Our last day started with data collection and the dolphins were very feisty. We greeted Kathleen with a welcoming song as she came to the platform to collect data: it was “Let’s Get it Started” by the Black Eyed Peas. A good way to start a session! The dolphins were very active at the surface but the underwater visibility was quite poor – very silty. The dolphins’ aerial activity made up for it and it was cool to see their natural jumping behaviors.
After another fantabulous breakfast, we met at the gift shop dock for the boat ride to Bailey’s for our encounter and swim with the dolphins. It was beyond our wildest expectations!! It was interesting to watch a trainer being trained to do an encounter and to see all the different cues and multi-tasking that is required to make a full program. Thank you, Sara and Nick, for a great encounter with Tilly and Calli (who was replaced by Elli for a few minutes). It was nice to see that when the dolphins do not want to do something, they are not forced … the trainers move on to another behavior or event. Thank you, Tilly, for allowing us to do the group photo!! Thank you to Dante for calming Tilly and to Teri for setting up the shot!
Our encounter was followed immediately by our dolphin swim, which was amazing and surreal. It was a free swim and the dolphins could do anything they wanted and we might see them or we might not. We each saw several dolphins. We saw lots of play with each other and some curiosity about us underwater. It felt like they were observing us more than we were watching them. It was neat to hear their vocalizations – their clicks and whistles. We were out of our element and squarely in theirs! The sounds seemed more exaggerated than we expected. The swim was completely different from our surface observations and from sitting on the platform. Our respect for dolphins certainly increased this morning!
Our encounter/swim was followed by some observations of the dolphins for our research projects – many of us got a bit too much sun while others reapplied sunscreen and protected our skin while bronzing. We had a brief bit of free time prior to lunch (another tasty meal!!) and then headed down to RIMS to receive a lecture on training and operant conditioning from Teri. We got a sense of the dedication and hard work it takes to be a trainer and work with the dolphins. Having Teri’s perspective gave us a well-rounded picture of what the trainers do day-to-day. The late afternoon saw some of us with free time and others who returned to Bailey’s for a bit more observation time.
Our last evening dinner was delicious and culminated with a giant birthday cake for Ron and Marissa. The cake was vanilla with a strawberry, cherry and chocolate center layer and whipped cream icing. Ron and Marissa were cutting GIANT pieces of cake! Audrey, tiniest human in the group, had the largest slice!
Our evening wrapped up watching the video Kathleen collected this morning. We will have another data collection session in the morning before final packing and departure for home. It’s been a great week for honing our critical thinking skills and, of course, learning about dolphins! It was also good to spend time gaining perspective from the dolphin’s point of view and not just our views on the dolphins. Thank you to Kathleen for bringing us into her world (snaps!).
the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!
P.S. the photo below shows us during our encounter!