Kathleen Dudzinski

Kathleen Dudzinski

Dolphinally!!
19 February 2020

Dolphinally!!

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!

Cheers

The URI team & Kathleen

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Swimming with and Meeting Dolphins!
19 February 2020

Swimming with and Meeting Dolphins!

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!

Cheers

The URI team!

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Dolphins, Snorkeling, and Fiesta Night!
19 February 2020

Dolphins, Snorkeling, and Fiesta Night!

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!!

Cheers

Kathleen & the URI team!

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Diving in the Dark!
19 February 2020

Diving in the Dark!

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!

Until tomorrow,

Kathleen and the URI team!

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Dolphins, Maya Key … Risotto!
19 February 2020

Dolphins, Maya Key … Risotto!

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.

Cheers

Kathleen & the URI team!

 

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First full day – dolphins, fish, corals and more!
19 February 2020

First full day – dolphins, fish, corals and more!

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!

Cheers

Kathleen and the URI team!

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The URI students arrive!
19 February 2020

The URI students arrive!

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!

Until then,

cheers,

Kathleen and the URI student team

 

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TGIF – A sunny day with awesome data collected!
19 February 2020

TGIF – A sunny day with awesome data collected!

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!

Cheers

Kathleen, Ron, Bill, Jeff, John, Madison, Rachel and Manon

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Strong Current!! Technology Issues!
19 February 2020

Strong Current!! Technology Issues!

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.

Cheers

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)!

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Clear Underwater Visibility and Social Dolphins!
19 February 2020

Clear Underwater Visibility and Social Dolphins!

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!

Until tomorrow,

Cheers

Kathleen, Rachel, Manon, Madison, Jeff, Ron, Bill & John

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A sunshine-y day!
19 February 2020

A sunshine-y day!

The sun greeted us today (7 Jan 2020)! It was a welcome site after 1.5 days of wind, rain and more wind and rain, as well as choppy seas and waves. The divers in our group had to be ready by 7:30 for their first boat dive as the boats were still on the west side of Roatan. So, it was Manon and Rachel for surface observations with Madison and Jeff assisting for the first ~half of the session this morning. The current was less than Sunday morning (but still gave me a good workout!) and the underwater visibility was AWESOME! I was able to see everyone (i.e., dolphins) underwater … even at 7+ meters away. There was much socializing and several individuals had new rake marks suggesting some play and social activity over the last 1-2 days, even with the choppy seas and stormy skies.

I was able to get in for two sessions today – one early AM (see above) and one just at noon. For the latter session, the adult males we involved in an action swim so I only had the adult females and juvenile males and females in the main lagoon. The underwater vis was still really good! And, I was able to observe some low-level social activity among the adult females and the typical juvenile play between Dory, Stan, and Tank. It was really nice to have a bright sunny day for data collection … even if the camera had a bit of difficulty with the white balance and brightness.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another good day … hoping the rain holds off and we can collect more space-use data and underwater video data.

Cheers

Kathleen & DCP’s eco-tour group (Ron, Bill, Manon, Rachel, John, Madison & Jeff)

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It was a dark and stormy … day!
19 February 2020

It was a dark and stormy … day!

Our dedicated eco-tourists joined me at 6:30 to try to collect data. The current was wickedly strong and there were rolling waves breaking over the reef. You can see in the photo me getting out after ~3 minutes in the water. There is a dolphin watching me … I got in and then swam hard to get to the side to get out. The storm front meant that the staff moved the floating platforms to one side of the large lagoon area.

It rained all day and was stormy. So, we spent time drawing the sketches for each dolphin and beginning the video logs. We also chatted about dolphins and some various research questions and protocols. It was a good day … even if we were forced to remain inside!

The wind died down a bit today … we are hoping it drops even more before morning.

Until then, the photo below will let you know what the waves over the reef looked like this morning! Thank you to Rachel for both photos!

Cheers

Kathleen and the first DCP 2020 ecotour group!

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Transitioning!
19 February 2020

Transitioning!

The CSU group helped me collect data this morning and we did one more each of baseline and KD space use data collection. It was a breezy morning but the underwater visibility was really good! And, the dolphins were social, but mostly below the water surface.

After data collection, we had breakfast and then the CSU group left for the airport. They were all traveling much today to return home and prepare for school. We had a great week!

Arriving today were Bill, Ron, Madison, Jeff, Rachel, Manon, and John for our research eco-tour. We have a week to collect data with some folks diving, and some focusing on the research. The weather might not cooperate these first few days but we are hoping the rain holds off.

Data collection will begin at 6:30 tomorrow … until then!

Cheers

Kathleen and DCP’s first 2020 eco-tour group!

 

 
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TGIF – Our Last Full Day at AKR!
19 February 2020

TGIF – Our Last Full Day at AKR!

Today was our last full day at Anthony’s Key Resort – and it began like the other days … with data collection at 6:30 AM! We started by collecting space-use data and then made observations while Kathleen recorded the dolphins from underwater.

Alyssa – It was really nice to work with Shane and Kathleen on our projects because I learned lots about developing a research project. Dory is my favorite RIMS dolphin because she’s a goof!

Emma – I think it was nice to talk to Kathleen and Shane about our projects – we did not have to but we could ask questions to refine our projects. I liked taking observations today because the dolphins were super active and it was more fun! Tank is my favorite dolphin because his personality shines through.

Sydney – Today was a really good relaxing day but I’m sorry it is our last full day. I’m gonna miss it. Carmella is my favorite dolphin because she is sweet and you can see her personality is more aloof – she’s not as in your face playful.

Ashley – I’m really sad this is our last day. I really enjoyed the whole week and learned so much about dolphins, and about Kathleen’s research. And, my favorite dolphin is Tank because he’s very playful and it’s been fun watching him try to figure everything out as a youngster.

Hannah – today was really relaxing and it was nice to have time to get used to the fact that we are leaving tomorrow. We had time to soak in the sun and work on our papers. Calli is my favorite dolphin – she’s super sweet and likes to ‘talk,’ even though her jaw is funky.

Sarah – I really liked doing the observations during the swim today because it was something new and it was interesting to see how the dolphins acted during that activity. Calli is my favorite dolphin too. Because she is sweet and has a funky jaw, which I can relate to.

Zach – after this being the 6th day of observing dolphins, I thought I’d be numb to the feeling of amazement but I’m not and I crave more. It shows how amazing this trip was to me. My favorite dolphin is Carmella – even though we don’t see her often, I got to talk to her trainer and learned that how she treats Stan, who is her brooding teenage son.

Emily – I really liked having time to talk to everyone and to Kathleen and Shane and to take in all the amazing things of the week. When we were in the water today, the time feels like it went slow and we are all pretty close and it was nice to take it in and review. Dory is my favorite dolphin because she brought me a leaf and I assume she wanted me to take the leaf and I would have played with her but I was collecting data …

Cole – I have no complaints – any day the sun is shining and we get to hang out with dolphins and to share it with these new friends is a great day. Tank is my favorite dolphin because he is scrappy and likes to pick fights (sort of).

Morgan – This whole week has been great because I’ve enjoyed getting to know everyone and bouncing ideas off of everyone. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Shane, Kathleen, and these animals. Carmella is my favorite because she’s a really great mom and very chill and calm.

Brooke – I enjoyed today reflecting on this once in a lifetime experience – not sure I’ll get this close to a group of people again as I did here. My favorite is Tilly’s calf (baby fluke) and I feel connected to her.

Katie – my favorite part of this trip was meeting some really great people with strong passions in life and their willingness to be open and communicate with others. My favorite dolphin is French (Frenchie-boy is what I call him). Because he is the sweetest adult male in the enclosure and goes with the flow, which I can relate to.

Mel – I really liked yesterday and today talking with Shane and Kathleen and challenging my brain with different ways of thinking. It altered the way I look at things a little bit. It was difficult but I enjoyed it. Gracie is my favorite dolphin – she is very sweet and gave me a salty kiss during our encounter.

Caleb – I thought it was kind of cool to see everyone get super close. And, it was neat to see the progress with the research and how we are recording the data. It is almost second nature for space use data collection and activity levels. Tilly and Gracie are equally my favorite dolphins – I like their names and I got to meet Gracie during the encounter, which was fun.

Jeanie – I’m super grateful to have been able to become a water creature with both the dolphins and humans. And it was also really cool to see how ideas can develop really fast even if we are not sure about them to start. My favorite dolphin is Alita because she is very pretty and she does not really like people either.

Today was a good wrap-up day that also had data collection. Tomorrow is our last early AM data collection session and observations with the dolphins. You can see us all at Bailey’s Key in the front photo wearing our Rams Rash Guards and our DCP hoorags!

Cheers

Rams in Roatan & Kathleen

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Creative Minds
19 February 2020

Creative Minds

Our day began as usual – with data collection during Kathleen’s observations of the dolphins with the MVA. From Bailey’s Key, we went directly to a very interesting turtle lecture. We learned about sea turtles – e.g., the green sea turtle has green colored fat. We learned about the Arribada in Costa Rica. We also learned that sea turtles have several critical periods where their survival could be iffy – exiting the nest, getting to the water over the beach, and their first year in the water …

Our late breakfast was delicious! After which we had a small break to ponder our projects – we could select between developing a research project or creating a PSA for some topic we learned about that would have to affect change in Colorado. Since our breakfast was late, lunch was also, but it was still yummy!

Our afternoon was spent in ten-minute individual sessions with Kathleen and Shane to pitch our question or PSA project. It was stressful but we learned a lot and it was helpful to talk aloud our respective ideas. It was nice to learn that our ideas were good though they needed to be developed a bit more.

Our night snorkel was this evening – we saw lots of squirrelfish and 2-3 octopuses. There was a lobster and several brittle stars and crabs. It was weird to enter the water at dusk and come out in pitch black darkness. We were reliant only on the light to show us what was there … 

Dinner followed showers (which have been very welcome and refreshing!). The food is just phenomenal!

Tomorrow is our last full day here at AKR and our taxi boat ride to data collection begins at 6:15 AM!

Cheers

The Rams in Roatan and Kathleen

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Ringing in the New Year with Dolphins!
19 February 2020

Ringing in the New Year with Dolphins!

We did another morning observation session and two space-use data collection sessions: one as baseline and one set associated with Kathleen’s data collection. The dolphins were really active and rambunctious this morning. There was LOTS of surface activity and we saw all the dolphins. New year – New activities!

Another bomb-breakfast followed our morning with the dolphins. Then, we went to the RIMS classroom for a lecture the Marine Mammal Protection Act and animal welfare and permitting for research. It was interesting to learn about the details of the MMPA and how complicated the process of permitting can be. It was also nice to know there are many groups looking out for the well-being of these animals and that it is a federal law.

We departed from our routine and watched the video before lunch – we are getting better at recognizing the individual dolphins, which is a good thing because our encounter and swims were this afternoon.

The next entries represent our individual impressions.

Emily – I thought it was lots of fun to play fetch with the dolphins.

Emma – I think it was really cool to see the dolphins from our own point of view in the water as opposed to from videos and to identify them in person.

Caleb – I liked kissing the dolphin (Gracie!).

Morgan – I have a lot of respect for Kathleen underwater to not freak out when 18 dolphins are in the water with her and there is little visibility, and being able to identify them in a split second.

Alyssa – I know dolphins are smart but playing fetch with them and having the dolphins bring the grass back to the same throwed impressed me.

Mel – I really enjoyed hearing from the trainers and getting their perspective and how they go about their day-to-day job.

Sarah – I thought it was cool to see the dolphins and their personalities up close after having watched them on the videos for several days.

Katie – I thought the dolphin interaction with each specific trainer was neat and that the dolphin knew what the trainer was asking or saying was cool.

Sydney – watching the dolphin trainers was cool as their job is my dream job so watching the interaction and the relationship was very interesting to me.

Cole – I enjoyed having one-on-one time with the trainers and Kathleen and learning about the dolphins and their (the dolphins’) gossipy world was very cool.

Ashley – My encounter was with Tank and since he is a younger dolphin it was interesting watching him work with his trainer since he’s learning behaviors. There was definitely some attitude and personality. It was neat to see Tank in his environment after watching the videos.

Zach – it was good to finally accept my gift of seaweed from Gracie.

Brooke – I got to see the calf during the snorkel, which was amazing. It was really fun watching Tilly’s and Calli’s trainers work with each of them – the dolphins have different personalities but they are similar to their trainers.

Jeanie – I thought it was cool to hear their individual sounds and having no perspective of where the sounds were coming from was interesting.

Hannah – I thought it was cool and funny to see Tank for our encounter and to see the relationship between Dante and Tank was very neat. Their relationship is very strong and looks like it was developed well.

Tonight is a Fiesta Celebration on the key for dinner … followed by a well-deserved evening siesta. Tomorrow begins another data collection with a meet at 6:15 at the taxi dock!!

Cheers,

The Rams in Roatan & Kathleen

 

P.S. at the fiesta night, we had among us the Limbo Queen – Morgan! Well done!

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Happy New Year’s Eve!
19 February 2020

Happy New Year’s Eve!

The morning began bright and sunny and our observations began with a light breeze. About 5-7 minutes after Kathleen entered the water to observe the dolphins, the skies opened and it rained on us. (We learned what it was to be true field researchers … collecting data under all types of weather!) The dolphins seemed to be very slow this morning and they did not immediately greet Kathleen when she entered. And, the dolphins seemed to greet the students on Platform 2 more than any other students this morning. We’re not sure if this observation is correlated but when the rain got heavier, the dolphins seemed to be more socially active at the surface. More data are required to be conclusive.

Breakfast followed data collection and it was welcome! And yummy! After breakfast, we went to the RIMS classroom for a lecture on Physiology from Shane. After a scintillating talk on exercise physiology, we were provided details of our project selection options. 1) a research project that uses a behavior as an indicator of a physiological measure. OR 2) develop a PSA message that presents a topic we have learned here during our course for the folks back home. We are mildly stressed trying to decide which of these two invigorating topics to select! We then learned a bit more about identifying the dolphins here at RIMS – their individual markings and how to recognize them more easily.

Lunch was greeted with enthusiasm after such a mentally taxing morning! Lunch was REALLY, REALLY good. And, after lunch we returned to the classroom for a lecture on coral reefs.

It was fortuitous to have our coral reef lecture before we geared up and hopped on the snorkel boat for our first boat snorkel session. For some of us, this was our first boat snorkel ever! It was a bit clumsy getting into the water – trying to make sure our masks did not fall off and getting oriented in the water. Half the group got separated after entry. Thanks to Shane having a long skinny faded red buoy we were always sure of the direction we should head. Of course, we still got a bit off course and swam almost over the reef. We saw some really cool fish and coral. There was a huge school of blue tang. A billowing lionfish with 15 CSU students congregated above it! A sea robin and several squirrel fish, angel fish, trunk fish and snapper were hovering over the reef and the sand floor. And, best of all, no one got stung by sea lice or jellies today! (Hurray!) You can see us all in the blog photo for today after our snorkel trip with the CSU Study Abroad flag!

We went right into a baseline space use data collection session after snorkeling … it was eye-opening to collect data at the end of the day and not only at the start of a day! It was cool to observe the dolphins with no one around or in the water … even Kathleen.

Our Happy New Year dinner was a visually stunning buffet that was even more yummy than the vision would suggest. And, there was a Happy New year cake! Hard to believe that in just a few hours it will be 2020! Happy New Year to everyone!

Cheers,

Rams in Roatan & Kathleen

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Maya Key to our hearts!
19 February 2020

Maya Key to our hearts!

Dolphins! We started our day bright and early with dolphins … of course, we had the water taxi ride over to Baileys at 6:15 AM. We worked with the space-use data sheets for our first time this morning in association with Kathleen’s data collection session. It was nice to see the comparison of details for when Kathleen was with the dolphins versus when she was not. The sheets helped focus what I wanted or should document for data. Overall, the dolphins seemed less active this morning (at least at the surface of the water) than yesterday. It was cool because we could pay attention to more subtle behaviors.

A delicious breakfast was followed by a discussion of our data sheets and then grabbing our snorkel gear for the picnic and snorkeling at Maya Key. The bus ride provided us a new perspective of the island. We rode back toward the airport to go to Maya Key and it was our first time seeing the island in the day-time! We even marked the ride with a group selfie! (see photo).

Maya Key is beautiful – we snorkeled and saw many rescued and donated animals on the island. We saw the Maya ruin replica on the island and learned a bit about the culture. During the snorkel, several of us met jellyfish via their nematocysts. We also wafted the sting underwater rather than rubbing the stings into our skin! (Thank you to Peter for that wonderful piece of advice during the Fish ID talk!) The American Crocodile snapped at many of us … he seemed to be cranky! Or, maybe he did not appreciate being called little!

We returned to AKR and RIMS by about 14:45 and then had a break until 15:30 when we returned to Bailey’s Key to collect more dolphin space use data. We observed an encounter and recorded how the dolphins used their pool area … it was neat to watch the encounter and see their behaviors, including flips and speed swims, and tail walks! It was nice to compare seeing them with their trainers as opposed to swimming around Kathleen or by themselves.

Dinner … so much delicious food!

We are now sitting here after watching today’s video all about to fall asleep! Tomorrow begins again at 6:15 at the taxi stand.

Until tomorrow …

Cheers

the Rams in Roatan and Kathleen

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Let’s Start Snorkeling … and, oh yes, Dolphins!
19 February 2020

Let’s Start Snorkeling … and, oh yes, Dolphins!

Since this is our first field report, everyone will contribute their most memorable event from today.

Alyssa – for me today, the most memorable part was when one of the dolphins came up and tried to get us to play with it. But because we did not play “correctly” it left to hang out with his/her friends. (Maybe tomorrow I will be able to recognize him/her!)

Zach – One of the dolphins presented us with seaweed … almost tried to drop it onto the dock. But since we did not take it, we hope there’s no hard feelings … before tomorrow’s session.

Sydney – Morgan and me were sitting on the dock and one of the dolphins came up under the dock and startled me with a pectoral fin “clap” while in his/her back.

Sarah – I watched one dolphin do a sort of side/chin slap against the water 4-5 times in a row. Not really sure why but was funny (and cool) to watch.

Katie – I was watching from a distance but saw one of the dolphins try to splash both sides of Platform 2, and the other students on there … intentional? (Yes, those on that dock think it was!)

Ashley – For me, it was watching them interact with Kathleen – to see her flippers go up and their tails go up and down and then they swam underwater. So, I see how it might be difficult not to interact with them but it was fun to watch.

Brooke – I watched what I called a “launch jump” repeatedly and it reminded me of a figurine that I got in Hawaii … it was really cool and really graceful! (The photo is from Brooke … but the dolphins are not launch jumping!)

Cole (aka Nic). I was probably getting overzealous with the GoPro filming … but I got lots of footage and also a wet front port from a forceful exhale near me while filming. Not sure who this dolphin was but to me he/she was “shooter”!

Caleb – I thought it was really cool to go snorkeling this afternoon and see all kinds of fish and then this evening to attend the Fish ID lecture and learn what type of fish we actually saw, and what we might see again when in the water later this week.

Emily – with all the dolphin watching at 6:15 AM and also snorkeling I just felt really lucky to be able to be doing this … here and now.

Hannah – When Jeanie and I were snorkeling w saw sea cucumbers but I thought maybe they were dead caterpillars. They were squishy looking and gross.

Jeanie – OCEAN – the five-factor model for studying personality. And, I spent a long time trying to figure out why the dolphins were swimming sideways – it was because they were trying to look at us on the dock. (fun fact – the only place dolphins have binocular vision is below their throat!)

Morgan – (not in sport mode tonight … but yes during snorkeling!) It was surreal to watch the sunrise on a dock three feet away from a dolphin!

Emma – I thought it was cool to relate what we read and in the snorkeling lessons and then to actually do the snorkeling and realize I was putting into practice what I had learned!

Mel – the whole day was surreal and it is hard to pinpoint one thing. But seeing how large the dolphins were during our observations and then snorkeling and seeing the very small creatures like the feather-duster worms than tuck in when we swim by was just a lot … (I’m still processing!)

Cheers until tomorrow,

Kathleen & the CSU Rams in Roatan

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Touch Down! A glorious arrival day!
19 February 2020

Touch Down! A glorious arrival day!

My flight from Miami was delightful! And the arrival was spectacular! It was one of the first times in a while that I could see Anthony’s Key and Bailey’s Key on approach to Roatan! The sea was flat calm and only a few clouds in the sky! I arrived mid-day and was not pleasantly pleased when I saw the MVA rugged case was open when on the carousel! One of the latches had been broken off and the zip-ties I’d applied had not been replaced after TSA searched the case. Luckily, the MVA was undamaged, or at least seems to be the case. I’ll confirm in the morning tomorrow.

The CSU group were mostly late on arrival since their flight out of Dallas was delayed. I met Katie early as she’d been on a different flight. Everyone else (Ashley, Alyssa, Emma, Hannah, Jeanie, Emily, Sarah, Morgan, Carmel, Brooke, Sidney, Nic, Zach, and Caleb) arrived with Dr. Kanatous (aka Shane) at about 6:45 PM. They looked a tad bit weary but not the worse for the long day! We completed a form and then had a yummy dinner. Everyone smiled with anticipation when we told them that tomorrow begins at 6:10 AM at the boat dock! (Roatan midnight comes early!).

Tomorrow, the CSU team will be joining me to write our blogs. Until then, sweet dreams!

Cheers,

Kathleen

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Dixie and Baloo
19 February 2020

Preparations – checking gear, packing!

Friday was spent packing gear, making sure the cameras (AX100 and GoPros) were packed with the batteries and cards. I had all the data sheets and field binder set and also the DCP 20th Anniversary treats! (Can you believe DCP turns 20 this coming year?!) Of course, as I packed gear, bathing suits, wetsuit, clothing, mask, fins and snorkel and other tidbits, Dixie and Baloo shifted between being nosy and trying to add their toys to the cases with giving me the cold shoulder versus sitting in judgement of me! This photo shows the latter.

I gave them both big hugs (and a biscuit!) and they seemed to be ok with the fact that I’d be heading out to observe dolphins again and teaching students!

My flight is out of Miami tomorrow and the CSU students join me from Colorado via Dallas. The temps on Roatan will be warmer for the students but about the same for me.

More tomorrow after arrival!

Cheers,

Kathleen

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Our last day of data collection this week!
19 February 2020

Our last day of data collection this week!

This morning had our group at the water taxi stand at 6:15 AM for our last data collection session. The underwater visibility held out! (Hurray!) I was able to collect another 40 min of underwater video and the dolphins were vocal and social. Bailey had Tank with her often and Alita had Dory in infant position and they shared some tactile exchanges, too.

Our divers had their last dive this morning, also – they joined Jennifer, Director of Education here at RIMS/AKR, to clean algae off the coral trees that are being grown to repopulate some of the coral reef areas. They were able to get half a dozen "trees" cleaned!

We went over to Bailey’s Key in the afternoon to see the dolphins one last time and to thank the trainers for their time and attention this week. And, before dinner we shared some of our video with the participants and other guests to the resort. It was a good (very good) day!

Jill and Ron B extended their friendly comradery with congratulatory certificates and cards. Jill completed her Advanced Open Water diver certificate this week and shared several dives with Ron and others in our group.

We travel home tomorrow … but this week yielded about 7 hours of video data, several sessions of respiration/surfacing data, and several sessions of spatial use data collection. Thank you to all of our eco-tour participants! It was a very productive week!

Cheers

Kathleen & the 2019 DCP Eco-tour team

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dolphin group 2019
19 February 2020

Clouds and wind above but clear viewing underwater!

Thursday dawned … sort of! The sun stayed behind a layer of clouds for the bulk of the early morning data collection at Bailey’s Key. Still, the visibility was good, the dolphins quite social, and the current strong! I swam much during this morning’s observations but was rewarded by much social behavior. Tilly jawing at Tank. Dory and Stan rolling around accompanied sometimes by Elli, sometimes by Poli, and sometimes with Tank! Gracie had another leaf and floated it in front of me. Bailey checked out her reflection again – still gorgeous!

A few rain squalls and some wind shifted the coral PVC tree cleaning that our divers were planning for this afternoon to tomorrow. Some of our scuba divers give one dive a week to assist with cleaning growth off the PVC trees from which dangle the growing coral. It’s a neat project to try to regrow some of the depleted sections of the reef.

I also spent some time this afternoon reviewing video and checking out the data sheets to be sure everything has been logged. I have one more underwater data collection session tomorrow morning. (I might try to get a second shorter session late morning, but we shall see!)

Here’s to another great day on and in the water at AKR!

Until tomorrow,

Kathleen & the 2019 DCP Eco-tour team

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Stan 2019
19 February 2020

Another awesome data collection morning! And, Fiesta-Night Day!

Today was a bright, partly sunny morning with clear underwater visibility for data collection! (Can you sense a theme that makes me happy in the field!?) It was another 45 min session with much social behavior. Stan featured prominently in my video today as he was not only enamored of my fins but also played often with Dory and Tank, until Alita and Bailey (respective moms) decided the play was too rough! I even caught a few glimpses of Carmella in the background as she watched these play sessions (she is Stan’s mom). There was much vocalizing this morning by the dolphins also – whistles, clicks, and squawks.

Our team also did some dives and had their dolphin encounter and swim this afternoon. They got a chance to meet Bailey up close during their encounter and then to swim with the pod. I’m so proud that they even remembered some of the identification marks on several of the dolphins we’ve been observing all week!

The evening wrapped up with the fiesta night! Sadly, we missed the mac & cheese but loved the other dishes and the delicious brownies. A few of us left early and missed the limbo contest and the Garifuna dancers. Still, a good day was had by all!

Tomorrow is more early data collection …

Until then, cheers!

Kathleen & the 2019 DCP Eco-tour team

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BaileyTankPoli-2019
19 February 2020

Awesome Morning! And, great overall day!

The morning session went long to 45 minutes because the underwater visibility was great! The dolphins were very social with each other – much rubbing and rolling and play over and with each other. Stan, Tank and Dory were fascinated by my fins until I raised them above the water surface a couple of times. Gracie circled around me while also swimming with Maury and Tilly. And, I watched Alita and Carmella share a lengthy pectoral fin contact exchange while swimming out of view! Bailey, Tank, and Poli swam together for a while in a staggered infant position (pictured – not the great underwater visibility!).

Our team collected surface spatial use data while I was collecting the focal follow video sequences. They did a very good job of documenting the surface activity level of the different dolphin subgroups. After breakfast, we logged the data sheets from the morning and reviewed the video.

The divers in our group had a full day with 3-4 dives each, including a night dive for Raina and Jill, during which a lobster seems to have put on a show!

It was a good day with only a few scattered squalls passing over us. Tomorrow has our group doing their in-water swim with the dolphins in the afternoon as well as data collection in the morning and several dives planned.

Cheers

Kathleen & the 2019 DCP Eco-tour team

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AM Thunder and Lightning – Start to the rainy season??
19 February 2020

AM Thunder and Lightning – Start to the rainy season??

Our morning session was delayed about 30 minutes due to an early morning thunder and lightning show. Thankfully, the squall passed quickly, though today would be peppered by squalls. The photo shows a quick view from the water (when no dolphins were in view underwater!) of Bailey’s Key, the clouds and a rainbow! The underwater visibility was not great – we had about 3 m of silty underwater viewing. Still, the dolphins were playful and curious. Stan, Tank and Dory loved my fins today … Gracie played with a sea grape tree leaf, and tried to entice me to play.

Many in our eco-tour group did three dives today and spent lunch at Maya Key between the second and third dives. They came back with stories of sea horses, sea turtles, and other fun marine critters viewed! Tomorrow night is their night dive, though I’m not sure how many folks will be donning gear in the evening!

The few of us who stayed back collected more surface observational data of dolphin respirations versus surfacings – most were breaths! All in all, it was a great day!

Until tomorrow …

Cheers

Kathleen and the 2019 DCP Eco-tour team

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First dunk with revised MVA4!
19 February 2020

First dunk with revised MVA4!

Okay, so our first dunk at AKR was in the pool last night – to be sure all seals were still tight after flying to Roatan. But, this morning was my first data collection session with the revised MVA4. Revised with new hydrophones, a new face plate, and a modified tray for the camera. The MVA4 worked well and I can actually see the screen inside the housing to record the dolphins! Of course, the first entry was not without some issue – the GoPro3 decided not to record. The battery indicated it was working but I could not get it to record. I was able to hand it to John and continue recording with the MVA4 alone.

Our crew woke early with me and I was in the water by 6:40 AM to collect video data! It was a sunny day with decent underwater visibility. It was nice to see the dolphins again. Dory, Stan and Tank were very playful and checked out my fins! Calli has numerous rake marks (pictured) and was very curious about the MVA4 and me. Bailey seems to like her reflection in the MVA4 face plate – good thing we have a new one with no scratches!

Our volunteer observers collected lots of data from the surface and were swift to pick up and remember the different marks on each dolphin’s dorsal fins and flanks. We did some respiration/surfacing comparison data collection on the adult males (French, Ritchie, Ronnie) and Lenca and Champ. They were slow swimming in the afternoon.

Tomorrow is the picnic at Maya Key but first we’ll have another data collection session!

Cheers

Kathleen and the 2019 DCP Eco-tour team

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Ron and Jill 2019
19 February 2020

Travel Day – always a long day!

We all arrived safely to Roatan for the DCP 2019 eco-tour. And, we were pleasantly surprised by short immigration and customs lines!

It is wonderful to be back to AKR and to seeing the same folks at the resort and the animal care team. And, of course the dolphins! Several of us went over to Bailey’s Key in the afternoon to greet the trainers and to see the dolphins. Everyone looked good. There were programs and so I was able to re-introduce several in our group (Ron B, Regina, Ron R, Raina, Taylor) to Ritchie, Ronnie, French, Champ, and Lenca. The rest of the dolphin group was out in the main pool lagoon area and harder to introduce close up.

Our evening wrapped up with a chat about Sunday’s start time for data collection and a congratulations from Jill to Ron B for his long-time support of DCP, and for his mischievous humor!! (see blog photo for Ron’s thank you treat!)

Roatan midnight (i.e., 8 pm!) came early and we all said good night to slumber and prep for the early morning observation session.

Until tomorrow,

Kathleen, John, Ron B, Jill, Don, Bill, Charlie, Ron R, Regina, Raina & Taylor

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KD and MVA4 and Dixie
19 February 2020

Packed and Ready to For Roatan!

The DCP 2019 Eco-tour to Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR) and The Roatan Institute for Marine Science (RIMS) begins tomorrow. Hurray! The bags are finally packed and we depart before the sun rises tomorrow … at least for the airport, our flight is a bit later than that!

This trip has me using a modified MVA4. In this blog’s photo, you can see me water testing the system in the pool. You can see that Dixie is not at all interested in the MVA4 or me when we made sure water stayed outside the housing!

The hydrophones are now connected through the housing side wall as “wet pluggable,” which means we can detach them completely from the MVA4 housing for travel to and from the field. John also made some slight modifications to the camera tray so the higher-resolution camera fits better in the housing – and I can actually see what I’m recording. We also have a new front plate and a new top mount for the GoPro.

Of course, we also touched up the green paint and some of the black edging. The system looks spiffy – almost like new, even though the MVA4 is 15 years old!

Stay tuned for more updates from the DCP Eco-tour group during the next week – we have several research projects for which we’re collecting data. I’ll update you as the week commences and continues!

Cheers

Kathleen (& Dixie!)

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Data Collection at DE - Day 1, 2019
19 February 2020

Data Collection at DE - Day 1, 2019

Our team arrived late yesterday to Nassau for 3 packed days of research. Our team includes Heather, Jill, and Donna who joined Kathleen for this field session at Blue Lagoon Island, home of Dolphin Encounters.
We are here to collaborate with Te-Shalla and Destaney in collecting data on whether dolphins express a choice in receiving a single fish versus a jackpot of fish in advance of studying whether they will choose the larger amount after a delay or the single fish immediately.
We did lots of standing and observing and watching dolphins. It was the best way to spend our day! Among friends and with dolphins! We also toured a bit of the island and enjoyed a delicious lunch. (the reader might notice a theme to our field reports - when in the field, meals become very important as well as a time for chatting about results and protocols!)
We have another early morning tomorrow and another day of data collection.
Stay tuned!
Kathleen, Donna, Jill, and Heather
P.s. in the blog photo, you can see a young male selecting one of the targets for this study.

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DCP’s RIMS Summary - January 2019
19 February 2020

DCP’s RIMS Summary - January 2019

I spent a VERY productive three weeks on Roatan at Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR) collecting data on the dolphins at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS). I was joined by two student groups – one (14 students) from Colorado State University (CSU) and one (11 students) from the University of Rhode Island (URI). Thank you to Dr. K (CSU) and Dr. R (URI) for continuing to collaborate with me and DCP and co-teaching students on topics focused on animal behavior and physiology. (Thank you also to Ron B. and his family for participating in some of DCP’s first week programs on this field session!) During my third week in the field this month, I was joined by Heather, Dee and John. We crammed as much research and data collection into 7 days as seemed humanly possible!
Here are the numbers:
I had 22 data collection and observation sessions that yielded 22 hrs of video data (11 hrs each on my GoPro3 and the MVA2 system). Logging the videos (for dolphin IDs and duration on screen) will keep me (and student interns and volunteers) busy for several months!
With CSU and URI student assistance, we began collecting data on how the dolphins at RIMS use the area of their habitat. We collected instantaneous scan samples of where dolphins were (visible at the surface) in their enclosure and also what their activity level was during each scan. Comments and suggestions from students in both groups allowed Heather, Dee and me to revise the data sheets and collect more than two dozen scans to form a pilot data set.
With Teri, Dee, and Heather, we continued collecting data to better understand how creative dolphins are; Dee collected video data adjacent to Teri when she queried dolphins. Heather documented the session trials and details and I was the in-water person effectively treading water and filming both underwater and surface views from the dolphin perspective during each session. We were able to conduct four sessions each with 11 dolphins. Again, we will be analyzing data for a few months to get an idea of just how creative bottlenose dolphins at RIMS are …
We could not have had such a productive field session without assistance from the RIMS training staff and AKR team members who variously shuttled us back and forth between Bailey’s Key and Anthony’s Key – THANK YOU! And, thank you for all folks from AKR, RIMS, DCP, CSU and URI for facilitating a really great data collection session. I could think of no better way to launch 2019 than with a productive field session punctuated by great weather, awesome underwater visibility, eager students, and playful dolphins!
Happy 2019!!
Cheers
Kathleen

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Shifting Currents, Invigorating Winds, and Dolphins!
19 February 2020

Shifting Currents, Invigorating Winds, and Dolphins!

Another early day was greeted by overcast skies and some choppy sea conditions. The underwater visibility was still good and I was able to collect another 30 minutes of underwater video of the dolphins at Bailey’s Key. They were much more subdued as compared with yesterday! And, because there was still a bit of a current, though crossing differently from yesterday, the dolphins seemed to stay close to the shore area. The males were chasing one another while there was much infant swimming by the females and their calves and the younger females, too.
We stayed at Bailey’s after my underwater data collection to welcome Teri and continue with our innovative data collection. And, Heather and Dee worked diligently to collect baseline spatial data as well as area use by dolphins before, during and after my observations and that of the encounter and swim programs. John did some drone shots and got a really good one of Bailey’s Key (see cover photo for this blog report).
Our data collection sessions have been very, very productive. We’ll be kept busy for quite a while analyzing these data.
Tomorrow is our last day of data collection! We look forward to seeing the “small weather system” push through tonight so we have a bright sunny and clear day with much to document!
Cheers,
Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & John

P.S. DCP's dolphin science podcast - The Dolphin Pod - has just returned! And we need your help to produce new episodes. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/the-dolphin-pod to make a tax-deductible donation! All proceeds will fund the production of new episodes. And of course, check out all the existing episodes here: https://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/index.php/the-latest-buzz/the-dolphin-pod

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Shifting Currents, Invigorating Winds, and Dolphins!
19 February 2020

Shifting Currents, Invigorating Winds, and Dolphins!

Another early day was greeted by overcast skies and some choppy sea conditions. The underwater visibility was still good and I was able to collect another 30 minutes of underwater video of the dolphins at Bailey’s Key. They were much more subdued as compared with yesterday! And, because there was still a bit of a current, though crossing differently from yesterday, the dolphins seemed to stay close to the shore area. The males were chasing one another while there was much infant swimming by the females and their calves and the younger females, too.
We stayed at Bailey’s after my underwater data collection to welcome Teri and continue with our innovative data collection. And, Heather and Dee worked diligently to collect baseline spatial data as well as area use by dolphins before, during and after my observations and that of the encounter and swim programs. John did some drone shots and got a really good one of Bailey’s Key (see cover photo for this blog report).
Our data collection sessions have been very, very productive. We’ll be kept busy for quite a while analyzing these data.
Tomorrow is our last day of data collection! We look forward to seeing the “small weather system” push through tonight so we have a bright sunny and clear day with much to document!
Cheers,
Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & John

P.S. DCP's dolphin science podcast - The Dolphin Pod - has just returned! And we need your help to produce new episodes. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/the-dolphin-pod to make a tax-deductible donation! All proceeds will fund the production of new episodes. And of course, check out all the existing episodes here: https://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/index.php/the-latest-buzz/the-dolphin-pod

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A Very Busy Day!
19 February 2020

A Very Busy Day!

We started the day early with an aerial view of Heather, Dee and I traveling by water taxi to Bailey’s Key for data collection. I had a ~26 min morning data collection session in which Meredith and Sarah, two trainers from RIMS, joined our observations. They got in the water also and it was funny to watch the dolphins react to their presence! A very social group of dolphins became even more social and very vocal! There was much circle swimming around Meredith and Sarah and much social rubbing, also! To use anthropomorphic terms – it seemed like the dolphins got a huge treat with additional early morning visitors!
The rest of our morning was spent collecting data for the dolphin innovative study and our spatial use data collection sessions. For the former, Heather collects data from the surface, Dee is next to Teri recording details of the cues and I am the in-water person getting the underwater and surface behavior data. The current picked up yesterday morning and I definitely earned my lunch!
It was a good day if also punctuated by several rain squalls. Fiesta night was not on Anthony’s Key but in the dining room. We were all glad to have a dry spot to enjoy dinner!
Tomorrow is our second to last day of data collection – we will have lots and lots of data to analyze!
Cheers,
Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & John

P.S. A hearty Thank You to Wanderer Bracelets for their sponsorship of DCP! Check out the dolphin bracelets on Kathleen’s wrist … Wanderer Bracelets donates 10% of each dolphin bracelet sold to DCP. Check out their web page (https://www.wandererbracelets.com) to pick up your dolphin bracelet … and maybe 1 or 2 others! There are some really cool designs! Check out their web site to learn the story of these bracelets – very eco-friendly!

KD Wanderer Bracelet CCd sm

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Sun, Rain, Clear and silty visibility – the day ran the gamut!
19 February 2020

Sun, Rain, Clear and silty visibility – the day ran the gamut!

We had another action film shoot to start our day – walking to the water taxi and arriving to the dock at Bailey’s before we set up for data collection. The light and sun and clouds were cooperative for the shoot. I even got a full session of underwater video data collection this morning and we collected baseline spatial use data and the before, during, and after data collection sessions around my observational data collection. Dory was my buddy for a good portion of the observation session – you can see her in the blog photo checking me out this morning!
We stayed at Baileys once our early morning video data session was complete to wait for the trainers and be ready for Teri on arrival for continued creativity data collection. Across three sessions today (two morning and one afternoon), we were able to complete a second session for most of the dolphins in our study. Of course, the rain meant that not only did I get wet (doing the in-water observations) but so did Dee, Heather and Teri, on the dock! The shower was short lived, but followed by some blurry and silty underwater visibility due to the rain. Thankfully, the visibility cleared relatively swiftly. Our afternoon was more baseline spatial observations as well as data collection before, during, and after a swim program. We regrouped late this afternoon/early evening to review data, spot check footage, enter data into the spreadsheet, and discuss tomorrow’s game plan – more of the same! We all sleep really well at night!
Until tomorrow,
Cheers,
Kathleen, Heather, Dee, & John

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Data Collection – Behavior, Communication, Cognition!
19 February 2020

Data Collection – Behavior, Communication, Cognition!

Our day began just after first light with a film shoot, which delayed data collection and behavior observations. But, we had fun with the shoot. John had set up our porch to facilitate a roundtable conversation among Heather, Dee and me about our plans for our research throughout the week, especially our study with Teri to examine creativity in the dolphins here at RIMS. John was quite happy with the result and once done, sent us on our way to Bailey’s to continue data collection while he “wrapped the set.”
Dee, Heather and I enjoyed a swift water taxi ride to Bailey’s Key at about 7 AM to continue our baseline data collection to better understand how the dolphins use the various locations within their enclosure. After about 10 minutes of baseline data collection, I was ready to get in and collect more data with the MVA2. The dolphins were VERY social – both above and below the water surface. There was much vocal behavior and lots of tactile rubbing contact. And, there were numerous leaps near and far from Kathleen in the water.
A morning meeting with Teri followed a hurried breakfast. Happy Birthday to Teri and Maury!! We regrouped on Bailey’s Key to resume data collection on dolphin creativity and were able to work with four male and three female dolphins. We had a VERY productive day split into two sessions (morning, afternoon). A few rain squalls punctuated our day but the sun kept us warm and energized! While Kathleen and John returned to charge batteries and transfer footage between external hard drives, Heather and Dee remained on Bailey’s to collect data during a training session and more baseline date on spatial use of the habitat by dolphins in the afternoon.
The evening wrapped up (after a great dinner!) with us reviewing footage from the day, chatting about our game plan for tomorrow, and generally trying to keep our eyes open to (maybe) check a few emails before returning to our rooms and turning in for the evening! Tomorrow begins at about sunrise with more filming followed by more data!
Cheers
Kathleen, John, Heather & Dee

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Research took Center Stage today!
19 February 2020

Research took Center Stage today!

The really great underwater visibility was available again today. And, the dolphins were quite social this morning! Luckily, Champ, Lenca and Ronnie were playing together and Ritchie, Bill and Stan were hanging out together. Only Stan paid extra attention to my fins. I was also able to record some tactile contact between Callie and Tilly and Bailey and Tank were often accompanied by Poli and Elli during their swims. After the first early morning data collection session, Heather, Dee and I brainstormed about additional data collection and we also spent time discussing the film angles with John. He is doing a short video piece about our research here at RIMS and will get a few conversational interview clips from us.
Thank you to both the CSU and URI groups for helping collect surface data observations during their weeks with us this month. Dee, Heather and I collected some baseline surface activity data and also observed an encounter and swim session to review our tentative data sheets and confirm we are collecting the data we plan to use for our questions about spatial use of the enclosure by dolphins. Then, just after noon, I did a second underwater session so they could collect the same type of data the students gathered during their weeks here. We made a few modifications to the data sheets based on student comments and out experience collecting the data. Of course, this meant our lunch was quite late today … Thankfully, Marcos made sure we had a tasty feast.
We spend the afternoon reviewing collected data, chatting with John about tomorrow’s game plan and confirming our meeting time with Teri for our creativity study and data collection. All in all, a very good day punctuated this morning by a full double, vibrant rainbow that extended from Bailey’s Key to Anthony’s Key!
Tomorrow will start with a brief interview BEFORE data collection in the morning!
Until then,
Cheers
Kathleen, Dee, John & Heather

P.S. Join DCP at our Bimini, The Bahamas, field site - where we have studied dolphins for over 18 years! With 5 nights' accommodation at a small, locally-owned and operated hotel, participants have access to DCP talks/presentations, 3 meals/day, 5 boat trips in search of wild dolphins and more! During dolphin trips, we aim to not only see dolphins from the boat - but also to swim with them!
Plus: by participating in a DCP-led program, you help ensure we get more opportunities to observe and collect data on these amazing animals! Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you'd like to register! $350 deposit required to save your space.

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URI group departure, More researchers arrive
19 February 2020

URI group departure, More researchers arrive

Today was a shift day but before shifting (so to speak), we had data collection! The URI team did another surface observation data collection while I observed and videotaped the dolphins underwater. The visibility was again VERY good. And, I watched Ritchie and Stan jaw and play with each other while Dory and Callie each played with seaweed.
The URI team had a tasty breakfast (the photo is of the group on the overlook adjacent to the restaurant!) and then packed up their gear for the return trek to New England and Rhode Island. A last few minutes of catching sun rays or paddle boarding rounded out the morning before everyone donned socks, sneakers and long pants for the flights home.
I waited about 2 hrs after URI left for Heather, Dee and John to arrive. John will be filming the research we do to create a short documentary about our research this week. Heather, Dee and I will be working on 3-4 research projects over the week. I’ll detail the different topics as the week progresses.
All in all, it was a great transition day with sunny skies, warm temperatures and calm seas! Let’s hope that weather holds this week!
Cheers
Kathleen, Heather, Dee & John – DCP RIMS 2019 research team

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Close Encounters of the Dolphin Kind!
19 February 2020

Close Encounters of the Dolphin Kind!

Our day began with very high winds and a seemingly strong underwater current. Our surface observations went much smoother this morning – practice makes perfect! The strong current was confirmed by Kathleen once she began underwater observations. The dolphin activity at the surface was very quiet – very little activity. That said, we were surprised that the gates between pools were partially open. We learned the facility did this to avoid a buildup of sargassum seaweed in the different pools.
After a hearty breakfast, we did our dolphin encounter with Alita and her trainer Brooke. After our meet-and-greet encounter, we had a 30-minute swim with the dolphins. Poli, Elli, Callie, and Tank all played with us with seaweed, sea grass, and various swift swim patterns. There was still a bit of current in the pool that we all experienced and the dolphins, overall, were relatively lowkey. They were not overly playful but did swim around to check us all out.
Just before lunch, Dr. R and Kathleen subjected us to a pop dolphin-ID quiz! Only 4 of us were able to correctly identify at least 10 the 19 dolphins in the photographs presented to us. Even though we spent about 3.5 hrs this week practicing and reviewing dolphin IDs, we were reminded by this quiz that it is not easy to recognize dolphins in the short-term. (We are glad they can recognize each other!)
After lunch, we spent a bit of time reviewing video with BORIS … a software program that facilitates behavioral analyses from video and streamlines the data collection process. After this session, we were given a few hours of free-time! (woohoo!) (Side note: Kathleen saw half the class sitting on lounge chairs on the small beach on Anthony’s Key with their laptops … not the typical beach sunbathing photo one would expect!)
We had a scrumptious last supper and are just now finishing our final blog for the week. Of course, Kathleen informed us we will have one more data collection session at 6:15 tomorrow morning!
Until then,
Cheers
The URI Rams!

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Data Collection is Hard!
19 February 2020

Data Collection is Hard!

We learned it’s important to have multiple people collecting data from different perspectives to compare similarities and differences – especially with the surface observations we collect around Kathleen’s data collection in the morning at Bailey’s Key. Late this afternoon, we just reviewed the reliability between our teams for data collection of surface activity and we did not really match that well (oops!). But, we have learned much about collecting these data.
Our morning began as usual with data collection while Kathleen observed the dolphins underwater. After breakfast, we listened to her give an insightful lecture about DCP and dolphin communication and cognition. Then, after her talk, we discussed a scientific paper that required a severe critical eye – we found several methodological issues with the research design and the statistics used to examine the data. We practiced using critical thinking! After the paper discussion, we reviewed the morning video data, and we are getting MUCH better at recognizing the individual dolphins. We routinely recognize Stan, Mrs. Beasley, Carmella, Champ, Tank, Alita (perfect dolphin!), and we are even getting a bit more practice with recognizing Ritchie and Bill as they have been swimming around more than usual. Dory’s vocalizations are usually loud and she brings us seaweed often to tempt us to play!
After another delicious lunch that was unique and delightful, we went snorkeling to Lawson Rock. The current was stronger than expected and we got rained on by a squall that blew through the area! The water was warmer than the rain and so it was tempting to stay in the water! We saw trunk fish and other sea creatures … even though we seemed to collide with each other more often than not! We did our part for conservation by collecting any plastic bits we saw and removing them from the sea.
It was wonderful to get off the snorkel boat and be able to take hot showers and warm up and dry out!
We spent a bit of time working on our portfolios before meeting with Dr. R and Kathleen. We reviewed our data collection (see above) and then listened to the first new The Dolphin Pod podcast from DCP! (For you listening pleasure … check it out here: https://audioboom.com/posts/7139516-timesharing-dolphins)
Tomorrow, after data collection, we have our dolphin encounter and swim at 9 AM!
It is hard to believe tomorrow is our last full day here on Roatan!
Cheers
The URI Rams!

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Day and Nightlife of the Sea
19 February 2020

Day and Nightlife of the Sea

We started the day with dolphin observations while Kathleen collected data – another early morning. There was lots of seaweed blown in from the night but the underwater visibility was really good! It was partly cloudy but with little wind. There was much less surface activity than previous days and there was also much more dolphin self-play than play with us.
We came back from Bailey’s and had a delightful breakfast. We were supposed to have an hour of free time when Justin burst onto porches and let us know there was a change of plans! We were able to sit in on a training session with the dolphins and their trainers and get to know them a bit more. We each spent time with a different dolphin and trainer. It was well worth the change of plans to get to know the dolphins better.
Our morning was packed because after sitting with the trainers we did another observation of Kathleen collecting data – a second morning session. The dolphins were much less active after having had breakfast. These two sessions were followed by an hour of free time so we could work on our portfolios. Lunch was later and after lunch we reviewed video in the RIMS classroom – continuing to sketch the different dolphins. We noticed a slight improvement in confirming IDs of the dolphins on the video. There is a lot less guessing and shouting out various dolphin names and more often than not, the first name offered matches the dolphin on the screen!
Our afternoon wrapped up with a discussion of an article on mother-calf swimming – locomotion formation. Our discussion was lively and was punctuated by a video of a dolphin calf swimming with mom and others from Kathleen’s video archive. The calf was only 2 weeks old!
Next, we got ready for and departed on our night snorkel. We saw numerous fish: squirrelfish, puffer fish, an octopus, a lizard fish, some blue tangs, a sergeant major that was guarding eggs (as denoted by its purplish color hue), and a large hermit crab. We also saw a very large trunkfish. Katlyn got stung by a box jellyfish with the evidence a seeming sting wrapped around her arm. Vinegar was helpful to decrease the sting.
We rode back to the resort enjoying the sky full of stars. Dinner was wonderful and we are all ready for bed!
Tomorrow is another day in paradise.
Cheers
The URI Rams!

P.S. the group photo is from first thing this morning.

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Rain, Sun and Maya Key!
19 February 2020

Rain, Sun and Maya Key!

We woke to a torrential downpour and Kathleen made us go collect data. But, it was so very worth it! We waited 15 minutes to see if the rain would subside. It did not. By the time we got to Bailey’s Key, we were all wet. But, just as we began our surface observations, the rain let up and then ceased. And, Kathleen mentioned that underwater visibility was great! The dolphins were very, very playful and there was a lot of jumping, leaping, and other surface behaviors. Even Carmella was leaping! Most of the activity was actually between the three platforms. None of us were on the docks – we were all on the platforms to watch, and occasionally toss seaweed for, the dolphins. Kathleen spent an extra 10 min in the water, after which we all departed Bailey’s for breakfast.
At breakfast, we tried “flitters,” which are a type of square fried dough. Very tasty. We had about 45 min between breakfast and getting to the bus for Maya Key so we tried our hands (and feet) at paddle boarding – some with more success (and drier) than others. A few of us were diligent and transcribed our slates from the morning observations.
We took the bus to Maya Key where bright, sunny, and hot skies greeted us. We also snorkeled and saw some neat fish: a smooth trunk fish, French and banded angelfish, lots of parrotfish, flounder, disco fish, squirrelfish, trumpetfish, triggerfish, baby blue tangs, and more. We also got to meet an 18 yr old male South American sea lion and a few of us even fed him a few fish. Also, the animal collection was very diverse. And, of course, the food was delicious!!
After returning from Maya Key, we had about 30 min to chill and then met at the RIMS classroom to see some of the morning video and discuss two pectoral fin papers. We wrapped up the pectoral fin paper discussion on a dock watching the sunset. Dinner was scrumptious and followed by reviewing the rest of the video collected this morning. The dolphins were just as active underwater as above!
Looking forward to tomorrow!
Cheers
The URI Rams!

P.S> thanks to Kiran for today's blog photo of the snorkel dock at Maya Key!

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Sunday – first day of data collection and dolphin learning!
19 February 2020

Sunday – first day of data collection and dolphin learning!

The day started early with nice sunny weather and calm conditions to start. We had our introduction to dolphin observations at Bailey’s Key. The dolphins were active! Our observations were a bit confusing at first because we were not really sure what we should record. And, there was an identification barrier – we did not yet know which dolphins were who!
After returning from Bailey’s we had a hearty breakfast and then got introduced to DCP and their research and education programs. We also got to see the MVA and then to swim with it. Sporadic rain showers visited us late in the morning, just as we were about to snorkel with the MVA – to see what it’s like to try to record dolphin behavior underwater. It was only drizzling when we got in the water. It was difficult and awkward to swim with the MVA for some but easier for others of us. It was positively buoyant so swimming underwater was not easy!
Our afternoon was spent reviewing the morning video data collected as well as learning details about dolphin IDs and sketching the dolphins while chatting about why confirming individual IDs is important (for a variety of reasons).
We had a bit of free time to keep up with our reading and also do some paddle boarding! Kiran also picked up three pieces of trash … woohoo! Tonight also had us attending a fish ID talk. We were pleased to have the talk tonight before we go snorkeling so we know what to look out for underwater. Jennifer would like to see parrotfish while Juliette wants to see a smooth trunkfish and Annie wants to see some blue tangs.
We coordinated in competition for the Roatan Marine Park tags versus bracelets – they are a green color for 2019. We are well past Roatan midnight and will be starting early (6:15 AM!) again tomorrow!
Until then,
Cheers
The URI Rams!

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Changing of the Guard – sort of!
19 February 2020

Changing of the Guard – sort of!

Today was the last day on Roatan for the CSU group and the first day on Roatan for the University of Rhode Island (URI) student group. The onsite team helped with a last morning data collection session during which Kathleen saw much of Mrs. Beasley and there was much socializing among all the dolphins this morning. Breakfast was another delight and then the CSU students did their final packing and prep for departure. They left for the airport at 11 AM. And about 20 minutes later, I learned from Dr. R. that the URI group was delayed in Atlanta due to mechanical issues on the plane. (Better safe than sorry!) I’d shifted rooms while waiting and got a few minutes to swing in a hammock.
The URI group arrived at about 4:45 PM and we delighted to see their first sunset on Roatan! It was a big yellow orb dropping behind Bailey’s Key. Their journey began at midnight on Friday evening and everyone wore giant smiles even though they were tired. We start tomorrow early so tonight had everyone wrapping up their evening before Roatan midnight (aka 8 pm!)
Until tomorrow and URI’s first dolphin observations and data collection session.
Cheers
Kathleen and the URI Rams (yes! Both schools have the ram as mascot!!)

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It’s too soon to say goodbye!
19 February 2020

It’s too soon to say goodbye!

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!).
Cheers
the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!

P.S. the photo below shows us during our encounter!

IMG 6726 CSUencounter

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Day 6 - Rays, jellies and reefs, Oh My!
19 February 2020

Day 6 - Rays, jellies and reefs, Oh My!

We had a bright and early visit to Bailey’s Key with the absolute best underwater visibility in a long time (according to Kathleen). The dolphins seemed quiet at first and then they were playful with jumping above the water. They were playful with each other and mostly left Kathleen alone. We can all recognize Tank, Stan and Dory … because of their small sizes. We had quite a few sightings of Mrs. Beasley too. Our data collection observations were followed by another amazing breakfast … and then we went to the snorkel boat for a morning of underwater adventures. (Kristin and Jackson went to a different boat to try scuba but the rest of us went snorkeling.) We saw some different island architecture as we motored to our farthest snorkel spot. The first snorkel had lots of fish that we could ID because of the fish ID talk. Not all of us saw the octopus but it was eating a conch and was draped over the shell. We saw lionfish and sea urchins and lots of fish. Of course, one or two of us also decided to have a jellyfish encounter … without permission of the jellyfish! Vinegar works wonders on jellyfish stings, as does a fresh water shower!
On both the first and second snorkel session (because there were two on this one boat trip today), even though we had a wide-open ocean area, we bottlenecked around each other. So, each of us knows what it feels like to receive a fin kick to the face. At the end of the first snorkel, several of us saw a giant stingray (not a fish tail because it was bigger than Dr. K!).
After a delicious and much needed lunch, we went back to Bailey’s Key to try our hand at collecting data for our own research projects. We worked out lots of kinks about our data collection and worked out some details. It is much harder to count respiration rates than we originally thought and we also realized there were full and partial breaths! We also got quite a few questions answered by the trainers and we want to give them a thank you shout out!! Thank you for letting us be in the way to observe you and ask questions.
From Bailey’s we went to the RIMS classroom to listen to Jennifer about sea turtle conservation. There was a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time. It is clear Jennifer is passionate about turtle conservation. It was interesting to learn that the first thing you think about conservation is not necessarily the best way.
We just finished reviewing the morning video data that Kathleen collected and we agree with her that the underwater visibility was spectacular! Now, we are on to dinner!
Tomorrow is our encounter and swim with the dolphins, after of course we collect data in the morning!
Cheers
the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!

P.S. dinner was delicious!

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Fun in the Sun!!
19 February 2020

Fun in the Sun!!

We began our day like the previous with data collection at the crack of dawn! It was a blustery morning with swirly, gusty winds. The dolphins were a bit more social with one another and, Kathleen reported, into their own thing more than paying her any attention. Our morning was spent pondering our individual research questions for our projects, intermixed with a bit of time soaking up the sun and trying our skill on the paddle boards. After a delicious lunch, we each (individually) spent time discussing our research questions and our data collection protocols with Dr. K and Dr. D (Kathleen) to be sure we grasped the concept of using a behavior as a physiological indicator. They assured us we all had solid questions. Now, we must expand on our protocols and test our what we believe to be the best method for data collection.
The evening presented us with another culinary buffet and an introduction to the culture of the island – the Garifuna dancers. The meal was again delicious and the dancers were fun to watch – Amber even got up to dance with one of the ladies! The crab races were won by Jackson’s hermit crab, after which Jackson who received high-fives from the rest of us (see photo below). Ansley, Ralea, Grant and Kyler all attempted to win the limbo contest … to no avail! But it was fun to watch them try!
All in all – we had a great day on Roatan and look forward to another early day of data collection tomorrow!
Cheers
the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!

P.S. Shane, Ron & Kathleen were sad to report there was no mac 'n cheese on tonight's buffet!

Jackson

 

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What a Way to Spend New Year’s Day!

Today was a packed day! We started at 6 AM at the water taxi to Bailey’s for data collection. We collected data before, during, and after Kathleen’s data collection session. We had a morning lecture and then an afternoon session meeting the dolphins and the trainers. Our evening was topped off with a night snorkel from a boat. Each student shares their thoughts about the day …
Sierra – today, we discovered we could love the dolphins even more than we already did!
Maddi – There is no way you can be sad when sitting by the dolphins because of all their whistles and noises.
Heather – I got a kiss from Bailey and it was the best day of my life (p.s. Bailey is a dolphin!).
Ralea – I had a wonderful day with dolphins and people and then after the night snorkel I got stung by a jelly fish twice (what a day!)
Jennifer – we experienced a torrential downpour this afternoon and also had rain this morning that yielded a rainbow to start the day.
Kyler – We saw the first sunrise and sunset of the new year and we learned every minute in between.
Marcela – There was no better way to start 2019 than by filling it with learning and laughter with our new friends both human and dolphin.
Grant – From an amazing classroom session to a night snorkel, a lot of things have happened in 2019 already but the best so far is spending an hour with Maury the dolphin.
Ally – My favorite part was being able to get up close and really get to know one specific dolphin and one specific trainer – to see how smart the dolphins are and what Maury’s personality is like and how well she works with Jocelyn. It was really interesting to hear about how each trainer arrived at RIMS to work with the dolphins.
Marissa – The best day of my life thus far getting a personal introduction to the dolphins from the trainers was an experience I will never forget because of the close contact and surreal experience.
Amber – my favorite part so far has been watching the dolphins in their day-to-day life (“back stage”) as a researcher as opposed to how the majority of the guest or visitors see the dolphins.
Ansley – I’ve been very grateful for Kathleen’s and Dr. K’s patience in teaching us various concepts and helping us to be better scientists.
Kaelyn – I have really enjoyed learning about all the different animals so far, even the animals on Maya Key … and learning about them through a new lens (perspective).
Andrea – I’m grateful for the opportunity to get involved more up-close and personal with the dolphins today and to see their personalities shine through.
Jackson – even though trainer for the day was super long, it was worth doing everything we did! We fed the dolphins and asked them for behaviors. We also shared a boogie board ride with dolphins! The only not great part was washing the coolers and preparing the fish for the coolers.
All students are turning the corner on their own research projects. Today was a good day.
Cheers
the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!
P.S. Paige brought us a nice selection of chocolate – Thank you!
P.S.S. Thank you Ralea for the photo!

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Happy New Year’s! It’s already 2019, as we celebrated Roatan Midnight!
19 February 2020

Happy New Year’s! It’s already 2019, as we celebrated Roatan Midnight!

It’s 8:29 and we are barely awake as we write this field blog. We learned that previous school groups identified 8 PM as Roatan midnight. So, we have done the same and celebrated New Year’s already! Before we slumber and prepare for tomorrow, we will recap our day.
We started our day with a beautiful sunrise! We began our observations at Bailey’s Key at 6:16 AM and saw the orange sunrise that highlighted Dr. K, before Kathleen got into the water for data collection (see photo below). Champ and Lenca were feisty and we also saw a bit more of Ronnie and French near to our observation areas.
After breakfast, we returned to the RIMS classroom to watch the video collected yesterday morning followed by a dive response lecture. While Kathleen set up her video and laptop, we got 5 minutes of culture when we visited the Roatan museum.
During the lecture, we were introduced to the topic that we’ll have to focus on for our own research projects. Dr. K introduced the topic with a juxtaposition of the following two approaches: behavior dictates physiology vs physiology dictates behavior. We had a lively debate during which we learned it is ok to fail if we learn from our experiences and move forward with knowledge.
Today was also our visit to Maya Key where we visited a replica of the Copan Mayan ruin and also spent time watching animals that were rescued exotics and have found a new home on Maya Key. We also bonded over numerous no-see-um bites as we walked around the island!
After lunch, we returned to AKR and had an afternoon informal discussion about collecting data before, during and after Kathleen collects data in the mornings. We learned about the new data sheets and also asked more questions about what we will be required to do for our own research projects and papers at the end of the week.
Dinner was a new year buffet that presented delicious food for the new year celebration; we got to meet the chef and thank him personally for his effort on our (and the rest of the resort guests) behalf. Thank you very much to Ron for treating us all to virgin piña coladas and daiquiris to celebrate the new year! Just before writing this report, we watched the video from this morning and welcomed AKR staff and a few other guests to watch or video and listen and chat.
Tomorrow will come sooner than we expect but we look forward to another great day of data collection and learning.
Cheers
the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!

Shane 31Dec

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It’s New Year’s Eve Eve on Roatan!
19 February 2020

It’s New Year’s Eve Eve on Roatan!

Today, the Rams in Roatan did their first day of data collection, lectures, and snorkeling then finished off the long day with a presentation on fish identification.
One of the Rams told us that "waking up at 5am was totally worth it when we got to watch the dolphins for the first time and see the sunrise over the jungle."
We were then able to take the field into the classroom as only one or two people started to doze off as the last bit of jetlag began to leave their brains. I bet you everyone would get at least a C or higher on a dolphin anatomy quiz. Now on the names of some of our new friends, we may have to ask for a curve, but we are doing our best.
Someone once said that rams aren't very good swimmers. We are happy to report that we both proved that saying right and wrong. While a few of us struggled with gear and put way too much liquid spit in our goggles, all of us eventually got comfortable and were exploring the reef of Bailey's Key like we had been doing it for a lot longer than 30 minutes.
We had some fantastic showers post-snorkel and made our way back to the classroom for the fish ID presentation. One of our professors, Dr. K, gave us the tip that if we arrive early, we would get great seats, as this was an all-resort presentation. While on first arrival we ended up being locked out and getting not the best seats, the presentation was fantastic, and we are excited to identify stuff tomorrow.
Cheers for tonight!
the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!

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New Friends
19 February 2020

New Friends

 

Here is each student’s thought on today – travel and arrival to Roatan!
Kyler – it was worth the journal because of the ocean I saw when we arrived to AKR.
Marcela – the start of a new journey with new people is always inspiring because we don’t know what’s coming but we know it’ll be exciting.
Marissa – upon arrival at Roatan – all exhaustion left me because of the excitement of being in a new place for the first time.
Maddi – I think the culture shock of how amazing the staff and people are here was a very nice surprise. They really want us to enjoy our time.
Kaelyn – the is the resort that nature built with friendly faces and the beautiful view that we can all enjoy. We are very fortunate to experience this view.
Sierra – The people here feel very genuine and honest and welcoming. We all seem to have the interest in the oceans and dolphins and it is cool we can all come together and learn about these topics that we all love.
Ansley – Even though it was awful to fall asleep on the airport floor prior to our travel nothing beat the views that greeted us on arrival to AKR.
Ralea – I really appreciated how everyone in our group was willing to chat and deal with my high energy level and we saw the ocean today!
Jennifer – I think it’s really interesting that our group participants have similar backgrounds in study but we all have different perspectives in how the course will be and what we will learn. It’ll be interesting to see the week progress.
Andrea – although nervous about the different unknowns and challenges, I’m excited to forma part of this experience.
Amber – I’m grateful to be able to conduct research in a field that is new to me and to do it in a wonderful place and to build new friendships and professional relationships.
Paige – I was very impressed by the camaraderie, despite the fatigue of the positive attitudes and energy and smiles all around during today’s travel!
Grant – it was really endearing to fly from the giant USA industrial airports to arrive to a tiny community airport where everyone seems to know everyone and it came across as a tight close community.
Heather – we have similarities but we all have different backgrounds and to come together is really cool.
Ally – The highlight after getting settled in was sitting on the hammock outside my room and it was very cool and I felt very thankful and relieved we all seemed to get along well.

Our CSU group has four honorary members – DCP supporters Ron and his family.
Kristin – the chaotic word I live in normally was juxtaposed immediately by the peace of nature on arrival.
Jackson – I am glad I came all the way here to snorkel and see dolphins – even though it was a long trip!
Audrey – I love the hammocks!
Ron – I’m just grateful you opened your world to all of us and to share your research and these amazing dolphins with us.
And, Shane, CSU’s professor – time to go – tomorrow starts early!
Cheers for tonight!
Kathleen and the CSU RAMS in Roatan 2019 group!

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Dixie and Baloo
19 February 2020

Wrapping up 2018 and welcoming 2019 on Roatan!

My bags are packed and I’m ready to go. Soon I’ll be leaving on a jet plane … Sound familiar? It’s a song … (though for the life of me I cannot at this moment remember the title or artist) but it also nicely describes my routine for preparing for three weeks in the field! I depart tomorrow early (!) for two back-to-back field courses followed by a week of research with two colleagues (Heather and Dee). John will join us on the third week to document our research and studies. So, you’ll get updates here for the next three weeks or so!
Our first group, from Colorado State University (CSU) arrives tomorrow, same as me. We should all get to Roatan (assuming the winter storms have not recently left too much havoc at the airports) mid-day.
Of course, as I packed gear, clothing, and datasheets, I had beagle assistance and attention! As the day nears its close, both Dixie and Baloo are keeping a close watch on me. If they had their way, I would never leave the house again! Too bad I can’t teach them how to collect data on dolphins!
Stay tuned as we’ll begin posting blog updates about the CSU adventure (aka field course) tomorrow (Saturday) night from Roatan.
Cheers
Kathleen

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Overcast Skies Welcomed our Last Day on Site
19 February 2020

Overcast Skies Welcomed our Last Day on Site

The weather was still overcast with periodic drizzly rain but no lightning meant we could collect data. I was able to get about 28 min of video this morning, even though the underwater visibility was a bit less than earlier in the week. The dolphins were quite playful with each other. Champ and Dory and then Champ and Tilly each decided to play with my fins and circle swim me a few times during my observations. Carmella and Bailey both whistled with bubble streams. We tried for a second session but the visibility was less later in the day and there were encounter and swim groups that were interacting with the dolphins.
Still, the week was productive with almost 4 hours of video data collected with the MVA2 and the GoPro3. Our eco-tour volunteers (Chris, Dave, Bill, Ron, Jill, Don, Madison, Nat, and John) all contributed to data collection (thank you!) and had fun either snorkeling or diving. Numerous other sea critters were observed and photographed in addition to dolphins: hawksbill and green sea turtles, nurse shark, grouper, snappers, tropical fishes, corals, sponges, and more. The afternoon also included a statistics discussion about Nat’s independent study project. All neat topics and all fun chats!
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour Gang!

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Thunder and Lightning Started the day!
19 February 2020

Thunder and Lightning Started the day!

Our day (Thursday) began with a bang thanks to Mother Nature. Lightning kept us off the dock in the morning and me out of the water. So, no data collection occurred today. We did, however, assist Jennifer with a Coral Tree Cleaning (aka Coral Christmas Trees – in October!). RIMS and AKR have a forest of PVC trees adorned with coral clippings. The coral is grown in situ and when it has grown enough, is transplanted to the reef. In this way, there is an effort to help the reef. The PVC tubes that are the backbone of the trees need to be cleaned regularly to keep algae from growing on them and harming the fledgling coral growth. You can see me and a buddy doing a safety hang after cleaning a few trees in this photo. Toothbrushes and scrub brushes were our friends for an hour underwater today! I also include before cleaning and after cleaning views of one of the trees. The afternoon offered a chance to review video clips from earlier in the week. Even though rain was the predominant weather pattern of the day, we got much accomplished!
Let’s hope tomorrow is better and offers a chance to collect more data!
Cheers
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour Gang!

Thank you to Madison for sharing the coral christmas trees and our cleaning efforts!

beforecleaning Before cleaning and after cleaning cleaned

 

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Wednesday Brings Rain, Dolphins & Fiesta!
19 February 2020

Wednesday Brings Rain, Dolphins & Fiesta!

It was a wet day but a bright day in our activities! Two data collection sessions brought another 45+ minutes of video to our data collection for the week. The dolphins were vocal and social. For a school research project, Nat is looking at infant position among the dolphins and we saw a good bit of that posture and swim position today. The morning session also had lots of floating seaweed and flotsam. Great play toys! The dolphins tried to entice everyone near the pool to play with some amount of seaweed. At one point, Poli was trying to get me to play keep away with a leaf. When I refused to play, she left only to return with a bigger leaf! (My plan of being boring to the dolphins does not always work!) The rest of our group got in 2-3 dives today and some snorkeling on the reef. Sea turtles, many fishes and two free swimming moray eels were observed and photographed! Tonight was Fiesta night … which, in addition to meeting Garifuna dancers, was also mac and cheese night! Conversation was light and much laughter was shared.
We are all game for another early morning start tomorrow … to data collection on the dolphins, that is!
Cheers
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour Gang!

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Data (x2!), dives, dolphin encounters and swims … and some rain!
19 February 2020

Data (x2!), dives, dolphin encounters and swims … and some rain!

October 2nd started like other days when in the field at AKR – with observations of the dolphins around Bailey’s Key! The sun was shining and the underwater visibility was excellent (~5-6 m with minimal suspended silt). The dolphins were into their own thing – very social and playful with each other. Lenca, Champ and Stan or Lenca, Champ and Ronnie were playing with each other. Dory was curious about my fins but also played with Tank and Poli. I even was able to conduct a follow of Carmella and then also of Mrs. Beasley with Gracie. It was a great early morning session. Several (Ron, Bill, Madison, Nat, Don) of our group went on the first morning dive with Madison and Nat meeting Chris, Dave, Jill and me at Bailey’s at about 9:45 for a second data collection session. The activity was a bit lower but there was still some playful chases and seaweed play games. Jill, Madison and Nat (to the far right in the photo) participated in a dolphin encounter and met Alita after which Nat and Madison spent 30 min snorkeling with the dolphins, with a few other humans too! Their smiles on water exit were almost as large as the dolphins … almost!
Everyone split off a bit to do their own thing in the afternoon, which was punctuated by a heavy downpour and an afternoon of drizzly precipitation. I was able to log the notes from the second data collection session and review and transfer the footage collected. I number each session’s video data sequentially for the full year. This October is my third field session at AKR/RIMS and I filmed the 20th video clip of data this year (so far)! Indeed, this winter will be a busy time for processing video data!
Tomorrow promises more data collection, more snorkeling and more diving.
Stay tuned!
Cheers
Kathleen and the DCP Eco-tour gang!

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Two observation sessions today – Happy October!
19 February 2020

Two observation sessions today – Happy October!

My early morning session was truncated because French was too curious about my fins. Calli and Dory were also but it was French’s tight circles that confirmed my early AM session was complete. I was able to get a second observation session at about 10 AM – before the second encounter group met Maury and Alita. The youngsters – Dory, Stan and Tank were very playful and curious … mostly with each other which was a nice switch from the early morning session. There was some jawing and circle swims and some white water! Chris and Dave helped me with data collection as much of the rest of our team were diving and taking the boat over to Maya Key for the picnic. The afternoon had me reviewing data and chatting with Chris about the statistics for the final pec fin paper – comparing mom’s and their calves for their pectoral fin exchanges. Neat stuff!
The early evening offered lively conversation about several topics and some laughter during dinner. Everyone has a good day and the conversation revolved around some of the different critters seen during the scuba diving today. Tomorrow is our groups’ dolphin encounter and swim.
Cheers
Kathleen and the DCP Eco-tour gang!

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An Early Morning with Dolphins!
19 February 2020

An Early Morning with Dolphins!

It’s a great morning that starts with a clear sky, a strong cup of coffee, and a plunge into clear water with social dolphins! Everyone was up early and our trek to Bailey’s was complete by 6:35 AM. I was in the water at 6:50 and greeted by Bailey and Tank, Poli, Tilly and several other dolphins. Champ and Calli decided my fins were REALLY interesting for a few minutes. Even French and Ronnie came by to investigate. The first session is always punctuated by more inquisitiveness around me and the MVA than subsequent sessions. By the end of the 26 min session, the dolphins were back to playing and socializing with each other, which was what I’d hoped for would happen. I also had the opportunity to join the group for the second morning dive, to “White Marker #21.” It was a nice dive that included observations of a scorpion fish and toad fish (see the photo here by John). The water was warm and clear and the current slight. Everyone had fun. Out afternoon was wrapped up with observations of the dolphins during a training session. I wanted to confirm the rake marks and other ID details of the dolphins for the ID sketches. And, Nat, Madison, Ron, Chris and Dave helped and also learned a bit more about how we recognize each individual in the group.
We had a great first day that finished with a good meal and lively conversation! We look forward to more tomorrow!
Cheers
Kathleen & the DCP Eco-tour gang!

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Cars, Planes, Trains – Travel Day!
19 February 2020

Cars, Planes, Trains – Travel Day!

Saturday was travel day for the DCP RIMS/AKR eco-tour this week. John and I (and the rest of our group) took various car routes to get to the airports from which we departed. Three different airlines (and train rides between terminals in Atlanta – ok, it’s a stretch but it gets another mode in there) and several flights brought us to our destination – ROATAN! The boats will be used daily between islands to observe the dolphins and to snorkel or dive! Bill and Ron had a week head start on the rest of us as they came down a week early for diving. Dave, Chris, Nat, Jill, Don, Madison, John and I all arrived, unpacked and settled in. Of course, a few of us took a taxi boat over to Bailey’s to see all the dolphins – the gang was all there! The underwater visibility looked good and I hope it holds for Sunday morning!
We look forward to a week of data collection, snorkeling and scuba diving!
Stay tuned for more!
Cheers
Kathleen and DCP’s October 2018 Eco-tour gang

P.S. my apologies for not posting this report last night … fatigue won last night’s battle!

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Another Field Session for DCP to AKR, RIMS in 2018!!
19 February 2020

Another Field Session for DCP to AKR, RIMS in 2018!!

It has been a couple of hectic days as we pack gear and prep for DCP’s Eco-tour to Roatan and Anthony’s Key Resort (AKR)! John is joining me along with 8 other participants – several of whom have joined DCP on previous eco-tours both to Roatan and to Bimini. I’ll be sure to introduce the team once we are settled in at AKR. Not only will I be collecting the daily non-invasive observations with the MVA but I’ll also be field testing two new protocols for collecting data about dolphin behavior from the surface. This will be a first for me because mostly I’m positioned underwater to observe and document dolphin interactions and behavior!
Because this is the third visit for me/DCP to AKR and the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS), I’ll be starting on MVA tape ID # A21816! That’s right! We will begin this research visit on tape session #16! I look forward to seeing the dolphins and the trainers/care givers and catching up on the last couple of months!
Stay tuned to the DCP home page for daily updates from RIMS!
Cheers
Kathleen

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Contact Us

Write to us via snail-mail at:

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

Email us:

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