We escaped the rain and thunder this morning as we went out to conduct our final surface observation and space use data collection session while Kathleen was recording the dolphins. This morning was quite quiet during most of the session but then it ended with some dolphins doing flips … it felt like they were sending us off with flare! This was good considering Kathleen truncated her data collection session because the underwater visibility was horrible (to quote Kathleen – it sucked!). There was also much glare on the surface that made it difficult to determine if dolphins were in the safe zone area.
We worked well as a team for our final hurrah – we knew how to collect the data accurately and with precision!
Breakfast was followed by watching the video Kathleen collected and we agreed the visibility was yucky. We got to view data collected earlier in the week with the array versus the GoPro – it was cool to see the difference between the footage with respect to the wide angle of the GoPro verses not of the array, and also to hear the auditory differences. The array audio was much different to the GoPro audio with more sounds captured and audible.
Next on our agenda was a passionate discussion on the paper we had to read. It was eye-opening and we learned what to do and what not to do when writing a scientific paper.
Lunch wrapped up nicely with a coconut cake! Then, after lunch, some of us went snorkeling and some soaked up rays near the pool. Those who snorkeled saw a chain moray eel, an eagle ray, and a trunk fish. Those who soaked in rays went swimming and avoided the rain that drenched nearly everyone this afternoon.
Later this afternoon, we returned to Bailey’s Key and got another chance to hang-out with the trainers and the dolphins. It was again amazing and we learned more from our trainers, for example, Dante enjoys teaching the dolphins how to enjoy and engage in the behaviors they do. Another group of us got a chance to touch Stan’s tongue and it felt rather silky. Thank you to all of the RIMS team for sharing the dolphins and their relationships with the dolphins with us!!
We wrapped the day up with a great dinner and some mighty fine key lime pie. And just before writing this blog, we got to compete for some DCP swag while showing how many dolphin IDs we recognized from photos and then we got to “strut our stuff” and show off what we learned throughout the week about dolphins, DCP, sea turtles, coral reefs, and more.
We dolphinately had a really good week!
The URI team & Kathleen
We began our day observing Kathleen’s data collection session in the pouring rain, as usual. There was an atypical lull in activity at the surface but a few of the dolphins came over to play. Izzy was even gifted a freshly caught blue tang by one of the dolphins! After breakfast, we watched Kathleen’s footage from the morning and are finally starting to get the hang of IDing the dolphins… just in time to head home.
During our morning break, we reaped the benefits of Fiesta Night. Coral got a lovely free massage. Izzy and Anya “shopped ‘til they dropped” at the gift store with coupons they won in the dance competition. Katrina is still exuberant from her big hermit crab race win and Annie lost her voice cheering everyone on.
Following another delicious meal, we headed over to Bailey’s Key for a dolphin-filled afternoon. We participated in encounters with Elli and Poli. Elli showed off her beautiful front flips, a new behavior she recently perfected and we were honored to be her first audience. The very talkative Poli delivered a nice juicy smooch to Justin. Next, we moved right into a snorkel with the dolphins. The visibility was not ideal due to the recent storms, and many of us experienced frequent dolphin surprises through the silty water! After the swim, we were fortunate enough to observe a training session with the dolphins and their trainers. We broke off into pairs and were each assigned a dolphin. It was interesting to hear about the training aspect of working with these animals in addition to the research aspect. Despite another storm passing through, we all had an absolutely amazing afternoon with all the hands-on dolphin experiences.
We all quickly took advantage of nice, warm showers before heading up to the restaurant. At dinner, we capitalized on garlic bread and collectively consumed 10 baskets worth. It is currently 7:42 pm and we are all ready to “hit the pit.” We are sad that tomorrow is our last day, but just want to say thank you Justin and Kathleen for this opportunity!
We look forward to our last data collection session tomorrow morning!
The URI team!
Our morning data collection was rain-free! It was quite pleasant to watch the dolphins as the sun came over the mountain behind us. The dolphins were very social and Sandy and Calli were near the surface rolling and playing often. Everyone was much more centered and focused when collecting the space use observational data, also. The activity levels were more clear and confirming numbers of dolphins in each area was more reliable for us. We even took a group photo while waiting for the water taxi (see the blog front photo)!
We made our way over to breakfast after this data collection session and were very pleased that the rain held off until we were almost done eating. The dining room is open air but covered … so it was lovely to be dry while watching the rain this morning! And, after breakfast we watched the video from this morning and practiced recognizing the various rake marks and other scars on the dolphins to be able to confirm who was who! We are relatively good and recognizing Champ and Ronnie … getting there on others!
Thankfully the rain subsided while we watched the video so that we could spend almost 2 hours back at Bailey’s key collecting more space use data! The encounter was smaller than the other day so we could focus on one dolphin. The same was true for the swim and since the water was calm, we had an easier time of following dolphins near to the dock.
Lunch preceded our discussion of rake marks as evidence of social exchanges among dolphins and our afternoon boat snorkel. The boat ride was about 5-10 min toward the west end of Roatan. The swells were rolling but the sea was mostly calm and the rain squall went more out to sea so the only way we got wet was when we jumped into the water! We saw a sea turtle, a puffer fish and a large sea cucumber! Our snorkeling was a drift snorkel, which meant we could float with the current and the boat would pick us up. The clear water and numerous fishes made for an excellent time!
We had a bit of free time this afternoon to shower and get ready for fiesta night. This is dinner on the key buffet and picnic style with celebratory events. We watched an example of Garifuna dancers and participated in the hermit crab races, limbo, and dancing. Drum roll please!!! URI placed well tonight!! Coral won the free 30-minute massage from the AKR spa! And, Katrina selected hermit crab #33 and won the crab races tonight! Woohoo and congrats to our URI team!
Tomorrow is another data collection session and we have our in-water snorkel meet and greet with the dolphins!!
Kathleen & the URI team!
We just finished dinner, which was preceded by our first ever, collectively night snorkel. Some of us were lucky enough to see a lionfish or an octopus or a sea cucumber! We also saw a puffer fish. We entered the water at dusk and then exited when it was fully dark. It was eerie and surreal at the same time.
The afternoon had a break before our night snorkel that allowed some of us to kayak or paddleboard … or nap. This break was after our informal lecture at the pool about how dolphin calves swimming in echelon position swim faster with fewer fluke strokes to cover longer distances than calves swimming independently (from Noren et al. 2008). It was a lively discussion.
We were much more confident in our recognition of Champ and a few of the other dolphins (e.g., Tilly) from this morning’s video data. It was cool to see Sandy swimming more in infant position, which matched up to the article we were reading about calf swimming position. We watched the video after the sea turtle lecture from Jenn at RIMS.
Our first lecture in the afternoon was about sea turtles. We learned that leatherback sea turtles don’t have a hard shell which allows them to dive to depths of 2,000 feet to eat jellies. We also learned about the Arribada in Ostional, Costa Rica, where locals are allowed to harvest Olive Ridley sea turtle eggs over a two-day period once a year. Green sea turtles are called green because their fat is colored green.
Lunch was midday and we learned that pasta salad was pasta over lettuce not just pasta. It was still tasty.
Our late morning saw us collecting space use data during a dolphin encounter and a dolphin swim at Bailey’s Key. It was really awesome to have Kathleen on the dock with us during the observations so we could really cement our understanding of the activity levels and recognizing dolphins. We have a clearer understanding of documenting activity levels. We got more comfortable with our groups, too. And, we got to see some neat behaviors (e.g., leaps and back tail walks) that we’d not seen before during our observations.
We had a morning break to read the paper for the afternoon discussion session and breakfast was between this break and data collection in the early morning with Kathleen. We got WET! There was a double rainbow and a full rainbow in the sky, which was a lovely way to say so-long to the deluge of rain that drenched all of us as we collected space use data. We did not realize who of the dolphins were trying to play with us until we watched the video and confirmed the specific scars and rake marks to facilitate recognition via natural marks.
So, tomorrow, we hope to break our AM streak and have no rain!
Kathleen and the URI team!
Our morning began with a downpour! And yet, we all got to the water taxi stand before Kathleen and Justin! Luckily, the rain subsided as we began our first session of space use data collection. Today was our visit to Maya Key. The group has their comment(s) about today.
Emily – I was able to identify some of the individual dolphins this morning – Callie and Sandy and Bailey!
Annie – I saw some trumpet fish and some cool sea urchins.
Izzy – today when I was snorkeling I saw my favorite fish in the entire world – a puffer fish! I was thrilled and screamed through my snorkel in delight!
Kate – I got to watch a parrot fish eating some coral.
Coral – This reef was the second coolest reef I’ve snorkeled on because I got to follow a reef squid.
Kenna – I played fetch with a dolphin and a leaf this morning and it was marvelous!
Hannah T – Today I was able to see my favorite fish, the trumpet fish, and I also got 17 no-see-um bites on my left leg.
Mia – I got scent-marked by an ocelot, which was a great, I guess, encounter. But my favorite part of the day was getting to watch the dolphins do their thing this morning.
Anya – I had a really fun time collaborating with my group of four with the space use data collection and then playing fetch with the dolphins after we were done with data collection. But, one of my best things today was seeing an eel, which is the second one I’ve seen.
Katrina – As Coral and I were walking around Maya Key exhibits, we noticed a jaguar so we got closer. It turned around and crouched down, and looked at both of us directly and then he pounced at us. It was an interesting behavior observation!
Hannah R – Today, we walked around Maya Key and I got to watch the capuchin monkeys and their behavior was interesting as I’d never seen them before.
Kara – Today, 13 Jan, I did not receive as much of a sunburn as I expected. But, while in this beautiful Roatan sunlight, I was able to feed a capelin to a South American Sea Lion, which was a fantastic experience to see this animal close up in comparison to other sea lions.
Sam – It was sunny today so I was all good!
Justin – I enjoyed watching everyone become increasingly comfortable collecting data on animals that are not on video.
The day wrapped with a discussion of pectoral fin contact and some papers from DCP, then dinner and after finishing this blog, we will watch the video collected this morning.
We hope tomorrow will dawn bright and sunny, and not liquid sunshine.
Kathleen & the URI team!
Our first day was a good one with everyone up and at the taxi dock before 6:30 AM for our first data collection session! The dolphins were playful and social – mostly with each other, which was a good thing! Champ and Stan occasionally sought out Kathleen’s fins to play and one or two dolphins tried to entice one or more of us to play the seaweed game but we resisted.
Breakfast (and lunch and dinner for that matter) were as delicious as Justin promised in our various pre-trip meetings. The rest of the morning was spent in two classrooms – one indoor that is lined with all types of displays presenting the fish and coral and other creatures that call Roatan and her surrounding waters home, and one outdoor. The first outdoor classroom had picnic tables and we learned about the MVA – not as heavy as we all expected (see our group photo with the MVA and Kathleen as today’s blog picture). After lunch we got a chance to try our hand at swimming with the MVA. Our subjects were each other and we were in the pool so underwater visibility was not an issue! The MVA became less bulky to us in the water but most of us were surprised at how difficult it was to see the camera screen for filming.
The afternoon included a snorkel at Bailey’s Key to see the corals and fish adjacent to the dolphin home and then we were treated to a talk on corals from Jennifer and then a fish ID presentation by Peter. We learned LOTS!
The evening wrapped up with watching the video Kathleen recorded this morning and then learning a bit about the activity levels we will be recording for the space use study. We are gungho for tomorrow morning!
Kathleen and the URI team!
Our ecotour group departed this morning and the URI students arrived mid-afternoon. We hit the ground running with their initial orientation on arrival followed by Jennifer’s facility orientation even before they went to their rooms to check things out and unpack their bags. The students were troupers considering their travel started at ~1:00 AM with a ride to the airport, then two flights, and a shuttle bus ride to get to AKR and RIMS. But everyone was energetic and enthusiastic for the arrival and first meal, dinner.
Tomorrow will start at 6:30 AM with data collection followed a lecture and some snorkeling.
This morning had the eco-tour group assisting me with another data collection session (Thank you Manon for the front photo!). I used the new GoPro7 rather than the 3 for data collection … but we still had the issue with the screen on the back fading to black. It was frustrating to peer at a black screen when I wanted to see what I was recording of dolphin behavior. That said, later in the day, John was able to find the setting in the GoPro7 menu to turn off the screen saver! So, we’ll see how it works tomorrow and see if we are back to gear operating as we want and without a hitch!
Kathleen and the URI student team
We had a great day with the sun rising brightly and the sky relatively free of clouds. And, really good, clear underwater visibility. And, equipment that worked as expected! Thankfully, Lenca spent more time with Ronnie this morning than investigating my fins! Tank and Dory circle swam around me but they had nothing on Stan who zoomed in tight circles creating many bubbles around me! Bubbles seemed to be the “name-of-the-game” today as Calli also sank vertical in the water column and let out several rounds of larger bubble clouds.
The inter-dolphin social activity was low-key this morning with several parallel swims and rubbing between dolphins. Poli and Champ spent time slow swimming as did Gracie, Maury and Elli.
The late morning was spent transferring footage to the hard drives for back up and reviewing the notes and logging surface observations. John was able to film a few of the dolphin dive training sessions – i.e., the dolphins follow the small boat out over the reef as they would do with a dolphin dive. The sea outside the reef was still a bit turbulent but the swims and training sessions went well.
Our group leaves tomorrow in exchange for the student group with Justin from URI. So, stay tuned for an update tomorrow after the group shift, and with an update about the morning data collection session. In the photo with this entry, you can see our team spread out around the lagoon area collecting data – a dedicated team for sure!
Kathleen, Ron, Bill, Jeff, John, Madison, Rachel and Manon
I have a dedicated team of participants with me this week – Manon, Rachel, Ron, Bill, Madison, Jeff, and John all joined me at 6:30 for the AM data collection session. The water was ok for clarity but the current was strong! The dolphins were curious and playful and the cameras persnickety!
Yes, technology was a tad bit of an issue. For reasons unknown, the GoPro decided not to record any of the session, though it had the red camera thingee suggesting it was recording. (maybe it took the day off!) And, for the MVA footage – the audio is great but the video is dark. Somehow, I accidentally pushed the button such that the f-stop was locked open. Sigh.
We sorted out the technology issues and spent time in the afternoon collecting the space use data when an encounter and a swim were ongoing. The dolphins spent some time in the area adjacent to the arrival dock but also swam among the swimmers and did some wave/swell surfing. It rained off and on during the day. But, it was a good day.
Tomorrow is our last full day.
Kathleen, Manon, Rachel, Ron, Bill, Madison, Jeff, and John
P.S. Happy Birthday to Dixie, the mini seabeagle, who turns 8 years old today (9 Jan 2020)!
I could not ask for anything more … ok, well, except maybe a tad less current to swim against! I earned my breakfast this morning and more than once felt like the dolphins were chuckling at me as I tried to keep up with them as they seemingly effortlessly glided across the current and the wavelets. Tilly and calf and Maury swam by several times this morning. And, Ronnie even pushed Stan and Lenca a bit away from me! Maybe Ronnie thought they were too close to my fins or paying too much attention to my fins!
Elli and Lenca each played with a small clam shell – Elli draped it over her right pectoral fin and then mouthed it as she swam out of view. Then, Tank and Stan played keep away with a plastic bag – I tried to find it after they were done to remove it from the water but could not find it … maybe it will show up tomorrow.
Manon and Rachel collected more baseline and KD-data collection associated space use data and the three of us and Madison collected more dolphin space use data associated with two encounters and a swim this afternoon. We are assessing how the dolphins use the varied spaces in their main lagoon when without and with people. For me, it was fun to collect data from both the underwater and surface perspectives today!
We did have a bit of rain sporadically during the day but it was warm and sunny also … and tonight was the island fiesta dinner on the key. Rachel won the 30-minute massage! Madison and Jeff’s hermit crabs did not place in the crab race but they had fun cheering each of them on!
Tomorrow begins as usual with a data collection session at 6:30 AM. Let’s hope the visibility remains and we have another great day observing dolphins! The photo with this blog (thank you Manon!) shows Poli and Dory bringing Manon and Rachel a large swath of seaweed to play with and Manon and Rachel showed much restraint in not playing until the observations were done! Well done!
Kathleen, Rachel, Manon, Madison, Jeff, Ron, Bill & John