity to share a bit more about our research with the training staff, and, to do a bit of video analysis.Our weather has been spectacular and the current has not been too exhausting.

Until tomorrow,


RIMS2010_MVA_DTagWednesday's morning session brought 30 minutes of video of socially active dolphins. Maury and Bill were observed together often with Mika's calf hanging close to Maury and sometimes positioning himself between Maury and Bill. It was the least active I have seen Maury in several mornings - she just seemed content to swim next to Bill. Hector, Han and Anthony, on the other hand, were a bit more rambunctious and were rolling all over each other. Mrs. B and Cedena kept theirRIMS2010_KDPrepEntry_sm calves close as usual. It was a good session.

The afternoon brought us a short boat ride out to the area where the dolphins dive with scuba divers. Eldon and Teri and Kenly were working with Paya and Ronnie on their open water work. Ronnie is easily enticed by passing boats and the lure of the bow wave, but he avoided temptation today and the jaunt was fun ... except for the birds dive bombing them for fish! The data collection session right after this boat ride was special in that the MVA had an extra set of ears RIMS2010_KD2Ttattached.

Wu-Jung is a doctoral student with the MIT/WHOI joint program and is here this week to RIMS2010_KD_smbegin preliminary work into studying how dolphins use their echolocation for prey (or target) discrimination behavior. The DTag was developed by the WHOI team and has been used quite extensively to study foraging beaked and sperm whales. The tag has not been used in a more controlled situation with captive bottlenose dolphins. Wu-Jung joined DCP's program this week to coordinate with RIMS about conducting a study with these dolphins to collect data with a DTag. Over several months, several dolphins will be habituated to wearing the DTag and then be ready to answer questions while wearing the tag that records their echolocation and the resulting target echoes.

We decided to attach the DTag to the MVA housing to record dolphin clicks while also recording their behavior with the MVA. These data will give Wu-Jung information about the intensity level of the clicks so that she can calibrate the recording equipment when we return for extensive data collection with the DTag that the dolphins will wear. We decided that some photos would do a better job than a lot of prose in telling the story about our DTag/MVA romance (so to speak) this afternoon. The first photo shows the MVA with the DTag as invited remora! The second is Kathleen preparing for entry while the dolphins and gear wait patiently. The third photo is just after Kathleen slipped into the water and the dolphins examined her ... silently! During the session, the dolphins all investigated the MVA and Kathleen (fourth picture)...and much echolocation data were collected.


We plan to collect more data with both tomorrow morning.

Kathleen, Wu-Jung & Penn
RIMS2006_adultTuesday was a good day with a one hour session in the early morning for data collection. We have lucked out with the weather; the morning sky was mostly clear and the sun brightened the view underwater early on. The underwater visibility continued to be EXCELLENT! Ronnie again had new rake marks on his back but that seems nothing new since he is still the instigator in the group. Mika's calf was spending some time with him this morning and I truly hope the calf is not picking up Ronnie's habits! The morning was filled with low-level social activity and all the calves again had a chance to come check out the green tube that I push through the water. We also documented some nursing by Gracie's calf and by Mrs. Beasley's calf.

Ken was roughly playing with Anthony and then with Ritchie - squawking at one another with bubbles and rubbing their heads and backs against each other. It seemed a bit like sparring or wrestling. Near to the end of my session, as I was approaching my exit point, I saw a weird looking fish and as I got a bit closer (filming the whole time) I realized it was a lionfish. They are hanging out all over the place, an accidental introduction to the Atlantic and Caribbean. possibly during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Our afternoon was spent entering the surface data into the excel logs and working on a video log. We decided to do the logs out of order and started with that day's tape (A41008). We worked our way through ten minutes of video data in about 3 hours. As we went along, we updated sketches. These dolphins, especially the young males, have lots of new rake marks even in the last 5-7 days! Penn and I also helped Wu-Jung, doctoral student at MIT/WHOI, calibrate and test her two hydrophones. 
Tomorrow we hope to collect data with the DTag that she brought with her. But, more on that tomorrow...

Until then,

(this photo from 2006 shows an adult RIMS dolphin spying on the surface observers ... she has no rakes visible in this photo)

I was in the water twice on Monday for a 30 min session (6:30 AM) and then a 60 min session (11:00 AM). The underwater visibility was 10 meters plus and it was clear with some sun, so it was also bright! The dolphins were quite social and very interactive with one another. On my first entry, Mika had Gracie's calf! Mika's calf was nowhere to be seen until I spotted Ronnie chasing him. I believe this little guy is a true instigator! Individually and at different times, he and Pigeon (Cedena's calf) have echolocated at and on me. They do this when their mom's are a bit away and so they can really get into it. During the second session, Mika's calf was rubbing and playing with Marge and then with  Fiona. They might have been "calf-sitting" for Mika. Also during the second session, I watched and recorded as Gracie and Maury swam into view on their sides but belly to belly with Gracie's tiny calf between them. It reminded me of the bear hugs that John and I give to Umi. The calf was reacting like Umi and seemingly trying to wiggle free of mom and her big sister!

Penn and Wu-Jung had their first swim with the dolphins. Both exited with huge smiles, mimicking the dolphins?! Both Penn and Wu-Jung have worked with and studied dolphins and Wu-Jung is a graduate student studying dolphin echolocation for her doctorate. Still, the swim gave them both a different perspective or feel for how the dolphins interact under water. There is so much to learn and observe from these animals. So much we can learn about their social behavior and society.

There will be many hours spent in data analysis but it is all very worth it. Tomorrow begins early in the morning - more data. So far, the weather has held for us and the current and visibility are also...


Until Tomorrow

RIMS2010_aerialWe had two morning data collection sessions - one at 6:30 and one at 10 a.m. The sky had a layer of cumulus clouds on the northern horizon which dropped a bit of rain on us early in the morning, but the later morning session had bright sun. The wind and current joined the sun making for an exercise-filled underwater session. The dolphins were very vocal early and Mika had Gracie's calf when I entered. Mika's calf was nowhere that I could see until about 20 min into the session when he was with mom again. The juvenile and adult males were VERY social this morning and Ronnie was riddled with new long rake marks all over his left side!  

The second session was quieter - everyone had consumed breakfast and interacted with their trainers. There was some rubbing and definitely some inquisitive behavior around my fins. Bailey had her little sister, Pigeon (Cedena's 6 month old calf) with her often during this session and seemed to want to keep Pigeon a bit farther away from me than Pigeon wanted to be. Bailey swam between us on several occasions. 

For about 15 min during the first portion of this second session, Teddy, one of the trainers, was checking some of the netting and saw a lionfish, but I did not see it. Maybe I will later in the week.The current kicked up about half way through this session and made my swim back to the platform a bit more challenging. The wind increased but so far the waves have not yet followed suit. Maybe the predicted storm will be small?! Still, we spent the afternoon reviewing video and entering data from the observation sessions. Tomorrow begins with another early morning session over at Bailey's Key. If you look closely at this photo you can even see some of the dolphins in the image.  



We were able to get one more session of data collection in this morning (early again) before Amanda, Amber, Kristin and Sarah had to finish packing their gear. The dolphins were active and vocal and provided a nice salute to our student observers. Even though the field portion of their class on animal behavior is complete, each student now has the task of reviewing and processing the observational data they collected and preparing a paper that includes their data and a literature review on their topics.

The next team includes Penn and Wu-Jung. They arrived later in the afternoon so our first review of DCP's research here at RIMS and our first data collection session begin tomorrow morning.

Cheers for now,

RIMS2010_FrenchWe started the morning early again … Kathleen was in the water at 6:37 am. The dolphins were VERY active this morning and we recorded lots of surface behavior. There was much rolling and various body parts splashed about at the surface. It was also our very first fully sunny day! That is, no clouds really to speak of, which led most of us to get a bit of sunburn. But it was totally worth it! We got the sun not only during Kathleen’s data collection but during our observations while the trainers were working with the dolphins this morning. It was our last data collection session for our field projects. This session was about 2 hours long. 

We had our second dolphin swim also today at noon and it was awesome! In the above picture, we are hugging French during our encounter. We observed quite a bit of behavior during the swim – Sarah was pushed around and up by the dolphins while Marge “screamed” at Kristin because she was not paying enough attention to her. For the record, Kristin was intently watching one of the young calves. One of these young calves was rubbing intensely against his mom – sort of waggling his/her body back and forth against mom. Marge seemed to surround herself with all of our swimmers when the young males were charging her. We also saw quite a few neat fish during our dolphin swim – even one lionfish! They are definitely interlopers. 

The afternoon provided our last talk for the class and it was on communication: this was a nice way to wrap up the class for the field portion. Dinner was illustrated by the Garifuna dancers and much loud music and dancing all around. Tomorrow we depart. 


Kathleen, Amanda, Amber, Kristin, Sarah

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