Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

Upcoming Webinars!
21 September 2020

Upcoming Webinars!

DCP returned with brand new webinars content in September! Woo-who!

Dolphin Lessons will be scheduled most 1st and 3rd Tuesdays each month, at 1:00 p.m. ET. 

Deep Dives will be most 2nd and 4th Thursdays each month, also at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Remember, Dolphin Lessons are geared toward elementary ages and Deep Dives are for 14+, but everyone is welcome! You can catch up on previously recorded programs on our YouTube channel

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DCP Deep Dive: Social Bonds in Atlantic Spotted Dolphins

You’ve probably imagined dolphins having relationships much like those of us and other primates. But, how on earth can scientists actually measure such a thing? Join newly minted Dr. Nicole Danaher-Garcia as she shares more about her investigations into social bonds among the spotted dolphins off Bimini, The Bahamas.

This program is geared toward ages 14 and up, but all are welcome. You can prepare by watching (or re-watching!) Nicole’s spring webinar on using coefficients of association to understand spotted dolphin “friendships”: click here.

Thursday 24 September 2020, 1:00 p.m. EDT

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89770000874 (or use Meeting ID 897 7000 0874)

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DCP Dolphin Lesson: Explore the DCP Website

In this Dolphin Lesson, DCP will guide participants through the DCP website so you’ll never have to wonder where the best dolphin resources are again! This is a great chance to give your kiddo a safe space to increase their web navigation skills. And learn about dolphins along the way!

Dolphin Lessons are geared toward ages 6-13, but everyone is welcome. Nothing to do in advance – just tune and bring your questions!

Tuesday 6 October 2020, 1:00 p.m. EDT

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81670934800 (or use Meeting ID 816 7093 4800)

--Dolphin Lessons have a password. We hope to use the same password all season. Email DCP at info{at}dcpmail{dot}org to receive the password.---

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DCP Deep Dive: Shoulders with Bernd & Melany Würsig

Whose shoulders have you relied on? Family? Mentors? Partner? Join Drs. Bernd and Melany Würsig on a reflection of their journey into and through the marine mammal field.

This program is geared toward ages 14 and up, but all are welcome. Before or after the webinar, you can find Bernd’s contribution to the Historical Perspectives series from the journal, Aquatic Mammals, by clicking here.

Thursday 5 November 2020, 1:00 p.m. EDT (Rescheduled from 10 Sept)

Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87623339802 (or use Meeting ID 876 2333 9802)

 

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Pausing Pay It Forward
21 September 2020

Pausing Pay It Forward

Thank you everyone who participated in our "Pay It Forward" Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin campaign! We hope everyone enjoyed their adoption "e-kits." After 5 months of donated e-kits, we're pausing this program to focus on our fall webinar lineup. Your financial support ensures webinars stay free. Be sure to tune in this Thursday, 10 September at 1 p.m. EDT, for a Deep Dive reboot: Drs. Bernd & Melany Wuersig discuss mentorship (Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87623339802).

Want to sneak in a qualifying purchase and select a recipient to receive a free Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin "ekit?" Spend at least $15 on any of the items listed below - but get your order in by Wednesday 9 September!

For every $15 spent on any items below, you can select one person to recevie a free, electronic "Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin" kit:

DCP Shirts

DCP "Hoo-rags"

Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin (print or e-kit)

Membership

Donation (min $15)

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Congrats, Dr. Nicole!
21 September 2020

Congrats, Dr. Nicole!

Earlier today, our PhD student, Nicole Danaher-Garcia successfully defended her dissertation! Using data from 2003 – 2018, Nicole successfully painted a picture of the social bonds among Atlantic spotted dolphins off Bimini. DCP could not be more proud – our face muscles are sore from smiling! Congratulations to Dr. Danaher-Garcia and thank you to her entire UMass Dartmouth committee.

Curious about Nicole’s project? Click here for the recording in which Nicole discusses Chapter 2, which has already been published, in a DCP webinar from the spring. And, stay tuned for more chapters in an upcoming webinar.

Congrats again, Dr. Danaher-Garcia! We just can’t say it enough!

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Webinars Return September 2020!
21 September 2020

Webinars Return September 2020!

Guess what?! DCP Webinars will be back with brand new content in September! Woo-who!

Dolphin Lessons will be scheduled most 1st and 3rd Tuesdays each month, at 1:00 p.m. ET. 

Deep Dives will be most 2nd and 4th Thursdays each month, also at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Remember, Dolphin Lessons are geared toward elementary ages and Deep Dives are for 14+, but everyone is welcome! Stay tuned for the exact schedule and topics. And, catch up on previously recorded programs on our YouTube channel

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Word Jumble: Dolphin Species (Round 1)
21 September 2020

Word Jumble: Dolphin Species (Round 1)

New Kids Science Activity Alert!

Click here to download our latest KSA - a jumble activity focused on dolphin species. A big thank you to remote volunteer Olivia for her design and remote intern Raina for the artwork. 

Interested in more free activities? Just head to our Kids Science Activities page by clicking here or navigating the Education tab above. 

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Bimini 2020 Research Season – Sort Of
21 September 2020

Bimini 2020 Research Season – Sort Of

By late June, I would have hoped for close to 30 days on the water, searching for the Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins off Bimini. Nicole and I would have led two field courses, an ecotour and interacted with other tourists, all eager to experience the dolphins while DCP collected data. But. Well. COVID-19.

As you may have seen, DCP did our best to regroup and retool – our shirts and Hoo-rags are available online, our two webinar series are available on YouTube, our Kids Science Activities are now available as free downloads, our interns are doing data analysis remotely and we have two new remote volunteers/interns. We’ve been social distancing, but we haven’t stopped our mission!

And, in Bimini, I’ve been able to get on the water a few times, which is, of course, better than zero times. And what did these three trips yield? A busy, mixed age group with several moms & calves, a day with no dolphin sightings at all and a day with a group of 12, active, mating spotteds. A little bit of almost everything! I’m happy to remote that we have seen:

Tina (#14) was still with her older calf, Kiwi (#121). Kiwi was getting lots of freedom to zip over to the boat and play with other youngsters.

Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36) and Leslie (#80) were looking good (could Leslie be pregnant?!). With no calves in tow, they were actively pursued by Split Jaw (#22) and Tim (#69). I think Buster (#04) and Prince William (#64) were also there, but I’ll have to check the video to confirm. And, Paul (#99) was right there with the older males, but took more breaks for bowriding too. You can learn more about these individual dolphins here.

I’m hopeful more opportunities to search will come up, but of course, health and safety of the Bimini community come first. We’re continuing to keep an eye on our 9 – 14 August 2020 ecotour; if you are interested in joining, give us a shout at info[at]dcpmail[dot]org.

Until next time,

Kel

PS: Join us remotely on Tuesday 30 June at 7:30 p.m. EDT for the premiere of our 20th Anniversary film! Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85158792285

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Join us live: Premiere of DCP's 20th Anniversary Film
21 September 2020

Join us live: Premiere of DCP's 20th Anniversary Film

World Premiere: DCP's 20th Anniversary Film

June 30, 2020 7:30 p.m. EDT - Use meeting link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85158792285 or meeting ID 851 5879 2285

DCP is thrilled to invite you to the public premiere for a 32-min film celebrating our 20th Anniversary! Come see how DCP got started, Kathleen's hairstyles through the years and of course - the dolphins! Grab a drink, some popcorn and then stay for the live Q & A.
Huge thanks to John Anderson (Terramar Productions) for this awesome creation.

 

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DCP Dives Deep & Dolphin Lesson webinars will return. Stay tuned for details.

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New to DCP? or Missed an earlier webinar?

Check out our intro webinar, recorded on 2 April, to familiarize yourself with DCP or visit the main webinar page to find all our previously recorded programs! Webinars are also available on YouTube. Just search Dolphin Communication Project.

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Adoption Kit Shipping Delays
21 September 2020

Adoption Kit Shipping Delays

**Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin PRINT kits received between now and 5 July will be processed and shipped ~7 July. Print kits ordered during this time will be provided with a digital adoption certificate before the kit is shipped. We apologize for any inconvenience, but appreciate your support. Electronic adoption kits ("e-kits") will continue to be filled during this time.**

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Recorded & Upcoming Webinars
21 September 2020

Recorded & Upcoming Webinars

Thank you to everyone who has been participating in our new webinar series, Dolphin Lessons and DCP Dives Deep into…Kathleen and Kel have enjoyed leading programs, but we also owe a big thank you to our guest presenters, Daisy Kaplan, PhD, Alexis Levengood, PhD, Annette Dempsey, Heather Hill, PhD, Teri Bolton, Nicole Danaher-Garcia, Justin Gregg, PhD…and the list is going to continue to grow!

We’ve really enjoyed the live Q&A portion of these webinars, but we’re also thrilled to have each program recorded. Check out our webinars page (under the Education tab) or visit Dolphin Communication Project on YouTube. Remember to subscribe!

Our upcoming webinar schedule in posted under the Education tab, via our email newsletter and on our Facebook page. We hope to see you at a future program!

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Buy One, Give One
21 September 2020

Buy One, Give One

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who supported DCP & shared the dolphin joy through our "Pay It Forward" campaign. We paused this program on 9 September 2020 so we can focus on our fall webinar series. Your support ensure these webinars happen and are free for everyone! Thanks again!

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Want to say thank you to an essential worker? Send a pick-me-up to someone feeling down? For every $15* you spend supporting DCP, we'll send an Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin "e-kit" to someone of your choosing! Sound cool? Keep reading for more details:

As many of you know, 2020 is the 20-year anniversary for DCP. During these difficult times, there are many things for which we are grateful, and we wouldn’t have reached 20 years without your support.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our spring field programs have been postponed until 2021. After some time to feel that frustration, we regrouped and are thrilled to have three brand new STEAM online programs: Kids Science Activities (downloadable for free) plus two webinar series (free to join live or watch recordings). Every day, we look forward to getting back into the field. Every day, we recount the things for which we are so grateful. And every day, we wish you all safety and health.

The reality is that the postponement of our field programs has dealt DCP a significant financial blow. As such, we’re pleased to offer DCP shirts for sale once again and “Hoo-rag” bandanas for the first time. We are grateful for your support and want to pay that forward. So, with every purchase of $15 or more, made directly through the DCP website (qualifying items listed below), we will send an electronic dolphin adoption to an essential worker or person who has been financially or emotionally negatively impacted by the pandemic. The coolest part? With your purchase,* you can choose someone in your life to receive this adoption e-kit gift from DCP. And yes! Spend $30, we'll donate 2 e-kits. $45? 3! No limit!

Qualifying purchases include:
DCP Shirts
DCP "Hoo-rags"
Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin (print or e-kits)
Donation ($15+)
Membership (Any level!)

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DCP Dolphin Lesson: Who is Who? Telling dolphins apart
21 September 2020

DCP Dolphin Lesson: Who is Who? Telling dolphins apart

Tuesday 14 April 2020, 1:00 p.m.

DCP Dolphin Lesson: Who is who? Telling dolphins apart

This webinar was recorded on 14 April 2020. Kel Melillo Sweeting, M.S., Bimini Research manager, talks about how to recognize and identify dolphins.

Can you tell dolphins apart? Squirrels, Rabbits? Pet dogs? It's pretty handy if you can! In this Dolphin Lesson, your child will learn how dolphin researchers tell dolphins apart - and why it's important. This program is geared toward ages 6-13, but dolphin lovers of all ages should enjoy it. And, of course, the DCP team answers questions at the end.

Check out the other webinars on DCP's website and YouTube page. And, you can also find free, downloadable STEAM activities for kids (look under the education tab). Stay tuned to our social media for upcoming webinars, field programs and more!

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DCP Dives Deep into ... Communication
21 September 2020

DCP Dives Deep into ... Communication

Thursday 9 April 2020, 11:00 a.m.

DCP Dives Deep into...Dolphin Communication

This webinar was recorded on 9 April 2020. DCP Director, Kathleen Dudzinski, PhD, discusses animal communication in general and dolphin communication specifically. And, of course, the DCP team answers questions at the end. This webinar was the first in our series, "DCP Dives Deep into..." Check out the DCP website (https://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/index.php/get-involved/webinars) or this YouTube channel to find more archived programs. On our website, you can also find free, downloadable STEAM activities for kids (look under the education tab). Stay tuned to our social media for upcoming webinars, field programs and more!

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DCP Dives Deep into....Communication!
21 September 2020

DCP Dives Deep into....Communication!

Free Webinar!

Thursday 9 April 2020, 11:00 a.m. EDT 

Meeting link: https://zoom.us/j/858341834

Brief Overview: Our name includes the topic! So, it makes sense that our first Dives Deep topic is on .... Dolphin Communication! This program is geared toward high school students and above, but all are welcome. To get the most out of this presentation, check out these resources beforehand:

Listen to the communication segment of our podcast, The Dolphin Pod, episode 10. (https://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/index.php/2014-10-21-00-13-26/dolphin-communication). 

Read about DCP's data collection gadget, Kathleen's "mobile/video acoustic array" (https://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/pdf/DudzinskietalMVA.pdf).

Both of these resources are available at no cost to you. Listen and read up, then bring your questions to a live presentation + Q&A session with DCP Director, Kathleen Dudzinski, PhD.

New to DCP? Check out our intro webinar, recorded on 2 April, to familiarize yourself with DCP. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC857aGJwD6zheRlH996BOlw )

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Kids Science Activities
21 September 2020

Kids Science Activities

Our new webpage is live: Kids Science Activities. Found under the Education tab, this page is your source for free, downloadable, STEAM activities. Created with elementary students in mind, activities can be adjusted for younger or older students. Of course, everything is for the young at heart!

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1st Webinar: Who is DCP?
21 September 2020

1st Webinar: Who is DCP?

New to DCP? Curious about who we are and what we do? Be like this bottlenose dolphin and backflip yourself to our first Zoom meeting for an introduction and short Q&A session.
Ideal for 13+, but all ages welcome.
15 minutes presentation + 15 minutes for Q&A

Thursday, April 2, 11:00 a.m. ET

https://zoom.us/j/885566282

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Goliaths in The Stream (new film on Goliath Grouper)
21 September 2020

Goliaths in The Stream (new film on Goliath Grouper)

You may wonder why you are seeing a blog post about a giant reef fish and what it has to do with dolphins.  Quite simply, the answer is “conservation”!  With all of our oceans in trouble, and the extinction of animal species hardly making news anymore, it becomes important for each one of us to help, or consider why we have not helped.  Whether it’s a common bottlenose dolphin or an endangered Goliath Grouper, we all have an obligation to tread lightly on our blue planet’s other inhabitants and treat them with care.  It’s not all about us.

30 years ago, Goliath Grouper were nearly extinct because of human’s over exploitation of the species.  Sound familiar?  It ought to.  It’s the same tune humans have been playing for the opening act of the sixth mass extinction for decades, for a millennia!  The good news is that some Goliath Grouper populations have made a tenuous and tumultuous journey towards recovery.  Good fishery management decisions, a fishing moratorium, and an artificial reef program have allowed some of these giants to thrive again for now.  They still face an uphill battle against a tide of toxins flowing off of Florida’s coast into the sea, environmental upheaval such as cold snaps and red tides, or what the sponge fishermen called “The Blight”, loss of suitable habitat for juvenile recruitment and heavy metals such as mercury present in the eggs and flesh of each animal.

If you are asking yourself if these animals live is a squalorous, toxic coastal environment, the answer is a definite, sometimes!  A lot of variables affect the coastal conditions in South Florida, but humans are not doing any favors to this environment by allowing these issues to persist.

Let me introduce you to the Goliath Grouper, the largest reef fish in the Caribbean.  Please enjoy this short form documentary “Goliaths in the Stream” and my hope is that you take away an appreciation for a species that you may not have known existed.

https://vimeo.com/366337650

Also, I invite you to sign the below petition to keep the Goliath Grouper populations closed to fishing.  The science behind this is mainstream and verifiable. 

http://chng.it/9w2Gfjjy  

We all have a voice!  This is your chance to speak out!

-John Anderson, Terramar Productions

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Episode 20 of The Dolphin Pod is ready!
21 September 2020

Episode 20 of The Dolphin Pod is ready!

In this special podcast episode celebrating 20 years of the Dolphin Communication Project, Laura and Justin interview Kelly Melillo-Sweeting, Bimini Research Manager and all-around awesome scientist. Kel explains the findings form her recently published article on laterality in bottlenose dolphins – that is, a preference that dolphins seem to have for the right side of their bodies when hunting for prey in the sand. Just before dolphins stick their heads in the sand to grab hidden prey, they almost always twist to the left, maybe allowing them to use their right eye (i.e., their preferred eye) to give the ocean floor one last look before plunging their faces into it. Or maybe it’s because dolphin echolocation works best on the right side when it comes to searching for prey buried in the sand. Whatever the reason, the bottlenose dolphins off Bimini, The Bahamas are almost all (with one exception) left twisters when crater feeding. In the episode, Laura goes head-to-head with Kel in a science quiz focused on a recently published article on lateral behavior in bottlenose dolphins. It’s going to be an uphill battle for poor Laura since Kel is one of the authors of the article.

Click here for the episode or head to your favorite podcast-downloading site.

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1st Newsletter of 2020!
21 September 2020

1st Newsletter of 2020!

The first issue of 2020 for DCP's newsletter, The Dolphin Gazette is ready for you! We hope you enjoy reading about Kathleen's time collecting data & teaching at RIMS (Honduras) and upcoming opportunities to join us in the field at both our Bimini, The Bahamas and Roatan, Honduras field sites. Kathleen shares some thoughts on DCP's 20th Anniversary, along with some old photos. And, we feature Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin Split Jaw and share a just-for-fun word search. Click here to download your free PDF. Thanks for reading!

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Thank you, Bimini Primary!
21 September 2020

Thank you, Bimini Primary!

On Tuesday morning, I was welcomed back to Bimini Primary School. I chatted with grades 2, 3 and 4 about DCP and the dolphins found around Bimini. The students were eager and respectful – thank you! Though, any time I’m talking to students and explain that I have been studying Bimini’s dolphins for longer than they’ve been alive….sure does make a gal feel old!

Thank to you to the Principal and teachers for having me. I hope my visit was a small part of inspiring Bimini’s youth to value and prioritize their ocean home. Once again, I find myself already looking forward to my next visit.

Cheers,

Kel

PS: In all the excitement, I forgot to get a photo! So, here’s a throwback to one of our first Bimini school visits (2004?) – when the Bimini Catholic School was still open!

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$20.20 Limited Edition Shirts for DCP's 20th in 2020!
21 September 2020

$20.20 Limited Edition Shirts for DCP's 20th in 2020!

DCP is pleased to offer you an unexpected chance to get your hands on our limited-edition 20th Anniversary DCP t-shirts featuring the original DCP logo on the front pocket! This special design is available for our short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts - both priced at the special anniversary price of $20.20 (to celebrate our 20th anniversary in the year 2020, wink wink).

Short sleeve shirts are available in white, gray, light blue, teal ice and key lime. Long sleeve are available in white and gray.

This is a brief, pre-order campaign. The chance to order disappears on Friday January 31st, so click here to order now. Shipping is additional ($5) and is only available to US-addresses. Shirts will be shipped in early March.

Click here to check them out and place your order today. Thank you for your support!

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Holiday Ordering Deadlines
21 September 2020

Holiday Ordering Deadlines

Interested in an Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin kit or Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin kit + Dolphin Bracelet bundle as a Christmas or Hanukkah present? 

Order by 12/19 for expected delivery* by 12/25 with free, standard shipping.

Order by 12/21 for expected delivery* by 12/25 with expedited shipping (additional fee).

*To US address. DCP can ship to non-US addresses, but cannot estimate arrival dates.

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For you: The latest issue of The Dolphin Gazette
21 September 2020

For you: The latest issue of The Dolphin Gazette

2019 is nearly over! As we reflect on our gratitude for all your support, you can check out new opportunities to join DCP that are right around the corner.
Plus, meet DCP's newest named dolphin - Kiwi, check out holiday gift ideas, help folks in The Bahamas & learn about our recent & upcoming publications & presentations.

This issue of the Dolphin Gazette is perfect for reading by the fire or under a palm tree, depending on where you live!
Thanks for reading - and sharing!

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Long-term Bonds: Social Structure of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) off Bimini, The Bahamas (2003-2016) – WMMC & upcoming publication!
21 September 2020

Long-term Bonds: Social Structure of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) off Bimini, The Bahamas (2003-2016) – WMMC & upcoming publication!

DCP is very excited about our poster presentation at the World Marine Mammal Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Lead author and long-time DCP assistant/student, Nicole presented our work on associations among the spotted dolphins off Bimini. If you saw the poster in person, thank you for your interest in learning more!

Abstract:

This study is the first to investigate the social patterns of a population of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) off Bimini, The Bahamas, during a 14-year period (2003-2016). We generated association indices and conducted cluster, network, and temporal analyses using SOCPROG 2.8. Dolphins in this group display long-term, year-round residency around Bimini, as well as long-term preferences in association with a combination of rapid disassociation, constant companions, and casual acquaintances. We found no evidence of distinct social clusters within the study group; however, we discovered at least one subgroup of males with higher association than the rest of the population. Despite strong relationships between males, we found no evidence for the existence of alliances or coalitions. Bimini spotted dolphins do not experience the same social forces thought to drive such supportive relationships in other study groups; they do not experience repeated aggressive interactions with sympatric bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), nor are males limited in their access to females.

Effort info:

Over the course of this 14-year study, we completed 804 boat trips in search of dolphins. This resulted in 3,609 hours of search effort. On 628 (78.1%) of those boat trips (“surveys”), we saw dolphins from the boat and this resulted in 1,609 separate dolphin sightings. On 524 (65.2%) we were able to observe them under water at least once, and we actually had 873 underwater observations.

Take away lesson:

The Bimini Atlantic spotted dolphin social network is characterized by fission-fusion dynamics. Dyads form long-term preferential associations lasting years, especially between same-sex pairs.

Fun stuff:

A group of five male dolphins had the highest association throughout the study period (2003-2016). These males are similar in age and have been observed consistently since 2003. You might know them as Buster (#04), Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64), Tim (#69) and Speedy (#78). Split Jaw and Prince William have the highest strength of association over the full 14-year period (.68, where 1 would mean they were together all the time).

Another way of looking at things:

In this graph, you see the standardized lagged association rates for all individuals (2003-2016). Basically, this tells you the probability of seeing a pair together after a given amount of time. The technical stuff is: moving average was set to 50,000 associations; standard errors were calculated by jackknifing over 30-day periods. Best-fitted model was combination of “rapid disassociation” (within one sampling period), “constant companions” (social units that associate permanently), and “casual acquaintances” (social units disassociate but may preferentially re-associate). If this is interesting to you, make sure you grab a copy of the full paper when it’s published.

Why might dolphins form associations rather than just associate at random?

Preferred associations may improve foraging success or predator defense in deep Gulfstream waters. Or, preferences may have developed in early life from joint membership in mother-calf groups.

This work has just been published in the peer-reviewed journal, acta ethologica. Click here to access it or jot us an email.

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Examining shark bite scars on bottlenose dolphins off Bimini (WMMC)
21 September 2020

Examining shark bite scars on bottlenose dolphins off Bimini (WMMC)

Thanks for visiting our poster at the 2019 World Marine Mammal Conference. We're excited you wanted to learn more.

DCP has been studying bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins off Bimini, The Bahamas since 2001. In 2014, we published a short note on the evidence of failed shark attacks on the spotted dolphins. Now, we've conducted a similar assessment on the sympatric bottlenose.

At least 28.7% of catalogued bottlenose dolphins had at least one injury or scar that could confidently be atttributed to a shark. Another 27.1% of catalogued individuals had injuries or scars that we couldn't be sure where they came from. This means that at a minimum almost 29% of catalogued dolphins survived at least one shark attack....but, it could be as high as 56%. This is higher than the 15% of spotteds with confirmed attacks and the 16% of spotteds with undetermined scars (for a maximum of 31% of the spotted catalog).

Plus - we don't get to see 100% of every individual's body. Only seven individuals (5.5% of the catalog) had images or video of 100% of the body. 21.7% we could see about 75%, 25.6% about 50%, 38.8% only 25% and 8.5% only the dorsal fin. This means that even our conservative estimates of how many dolphins have scars from sharks is likely an underestimation.

We also asked: "How many individuals had injuries or scars that could be confidently attributed to separate shark attacks?" This is at least 5.4% - but again, because we are conservative in declaring a scar shark-induced + we don't see every dolphin's entire body, this is a big underestimation. And, another 8.5% had scars that we could not say whether they came from the same or multiple attacks, bringing the potential, but still conservative estimate to nearly 14%. 

Nearly all (97.3%) shark-induced scars were on the dorsal side of the body. Does this mean that sharks rarely attack the ventral side? That assumption is unlikely; what is more plausible is that the vental injuries are the most likely to be fatal. 

When comparing the evidence of failed shark attacks on these two sympatric species (bottlenose 29%, spotteds 15%), or comparing dolphins off Bimini to dolphins elsewhere in the world, we cannot conclude that the bottlenose are actually attacked more (or less) often. Why? Because we do not have information on successful shark predation. The dolphins that do not survive, do not show up with scars for us to document. 

Even with our conservative estimates, it's clear that sharks do prey on the dolphins off Bimini. Understanding this as best we can will shed light on behaviors we observe, from group formation to habitat selection. 

Thanks again for your interest in our study. This study was presented as a poster at the 2019 WMMC in Barcelona, Spain. Stay tuned to see if it ends up as it's own short note, or a section on our larger bottlenose site fidelity assessment project.

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TGIF - especially when in the field for research!
21 September 2020

TGIF - especially when in the field for research!

Friday was less windy but still a very full day! We were able to complete three sessions with each dolphin (hurray!) following our revised research protocol. We shifted our focus to assessing what preference the dolphins might have for each symbol (circle vs. star) and also identified a roster of ‘rewards’ for each symbol that the trainers currently consider “a little” or “a lot” for each specific dolphin. To rewind a bit - we we receiving results that were perplexing when coordinating training to assess whether the dolphins would consistently select the star (a lot). We saw a side bias and selection of the circle more than the star. So, either the dolphins were playing us or something else might be going on. So, we decided to take a step back and really investigate when the dolphins have a preference and what that preference might be, even considering the context of the training session. Context would include pool location, other dolphins nearby, other behavior requests and more. We also identified 3 specific “little” rewards and 4-5 specific “a lot” rewards. But, these rewards are also dolphin specific. So, for example, Zig is not a fan of ice cubes but Finn loves them. The pool noodle is Zig’s favorite toy whereas Ludwig lots tactile rubdowns! So, what we researchers initially assumed would be a simple and easy choice for the dolphins turned out to be more complex and complicated. We also shifted the sessions such that we are always presenting the symbols in pairs for a choice to be made and the trainer (Te-Shalla) does not know in advance which symbol will be on left and which on right. We added that she also does not know which reward will be offered given the circle/star selection by a dolphin. We did three sessions each with the dolphins today and will do more next week and in December that the team here at DE will video record. Thus, we researchers will review the video data over the winter to see if there are any confounding factors with the choices we see made by these dolphins. Then, maybe, we can begin to ask some of the more complicated questions!
I’m very pleased with the data collection this week and send our a hearty and huge (aka “a lot”) thank you to the folks at DE for their support and help with our research data collection. Thank you Te-Shalla, Annette, Nicole, Debra, Zandria, Randy, D'Vano, and the rest of the team!
See you in the spring.
Cheers
Kathleen
 
P.S. Thank you Te-Shalla! We are both pleased with a productive research day!
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Wind, Sun, Data Collection!
21 September 2020

Wind, Sun, Data Collection!

We had a wild ride on the ferry into Blue Lagoon Island on Thursday because of a rolling well and high winds. It was a reminder of just how unpredictable the ocean can be to folks who spend their lives on and around it!
We were able to conduct four sessions with Zig and Ludwig and to see if Finn might participate a bit in these request sessions. That is, we are looking to see if the dolphins will show a preference between two symbols - a circle and a star. The circle equates to only a little of something while the star means “a lot”! So if we use fish, the circle would be 1 capelin and the star 8. Or with secondary reinforcers, the star might mean play with a ball, or a swim noodle, or receive a run-down and tactile from a trainer.  Zig and Ludwig were presenting selections that seem more related to a particular side presentation of the trainer. We are hoping with a few more trials and sessions the side bias will become negligible. 
As our day progressed, we also were able to collect some respiration versus surface activity data from the dolphins. It was a good day and full, even though Heather had to leave mid-day for her return flight. She has classes to teach on Friday! 
I’ll be spending Friday with Te-Shalla and Debra from DE’s Education team, and maybe a couple of trainers with zoological, and of course the dolphins, especially Zig, Ludwig and Finn!
Until tomorrow,
Cheers
Kathleen
 
P.S. the photo is my poor attempt to get a selfie with a dolphin who refused to leap when I was pointing the camera at the water! but, at least you can see DCP’s newest headband from Hoorags! ?
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Limited Edition DCP Shirts!
21 September 2020

Limited Edition DCP Shirts!

It's baaaaaaack! Your chance to get a DCP shirt! This year, our adult short sleeve (5 colors) and adult long sleeve (white & gray) feature a throwback to DCP's original logo. 2020 is our 20th Anniversary!
Women's tanks (2 styles, 4 colors each) and UPF50 rashguards (4 colors) are also available featuring our current logo.
This special order period ends on Monday (Nov 18th). Shirts and bundles are expected to ship ~26 December. So, while they won't arrive for Christmas & Hanukkah, they will be worth the wait. By pre-ordering your shirt, you help DCP reduce the overhead of placing the shirt order with our printer (Thank you!!).

Click here to order yours now!

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An Excellent Data Collection Day!
21 September 2020

An Excellent Data Collection Day!

On Wednesday, we were able to conduct 4 sessions each with Ludwig and Zig for the delay gratification early training (to assess preference between the circle and star) and we also were able to get 3 sessions with Finn. It was a productive day and in this photo, you can see Heather and Te-Shalla setting up for a session with Ludwig. Both Zig and Ludwig are showing a side bias in their selection of the symbols, even though they both switched sides between sessions! Finn was new to this research and at the end of his first session decided to make both Heather and Te-Shalla wet with a high breach! We also collected several 5-min respiration samples of Bella, Laguna, Abaco, Missy, Soca, Aunty V, and Treasure. We spent quite a bit of time in the vey sunny day and are pleasingly tired tonight!
Here’s to another productive day tomorrow!
Cheers
Kathleen & Heather
 
P.S. we made a paradigm shift in our research today from use of primary (fish) reinforcement to use of secondary reinforcers that are items that dolphins learned to like (e.g., balls or noodles and rubdowns) to focus on a positive learning experience. That is, because the dolphins always know they will receive their diet we needed to remove focus on food and look at learning by the dolphins from their perspective. This is why we shifted to use of secondary reinforcers as a positive step toward understanding dolphins choices on a little versus a lot from secondary reinforcers. 
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Returning to Dolphin Encounters for Research!
21 September 2020

Returning to Dolphin Encounters for Research!

Heather and I arrived to Nassau on Tuesday afternoon for our current few days of data collection on the dolphins at Blue Lagoon Island home of Dolphin Encounters (DE). We met up with Annette, Director of Education and Staff Development, to confirm the logistics of our visit. In this image, we are ready for our first full day of data collection!
Heather and I will connect with Te-Shalla to continue our sessions to examine whether dolphins have a preference between two symbols that have been correlated to “little” (a circle) and “a lot” (a star). We will be working mostly with Zig and Ludwig, two young male bottlenose dolphins. We will also be collecting respiration versus activity level data on any and all of the dolphins we will be observing at DE. 
Our trip is short, but we expect it to be productive!
More tomorrow
Cheers
Kathleen & Heather 
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Animal Behavior & Psychology Field Course: space available
21 September 2020

Animal Behavior & Psychology Field Course: space available

DCP is teaching several field courses at our Roatan field site. But, there is ONLY course with space available:

 

7 - 14 March 2020, Field Course in Animal Behavior & Psychology, in collaboration with St. Mary's University (StMU)

 

Remaining spaces are now open to non-StMU students. The course is taught by DCP's Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski and StMU Professor, Dr. Heather Hill. Tuition credits with StMU are not included, but are not required. Cost per student is $1550 (USD). This includes lodging, food, instruction and a dolphin swim and encounter. Tuition credits and airfare are not included. Email info[at]dcpmail[dot]org right away if you are interested! Remaining spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. To learn more about Dr. Hill, find her among our collaborators under the About menu.

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Calling College Students!!!
21 September 2020

Calling College Students!!!

Dr. Deirdre Yeater is gearing up for her 7th field course with DCP, at our Bimini, The Bahamas field site. Field dates are May 26 - June 1, 2020. All participants must take the course for SHU credit, but with online and field components, non-SHU students are welcome & encouraged to apply. Click here to learn more and apply today! Application deadline is Dec 15th.

What is a Bimini field course? This cross-listed, 200-level Field Course in Cetacean Ecology gives students the chance to learn about dolphin behavior, ecology, cognition and research - but not just through books and lectures. You'll learn by actually observing wild dolphins, from the boat and in the water! This isn't a traditional study abroad course; it is a research course at DCP's active field site. That means it's a lot of work packed into a short time and you'll actually help collect real data that will be used by real scientists. All in an amazing island setting and for school credit. Sign up now!

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New Article: Pec fin contact between bottlenose & spotted dolphins!
21 September 2020

New Article: Pec fin contact between bottlenose & spotted dolphins!

DCP has asked a lot of questions about how dolphins use their pectoral fins to touch each other (check out Kathleen & the team's long list of publications on the topic!). Our latest peer-reviewed article (that means other scientists had a read and agree the study is sound) looks at pectoral fin contact between Atlantic spotted & bottlenose dolphins. You can download the PDF for free until Nov 28th! https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1ZtNsmjLqKcw A big thanks to our co-authors for getting this done and out into the world! Enjoy!

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A New Dolphin Gazette!
21 September 2020

A New Dolphin Gazette!

This issue is your chance to hear about the busy Bimini research season, including thoughts from our summer interns. We also include links to our podcast, The Dolphin Pod, and a belated update from Amazon River dolphin researcher, Dr. Trone. And of course, stories from Kathleen!
So, put the world aside for a few minutes and enjoy The Dolphin Gazette!

Click here to download your free copy.

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Awesome First Dolphin - August 2019 Eco Tour
21 September 2020

Awesome First Dolphin - August 2019 Eco Tour

We hope you enjoy this guest blog post from our August ecotour participant, Bonnie. Thanks for the contribution, Bonnie!

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Roger, my husband, and I with our three granddaughters, Allie, (almost age 11), Rayanne (age 12), and Taylor (age 10), met with Kelly Melillo Sweeting, DCP Eco Tour coordinator, and two other participants of the program, Megan and Sue, for a brief orientation on August 2019 Eco Tour Program Agenda that included swimming with wild dolphins in Atlantic Ocean every afternoon.  This will be my granddaughters’ first experience in swimming with wild dolphins, and this is Roger’s and my second time.  We love swimming with Bimini dolphins.  So wonderful.

We boarded the boat at 2:45 p.m at Sea Crest Marina. When we arrived on board, we tucked away our fins, snorkel, and masks on the stern of the vessel. The three young girls carefully walked to the bow of the boat to begin their search for wild dolphins. Shortly after leaving the harbor, Sue spotted one Atlantic spotted dolphin, then another, and another. So we had three Atlantic spotted dolphins that came to play with us. We grabbed our cameras and started taking pictures of them.

After, observing them for short period of time. Kelly gave us the sign to put on our gear. All eight of us moved toward the swim platform of the boat and one by one slipped gently into the warm ocean.  You could see the dolphins’ dorsal fins in the distance before we entered the ocean. I feel, they were waiting for us to join their pod.  The girls swam ahead of Roger and I and followed Kelly as she filmed dolphins for DCP research projects.  The three young girls would stop moving for a moment, look for dolphins, spot the dolphins and take a picture. I received a tap from Allie after a dolphin, passed in-between us when I was filming another dolphin. We both turned our heads toward each other underwater with amazement in our eyes that he picked us to swim by.

After the dolphins left our pod, we returned to the boat. I felt the joy and enthusiasm from the girls as they explained their own encounter with Atlantic spotted dolphins. They began to ask these questions; What are the dolphins names? What kind of dolphins are they? Can we swim with them again? Throughout the Eco Tour Program, they learned dolphins’ names, looked at photographs that they took, how to identify dolphins, and much more.

As we waited on ferry to depart to South Bimini where we board the airplane for home, Kelly sat by the ferry dock in her golf cart with her two children. She asked the three girls, what was the best part of this trip for you?  The girls said, “the dolphins and taking pictures of them!” The ferry moved slowly away from the dock, Kelly and her children created hearts ️with their hands. A beautiful Bimini, Bahamas goodbye.

Bonnie Dolphin Ambassador

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Amazing Dolphin Adventures!
21 September 2020

Amazing Dolphin Adventures!

Our August ecotour group has been fantastic. Though we couldn’t end the week on a dolphin-high, it has been an absolute pleasure leading this program – and I hope this isn’t the last time on Bimini for these folks! We started our Thursday morning with a beach clean-up, followed by a much needed swim. Then, we gathered at the Sea Crest and they worked together to compose the following post – enjoy!

-Kel

Our group is a mix of return guests (Roger – 65 yrs, Bonnie – 53 yrs & Megan – feels 22 yrs) and newbies (Sue – Megan’s mom, Rayanne – 12 yrs, Allison – neeeearly 11 yrs and Taylor – 10 yrs). We journeyed from California, Minnesota, New York and took taxis, trains, planes (even a small propeller plane!), van and ferries. And, all those steps were well worth it!

Seeing so many dolphins that we do not have the opportunity to see at home was amazing. We met up as a group on Day 1 and we had a talk to understand more about the dolphins, what we’d be seeing and how we needed to behave. Those of us who have been before feel more addicted to the dolphins and this whole experience – it gets better each time! Each day we would set off at 2 or 3 p.m., enjoying the amazing water views as we searched. We saw different dolphins and it’s been cool to keep a list of who we’ve seen. Seeing the calves is one of the most exciting parts!

Each day, we enjoyed watching the dolphins from the boat, but of course, we couldn’t wait to get our gear on and slide into the water. The feeling of them checking us out as they pass by, sometimes echolocating right on us, is just amazing. They even make eye contact; even more enjoyable than watching them, is the feeling that they are really watching us. Who is studying whom out there? It’s fascinating when they really want to interact with us! There is still so much to learn.

The rides home were beautiful too; Bimini’s sunsets are just glorious. We have great trust in our captains; even when the seas picked up, they kept the boat safe and comfortable. And, we won’t forget their head counts each time we get back on the boat!

We also had the chance to do some extra snorkeling at the Bimini Road, after which we really, really enjoyed getting to jump off the boat! So much so that during the next day’s swim break, we jumped in a few more times! Worked up our appetites for snack time on the boat!

Sue & Megan had a chance to explore the island by bike one morning. Another, they went to see the mangroves, literally the other side of Bimini, with Eagle Eye Fred. He pointed out lots of stingrays, a leaping eagle ray and took us to the Martin Luther King Jr monument, placed right within the mangroves. Back on the dolphin boat, we’ve seen lots of leaping of flying fish while we’re searching for dolphins.

Our visit to the SharkLab was incredible. Hands on, getting to touch the baby nurse shark was a treat. The young girls have touched a baby shark before, but at an aquarium. It was cool to see the sharks here and learn about the Lab’s volunteers and research projects. Watching the stingray “workup” was right up Megan’s alley.

Back on land, we’ve really enjoyed our time together, especially the hair braiding parties! Bimini itself is very different from our homes; different types of stores, money, driving on the other side of the road – and delicious Edith’s pizza! Accommodations at the Sea Crest have been great. We have adjoining rooms and a shared kitchen, dining and living room at this simple “mom & pop” hotel. It really helped our group dynamic and gave the experience a home-feel. The sea is such a beautiful blue, with so many shells on the beach. We spent Thursday morning doing a beach clean-up, and even though it was hot, it felt good to get that trash in trash bags, where it cannot hurt any sea creatures. With our trash piled, it felt great to get in the water and cool off. We even did some handstands and tosses in the warm, clear sea!

Until next time,

The Dolphin Squad (DCP’s awesome August 2019 ecotour group!)

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Sharks, rays, dolphins, weeeeeeeee!
21 September 2020

Sharks, rays, dolphins, weeeeeeeee!

Wednesday was a busy, busy day for the current ecotour group (who are just delightful, by the way!). We met up at 9 a.m. and were soon headed to South Bimini. Destination? Bimini Biological Field Stations, aka “SharkLab.” While Kel gave a talk to visiting students from University of Minnesota and some Lab staff & volunteers (thanks for the invite!), the DCP group enjoyed a great tour (thanks for accommodating our schedule!). They learned all about the sharks of Bimini, especially nurse and lemon sharks, Lab’s research and even watched a “workup” of southern stingray. After a very enjoyable and educational experience, we headed back to North Bimini for lunch and rests before our 3 p.m. dolphin trip.

The seas were calmer today and the sun was shining. I was already thinking about how long to wait before suggesting the first “swim break,” when we saw splashing, then a big leap, to the west. We cruised over and found a lone bottlenose dolphin with a very distinct dorsal fin. It wasn’t terribly interested in the boat (though we did get some nice looks near the bow) and was swimming in an erratic pattern. So, I collected some dorsal fin photographs to match to our photo-ID catalog and we said goodbye.

That first sighting energized us for more and the day did not disappoint. We were able to watch a group of 12 Atlantic spotted dolphins (there were others scattered in the distance) for a while and saw them under water. I ID’d Sulfur (#102) from the boat and then saw Paul (#99) under water. After our first swim, the group size shrunk to five; Niecey (#48), her male calf and Paul remained, along with two older juveniles. We saw lots of pec-to-pec and pec-to-body rubbing, especially between Paul and another male (pictured here). The guests giggled at the calf, who was very busy zipping about, showing off his pink belly and overall just being goofy. We got two chance to swim with this smaller group….and, as always, it was a privilege.

Back on land, I gave the team a ride north to pick up their pizza from the famous Edith’s. Yum!

Until tomorrow,

Kel

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Dolphin photos and “Bimini Road”
21 September 2020

Dolphin photos and “Bimini Road”

On Tuesday morning, two of our guests headed to the mangroves with bonefisherman and mangrove guide Eagle Eye Fred. They may have been a little nervous in “The Healing Hole,” but they certainly enjoyed cruising through the mangroves, seeing tons of stingrays and a leaping spotted eagle ray and taking a moment at the Martin Luther King Jr monument. Back at the Sea Crest, the remaining guests and I chatted about photo-ID. Shortly after 11, word reached us that “Lady J” had arrived outside the Bimini Museum. Class was paused so the guests could grab some delicious lunch – right from the back of her car! With full bellies, we resumed our photo-ID chat, looking at photos of Split Jaw, Speedy, Prince William and Swoosh.

The boat departed at 2 p.m., giving everyone a chance to snorkel “The Bimini Road” (aka, Atlantis or the Road to Atlantis). Though everyone enjoyed the snorkel, I think the biggest smiles and loudest laughs came when everyone started jumping off the side of the boat. It might sound strange, but it’s one of my favorite things that boat guests do – they always seem to have a blast!

Next up was our search for dolphins. And, search we did. And then searched some more. Hopped in the water to wake up and cool off before searching some more. Snacked on brownie brittle and popcorn and then searched some more. But, the dolphins were simply not where we were. Still, we’re grateful for the previous two days and looking forward to the last two!

Until tomorrow,

Kel

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Worth the Wait!
21 September 2020

Worth the Wait!

On Monday morning, the ecotour crew and I sat around the table and talked about DCP, our research off Bimini, the species found here and our role in The Bahamas Marine Mammals Stranding Network. They had a lot of great questions and we were all excited about the afternoon’s boat trip.

We once again departed at about 3 p.m. and we were not disappointed with the weather. The seas were calm and there was just enough breeze and cloud cover to keep us at least a little bit cool. After about 90 minutes of searching, it was time to hop in the water just to cool off and wake up. We then resumed our search and even though I chatted with the guests about my personal policy of not giving up on finding dolphins until we are turning back into the harbor, I’m not sure they believed me. But the dolphins sure did wait until almost the last moment! Suddenly we could see 8 Atlantic spotted dolphins, including Swoosh (#36) and, presumably, her calf. Most of the other dolphins were older adults and since it was getting late, we quickly got in the water. We had a hilarious observation of one older male (I’ll try to ID him later from stills and video). He was hanging upside down, just letting us all check him out! Later, Buster (#04) came through, as if he wanted to be sure we had good video for his adoption kit like yesterday’s “boys’ club.” It was great to see him!

Needless to say, we were all glowing as we returned to the dock. Now it’s time to get this blog posted and head to bed!

Until next time,

Kel

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Boys’ Club
21 September 2020

Boys’ Club

Sunday was Day 1 of Ecotour 2! Our July program was a lot of fun (& really productive) and I’ve been looking forward to this session ever since. Our small group settled in at the Sea Crest and at 2 p.m. we jumped into orientation – then jumped on the boat in hopes of jumping in the water! First up, it was a gear check, a “dolphin drill,” if you will. Everyone got masks, fins and snorkels on and got in and out of the water as if they trying to swim with dolphins. Half of the group has done this before, but the newbies did great too! Soon, we were back on the boat, resuming our search…

Then, right in front of us, were calmly surfacing dolphins! I grabbed the clipboard (no Nicole and no interns, woe is me!) and jotted down the time and location. Then, I headed to the bow to see if I recognized anyone. Sure enough, it was some fan favorites: Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64) and Speedy (#78). You can see Prince William (top) and Speedy (bottom) pictured here. They were cruising, so we observed them from the surface, seeing some seaweed play and pectoral fin contact. Suddenly, they stopped – that was our sign. We got in the water and the observations did not disappoint. I think we’ll definitely be using video from today for Split Jaw and Speedy’s adoption video updates this winter.

After a nice observation, the dolphins picked up speed again, so we returned to observing them from the boat. It never gets old! As the time ticked away, and storms built to the west, we got in one last time for a final observation and goodnight. The seas really kicked up on the ride home, but we were all so thrilled with the day, we didn’t mind!

Until tomorrow,

Kel

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Squally morning, Dolphiny afternoon!
21 September 2020

Squally morning, Dolphiny afternoon!

Late July flew right by, but not without two dolphin trips with two of my favorite Bimini Adventures customers. This delightful couple has been coming to Bimini for years and even though they privately charter Captain Al’s boat, they always invite DCP along for the ride. It was a blast catching up with them and seeing some exciting favorites, including Tina (#14) and her calf (#121), Leslie (#80), Stefran (#82) and Vee (#101). There were some really great moments – which we’ll hopefully be able to add to the next video creation for DCP’s Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program!

Fast forward to today and while squalls delayed the dolphin trip, I had a delightful roundtable chat with this week’s Bimini Adventures guests. They asked such fantastic questions! As the weather cleared, we went in search of dolphins – and we were not disappointed! We found dolphins early and spent much of the afternoon in the company of seven spotted dolphins, including Leslie (#80). The dolphins were on the move and taking advantage of some small fish so most of our observations were from the boat. It was still exciting, especially the little one’s big leaps! Soon we were watching another active group in the distance; a mixed species group! We didn’t get to see the bottlenose for long, but we watched the spotteds, including Sulfur (#102), for the rest of the afternoon. What a day!

Until next time,

Kel

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Where did the time go?
21 September 2020

Where did the time go?

Island life has left me behind on blog posts once again! Last Thursday, I was able to join the Bimini Adventures’ group on one more dolphin trip – and it was a wild one! There was searching, there was a big squall and of course, there were dolphins! Later that night, I joined the group for dinner (yum – the group chef does such tasty meals for us!) and chatting. Thanks to everyone for their support this week.

Following this group was a mid-season break, filled with family time. It was great – but since our air conditioner at home broke, it meant my laptop could only handle short running times. Inside temperature was a mere 96°F and the ol’ computer wasn’t impressed. Thank goodness electricity on the island is pretty stable again, so at least the ceiling fans could cool us down enough for snoozing…

I’ll spend the coming week catching up on emails, data and maybe, just maybe, convincing a few more folks to join us on our August 11 – 16, 2019 ecotour. Are our updates from Bimini calling to you?! Email us (info[at]dcpmail.org) or Facebook message us if you are interested!

Cheers!

Kel

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Bye, Interns….for now.
21 September 2020

Bye, Interns….for now.

On Wednesday (Happy Independence Day, Bahamas!), the day began with a light breakfast for Nat & Taylor at my house. There was just enough time to touch base before helping them get their suitcases to the ferry dock – they headed back to Florida today. It’s been a pleasure working with these interns and DCP got more done this summer thanks to them. And, they were even able to squeeze in a quick beach clean-up this morning; how great are they?!

After they headed out, I got myself back into solo researcher-mode as the dolphin trip was leaving at 1400. Though I’d met this week’s guests earlier, during the camera and photo-ID intros I led, it was my first time joining them for a dolphin search. They were alert and eager, but first: a snorkel stop at 3 Sisters. We didn’t have to wait long after the snorkel to find dolphins; they made themselves known with lots of splashing at the surface. It was a large group and they were on the move. They were somewhat spread out, so a group count was challenging, but there were at least 32 Atlantic spotted dolphins. Throughout the afternoon we had several opportunities to watch the surface activity and bow riding as well as observe them underwater. We made note of Cerra (#38), Niecey (#48) and Stefran (#82), all with calves, Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64), Speedy (#78), Paul (#99), Sulfur (#102), “Lamda” (#104, pictured here. He has some new scratches on his other side, but he’ll be just fine)

Back on land, it was camera rinsing, battery charging and emails. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Until then,

Kel

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The Daily Dolphin: A Whole New World
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: A Whole New World

Tuesday was our last full day on Bimini. We began by met Kel for early pickup by the Coral Reef II’s dingy. We bounced our way out of the harbor and soon were climbing aboard the Shedd Aquarium’s research vessel to chat with their first round of Teen Science Expedition students. It was a whole new take on Kel’s presentation – a large flat screen TV, cool A/C….and a gently rolling boat! It was great for Nat and me to share our recent paths through undergrad with these high schoolers.

Soon, we were back on land, prepping for our last boat trip aboard Renegade. We hoped it would be filled with dolphins, and encounters under water. Although it was our last boat trip, being aboard Renegade and searching for dolphins was a feeling of true bliss. It was another hot day and it was a bit rough providing us with tricky conditions to look for splashes or dorsal fins breaching the surface. Early during our trip, Captain Al spotted dorsal fins in the distance and we were met with 10 or 12 dolphins. This encounter was special for us because Nat and I were able to enter the water together!

Nat quickly grabbed the GoPro, and I grabbed my camera to take still photos of the dolphins. Nat was second in the water after the fearless group leader, and quickly caught up to dolphins to record video data. I entered the water last and made my way to the dolphins. At first, I couldn’t see anything because the visibility under the water’s surface wasn’t the best. Suddenly, I saw a big group of dolphins right under the surface. Dolphins seemed to be everywhere, and dolphins from various directions were joining the big group. I observed the dolphins for a moment, and then they went out of my view. They came back weaving their way through all the people in the water. Perhaps they were checking the unfamiliar objects (humans) that were in their environment. When I thought the encounter was over, I saw the massive group of dolphins along the bottom. They were too far for me to take still photos of them, but in unison they came up to the surface and took a big breath of air. I was able to swim with them for a little bit before they went out of view once more. Renegade picked us up, and we continued our search before our next sighting of dolphins came along.

This time Nat got in the water with the guests and a group of 12 spotted dolphins. Nat told me that during this encounter the dolphins did not seem to care about personal space. A couple of dolphins seemed to beg for her attention while she was trying to record the focal animal in the focal follow technique. Nat also told me this was the closest the dolphins had ever gotten to her. I was excited that Nat had a great last encounter with the dolphins before we said our final goodbyes, just as I had a great last encounter with these beautiful creatures.

Our last adventure on Renegade was nothing short of amazing. It was a combination of playful dolphins, glassy water, and great encounters that made the last day one to remember. It was a period of reflection as well, thinking about our time on the island and how much it would be missed when rejoining life in the States. Our flippered friends gave us a good send off. Tomorrow is our travel day back to Port. St. Lucie for the second half of our office portion of the internship. This is my last entry; I would like to thank all the readers out there for taking time the time to read The Daily Dolphin and following the adventures of the interns. “Life is not about the destination, It’s about the journey”.

Cheers,

Taylor and Nat 

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Rough Seas and Dorsal Fins!
21 September 2020

Rough Seas and Dorsal Fins!

On Monday, Taylor and I woke up and made breakfast as we usually do and then headed to the Sea Crest for a DCP talk for the Sea Crest guests. Kel talked all about why photo identification is important for research and how to tell the spotted dolphins apart based on their spot pattern! It was a fun talk and Taylor and I always enjoy listening to the lectures. We also helped to outfit some of our cool DCP swag to the guests who wanted to rock a DCP shirt on the boat. After, Taylor and I went back to have lunch at CJ’s Deli right along the beach. Then we decided to have some fun at the beach and cool of in the water. After we went to the beach, we grabbed the sighting sheets and GoPro and headed to Renegade for our boat adventure.

We started looking for dorsal fins at 3:00 amongst some fairly rough seas and rocky waves. It was definitely one of the rockiest days we’ve been out, so the boat was swaying back and forth. We stopped for a swim break and sure enough there was also a strong current in the water. It was like a water treadmill as we swam against the current and got almost nowhere! After the swim break we continued searching for a long time. Eventually, after hours of searching, Taylor spotted the spotteds! There was a group of eight spotted dolphins riding the three foot waves of the rough seas all around us. It was so much fun to see them surf the waves. Among this group was Romeo (#10) and Swoosh (#36) – again! – as well as Inka (#93) and an inquisitive adult male who we’ll need to ID later. Taylor and the guests got in the water for a nice long encounter as the dolphins swam around in the waves. They also put on a show for the people remaining on the boat as they made huge jumps in the air. I got to see Romeo jump fully out of the water and body slam right into a wave. It was so awesome to watch! Then the encounter was over and we began the journey home.

But, the dolphins weren’t done with us: on our way back home we came upon 20 more spotted dolphins! It was just a little too rough to try another encounter, so we just made some surface observations. It was harder to ID the dolphins in these sea conditions, but Taylor and I were able to make out Sulfur’s (#102) distinct dorsal fin! Although we didn’t get in the water, the dolphins still put on a show as they leaped out of the water and played in the waves. Who knew rough seas could be so fun! Soon it was getting late, so Captain Al turned the boat around so we could head back to shore. We docked and then Taylor and I went right back to our cottage for a quick lights out! We had to get up early the next day for a talk aboard the Coral Reef II. More on that to come in the next blog!

Until next time, cheers!

-Nat and Taylor

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The Daily Dolphin: Rain Delay!
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: Rain Delay!

On Sunday, Renegade embarked on the usual to look for our flippered friends with some unexpected delays due to weather. We stopped along the way to do a gear check, or for the interns, an excuse to jump in the water and cool off from the scorching sun. During the gear check one of the guests referred to us as mermaids, which I though was very funny. After the gear check we resumed our search…

Soon, we saw some dolphins in the distance. Everyone on board concluded that they were common bottlenose dolphins (T. truncatus) visiting us. Nat quickly unpacked the surface camera to try to capture their dorsal fins (pictured here). These dolphins were not into our agenda. They were moving fast and staying underwater for long increments of time, so after some time we left them in search of other dolphins.

After many hours of searching, and the sun was about to set over the horizon Renegade was making its way back to the dock. Suddenly, Nat and Captain Al saw some dolphins in the distance. This time they were spotted dolphins. The vessel sped up a little to catch up with the dolphins. As soon as we were close to them, Captain Al gave us the order to get our gear on. I was second in the water this time with the GoPro to take some video footage of the dolphins. This was classified as an encounter attempt because we didn’t actually see any dolphins underwater.

Later that evening, we came upon another boat and dolphins, but we weren’t able to collect anymore underwater data. Still – considering the rain delay, it was a nice first day on the boat for this week’s Bimini Adventures group. Stay tuned to find out how the rest of the week goes!

Cheers,

Taylor and Nat

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Rocky Seas and Three Bottlenose
21 September 2020

Rocky Seas and Three Bottlenose

Thursday wasn’t just the fourth of July but also the DCP eco-tour’s last boat trip! The boat departed at 2:00 pm so we could go to the Three Sisters for a nice snorkel stop. Taylor and I had fun rocking our new DCP rash guards while we went and checked out the huge schools of fish under the crooks and crevices of the Big Sister rock. I love free diving down into the big school of fish because it makes me feel like I am one with the school. We also saw a huge barracuda swim by and scare some of the smaller fish around the rocks. Soon we were back on board Renegade and searching for dolphins. It was a rocky and windy day out on the sea. It was definitely the rockiest Taylor and I have experienced so far out here in Bimini. The waves made it hard to see any dorsal fins out in the distance because of the frequent white caps, but Kel reminded us that it was still both safe and worth the search – sometimes Renegade is out in even rougher seas! I think I imagined a dolphin jumping about a hundred times because the white caps often look like splashes.

After a while of looking, three bottlenose dolphins appeared out of nowhere right at the bow of the boat. I quickly took out the surface camera and snapped a couple pictures of their dorsal fins. They were slowly on the move, so we didn’t try to have any encounter with the bottlenose dolphins. Soon they were out of sight and we continued our search for some spotted dolphins. After we looked for as long as possible, we had to start heading back home because it was getting pretty late. Unfortunately, we didn’t run into any spotted dolphins, but sometimes these dolphins need a break from us too. We came back to the docks and quickly showered for a late dinner. Taylor and I were able to join the guests during their last dinner and then we said good-bye to everyone Friday morning before they headed to the airport. We had a lot of fun with the DCP eco-tour group this past week and hope to see them again one day on future DCP trips and tours!

Until next time, cheers!

-Nat and Taylor 

PS: A huge, giant, enormous thank you to Bimini Adventures and the Sea Crest teams for making our first ecotour of 2019 a great success. We’re so proud of this collaboration and look forward to many more – including our August 11 – 16, 2019 program! Snag a spot now – time is running out to meet the minimum of 10 which is required for delicious meals included.

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The Daily Dolphin: Life is the Bubbles When You Find Dolphins
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: Life is the Bubbles When You Find Dolphins

Wednesday was one of the hotter days aboard Renegade. We boarded Renegade with all the gear including the GoPro, the surface camera, and the data collection sheet. I was ready to help guests board the vessel to start our journey to look for our daily dolphins. It looked like a cloudy day to be on water, but the sun was still shining strong making it hot on board. As we searched, we thought we saw a splash. As we continued on, we received a radio message from another dolphin-seeking boat that they had just left some dolphins. The captain followed our course to head in the direction where the dolphins could still be. The dolphins were still in that spot and were just cruising along. We waited to start our first encounter because yet another ecotour boat was also interested in watching the dolphins before they headed back home. We joined the DCP passengers for a well-deserved swim break before we tried to start an encounter with the dolphins.

Soon, we pulled up to them and the captain lined up Renegade for a drop. Nat went down the ladder to get her snorkel gear on and grabbed a camera to take still photos of the dolphins. I monitored everything from the surface and practiced taking some pictures of dorsal fins with the surface camera. It’s a skill that still needs some work, but it was a good attempt. Captain Al gave the all clear for the passengers to enter the water, but the dolphins didn’t seem to stick around for long. So, the captain asked the passengers to come aboard but to stay ready in preparation for another drop in the water. Being a new sighting of dolphins, this time the dolphins seemed to be more relaxed than before. Nat, Kel and the guests were able to have a good encounter: Kel is pretty sure she saw Cerra (#38) with a male calf, and Niecey (#48). At several points in the day, Stefran (#82) was also present with her calf – we’ve seen so much of them this week! After some time in the water, Kel called for a switch of teams. I was able to enter the water with team 2.

I was last to enter the water, and it seemed like the other guests in the water were following the dolphins in a different direction. As soon as I entered the water, there was a group of dolphins right under the platform. Naturally, I followed this group away from all the people to try to get some good still photos of these beautiful creatures.

The sight of dolphins on Renegade is always a good day. Having the opportunity to observe the dolphins in their natural environment was a breathtaking sight. Nat and I joined the guests for a delicious dinner because the power still had not returned by the time our journey was over.  We have about a week left at DCP’s Bimini field site, which is a touchy subject because we both don’t want to leave the island. Thankfully, we still have more adventures to come before that time arrives. Adventure is out there!

Cheers,

Taylor and Nat

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Full Day of Dolphins!
21 September 2020

Full Day of Dolphins!

Tuesday was another great day out at sea! In the morning, Taylor and I continued our office work with some photo sorting, then right after lunch we met Kel at the Sea Crest to inventory the highly fashionable DCP shirts, tanks and rashguards. I couldn’t help myself and bought a bright green rash guard shirt with the DCP logo on the front. I wear it in the water whenever we snorkel with the dolphins and I absolutely love it. Taylor couldn’t resist either and got same one in bright yellow! We love representing DCP onboard Renegade!

After the inventory we set out around 2:00 to search for dolphins. We made a snorkel stop at Bimini Road so everyone could see the famed “road to Atlantis.” It is a great spot, but Taylor and I had already snorkeled there before, so we decided to skip the real snorkel site and have our own fun swimming around the boat (It doesn’t sound as much fun, but to us it was nice!). Everyone was soon back aboard the boat, and we continued our expedition to look for those dorsal fins. It wasn’t too long until we came across three spotted dolphins. Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36) and Vee (#101) (yes! Romeo & Swoosh were together again) hung around the boat for a while until we were ready to try an encounter. Everyone was able to swim with these three for a little while, but then they seemed to move away. We decided to have some snacks on the boat while we looked for other dolphins. It wasn’t long until Romeo, Vee, and Swoosh led us to another group of spotted dolphins! Now there were about eight dolphins around the boat. Leslie (#80), Tina’s calf #121, and #114 was among the new dolphins we saw that afternoon. Kel thinks Tina is starting to give her calf some space because although we saw Tina’s calf, we didn’t see Tina (though, maybe we’ll notice her on video or in still photos). Time for the little calf to start learning on his own! We had another encounter with these dolphins, during which Tina’s calf was very active. He was swimming all around us! Soon it was time to say goodbye to the dolphins and head back home. It was then leftovers for dinner, wait for the power to come back on, and a quick lights out for Taylor and me so we can do it all again the next day!

Until next time, cheers!

-Nat and Taylor

PS: Remember – time is running out to grab a spot on our August 2019 ecotour. Click here for more info! We it’s short notice, but…..oh, it’s going to be amazing!

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The Daily Dolphin: I Want to be Where the Dolphins Are
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: I Want to be Where the Dolphins Are

Monday was our second boat trip with DCP’s eco-tour group, with Bimini Adventures. The day started with our normal routine of waking up with the sun, getting caught up on our office work, and then having a lunch break. It was an exciting day because we finished the office work that was assigned to us upon our first arrival on the island. We really felt a sense of accomplishment when we finished our last video log. We decided to celebrate a little bit and headed to the beach after lunch to cool off in the crystal-clear water. As soon as we were done with our beach trip, we were met with a power outage. Luckily, we were getting ready to head to the dock, with hopes that the power will return when we were at sea.

We boarded Renegade, put all our equipment in the proper place, and helped all the guests board before we were ready to search for our daily dolphins. It was a hot day to be on a boat, and there was no ocean breeze to cool us down (the wind was ~5 kts). It didn’t take us long before we spotted some splashes up ahead. The captain headed straight for the splashes, and we were met with a big group of juveniles, including Paul (#99), and mother-calf pairs. Nat was excited to see them swimming in infant position! The final count was 13 spotted dolphins that seemed to surround the boat. The tricky thing about this group was that they were moving too fast and didn’t seem interested in slowing down for us. There were also several other boats in the area, all trying to swim with the same group of dolphins – not an ideal situation for the dolphins or the boat operators. After waiting patiently for our turn, the group plus Nat geared up and entered the water. Kel had the MVA to record the dolphins, and Nat had my camera to take some new stills of the dolphins. The dolphins split up into two different groups, and soon they were moving too fast for the swimmers to keep up. I was watching everything from a bird’s eye trying to give signals to the people in the water of the location of the dolphins. The swimmers boarded Renegade and stayed ready for another drop.

After the second encounter, it was my turn to head into the water to take pictures for DCP’s photo-ID catalog. By now the original 13 dolphins joined up with another group making one massive group of dolphins. Kel entered the water with the MVA and I entered the glassy water soon after with my camera. As we were heading toward the dolphins all I saw was this massive ball of juvenile dolphins just beneath the surface. They were more interested in socializing with each other than playing with us humans – which from a research perspective, is exactly what we want. After we observed the dolphins for a little bit they went out of our view and so we did not pursue them. I thought the encounter was over, but the big group of dolphins headed toward us. As we approached the group, I saw Stefran (#082) and her calf swim by. Kel was able to confirm that the sex of the calf was female, so Stefran has a little baby girl with her. Upon further observation Kel suspects that Swoosh (#036) and Romeo (#010) (both pictured here) could be pregnant – that would explain why we haven’t seen them with calves this year and, perhaps, why we’re seeing them together so much. I love the thought of new dolphin calves, soon swimming around in the ocean. After this encounter, Captain Al tried to put people in the water twice more before heading home.

Today was a great day with the dolphins on the perfect glassy water. Though the dolphins weren’t always interested in the humans, we still had a total of 5 encounters yesterday, which was more than I have witnessed thus far. I think we got some good footage of the dolphins, and some still photos that will be useful when updating the catalog. Despite the heat of the scorching sun it was a beautiful day to be on the water – and our guests are absolutely wonderful! Can’t wait for our next adventure!

Cheers,

Taylor and Nat

PS: Curious about Romeo, Swoosh, Stefran & Paul? You learn more about them and the other dolphins through our Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program. Or, join our 11 – 16 August 2019 ecotour program. It’s last minute, but it’s going to be awesome!!

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Dolphins to the Left… dolphins to the right!
21 September 2020

Dolphins to the Left… dolphins to the right!

Sunday marked the end to our boat trip hiatus! It has been a long 11 days of island life filled with photo sorting, video logs, and power outages. Taylor and I were super excited to meet the guests for the DCP eco-tour, done in collaboration with Bimini Adventures, for their orientation at the Sea Crest. I was so excited to see Bill, Ron, and John, all of whom I had the pleasure of knowing and meeting on the Roatan eco-tour trip this past October. It is always nice to see familiar faces!

After the Sea Crest visit, Taylor and I went straight to the docks to prepare for the dolphin expedition ahead. Soon we were on our way searching the horizon for dorsal fins. It was the prettiest day for a boat trip yet! The water was glossy smooth and you could see right to the sandy bottom. It would be easy to spot any dorsal fins today, and it wasn’t long until we came across something floating in the water, but it wasn’t a dolphin, it was a loggerhead sea turtle! Only something was very peculiar about this loggerhead. The turtle wasn’t able to dive down. Captain Audley turned the boat around and we investigated. It was clear that this turtle was in some kind of trouble because it would have definitely swum away by then if it could. Captain Al got in contact with Kel on shore to see if any action could or should be taken. After giving the GPS coordinates to Kel, we unfortunately had to leave the loggerhead on the surface where it would hopefully be picked up by help later.

As we continued our search, it wasn’t long until we came across a large group of spotted dolphins! They were scattered all over the place, probably because they were feeding. We tried a couple of encounters, but it seemed like the dolphins’ minds were not in the mood to play with our guests, and they generally ignored us and swam away. There were other boats in the area trying to do dolphin swims as well, so we decided to wait in the area until things settled down and hopefully the dolphins would be in a different mood to play. It was a pleasant wait on the boat though. There were dolphins all around us! There were dolphins to the left and dolphins to the right, out in front of the bow and in the back by the stern (hence the title, thanks Bill!). So at least we got to wait with dolphins instead of by ourselves. I was still able to ID Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36), Tina (#14), and Stefran (#82) from the surface. Later we were able to try some more encounters and I was able to see Inka (#93) in the water. Soon it was time to start heading home, but it wasn’t without dolphins! We still had dolphins all around us on our way in! They weren’t quite bow riding, but they would sometimes come for a quick bow ride for a few seconds then swim off.

Soon we were back and Taylor and I were invited to have dinner with the eco-tour group! Luckily we accepted because we were welcomed back to our cottage with no power! Surprise, surprise. But thankfully, we were still able to go to the Sea Crest and eat some mushroom risotto, so we didn’t have to wait for the power to come back in our cottage to eat dinner. After dinner, the power was still off, but at this point I think Taylor and I are used to the island heat! Luckily the power returned right in time for bed at 11:00 so we able to have some cool air before bed!

Until next time, cheers!

-Nat and Taylor

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The Daily Dolphin: Knee Deep in The Water Somewhere
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: Knee Deep in The Water Somewhere

Even with the frequent power outages that have been occurring on the island, we have been trying to get a dose of our daily dolphins. Our days are filled with photo sorting or video logging of “our dolphins.” It isn’t the same as being out on the water with these beautiful creatures, but at least it’s something – and, it’s an important part of being a DCP intern. We took lunch breaks and went to the beach in our front yard. Even on days without boat trips we find an excuse to be on a boat in the middle of the ocean. With the power being more off than on, we took it as an opportunity to be out on the water.

The Thursday before DCP’s eco-tour, we went out with Bimini SCUBA Center to do some snorkeling. To be out on the water again, with the ocean breeze blowing through my hair was a familiar feeling. It reminded me of the dolphin trips on Renegade and although on a different boat, it filled the void of having a hiatus from boat trips. I was just happy being in the middle of the ocean with nothing but miles and miles of ocean between us and the shoreline.

Friday was a rainy day filled with thunder, lightning, and power outages.  We used the short time that we did have power to watch an important soccer game of the World Cup. We watched the United States versus France in the quarterfinals. Naturally, USA took the win over France, and they are heading to the semi-finals. Even though it wasn’t baseball, it was a sport none the less. Nat was way more excited than I was. After this, we tried to make some dinner, but we were met with another power outage. Luckily, the power came back on and we were able to cook some soup before it got too late. After dinner we worked on some more office work before hitting the hay for the night.

As our hiatus ends, we are nothing short of ecstatic to start our dolphin trips again. Looking for dolphins aboard Renegade has been missed by all. We have our first boat trip back aboard on Sunday. We are ready to be knee deep in the water or dolphins somewhere. More adventures to come!

Cheers!

Taylor and Nat

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SCUBA Day!
21 September 2020

SCUBA Day!

Today was a great day on the island! In the morning, Taylor and I took the morning off to do some SCUBA diving at Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center! It was Taylor’s first time under the sea as an open water diver. She was a little nervous at first, but once we got down, swimming with all the fish, she was able to relax and really enjoy the dive! The next dive was an extremely shallow dive, almost too shallow to be considered a dive, but it was a shark dive! We headed to Triangle Rocks where Caribbean reef sharks were circling the boat and swam with them for about 40 minutes. About half way through the dive, two spotted eagle rays decided to pay us a visit and swim by the shark dive! They were such a treat to see, and one of my favorites because of how beautiful they are.

After the dives, we came back to our cottage for lunch and started back on our DCP photo sorting. We were able to get some work done, but then the power went off, which we are used to by now. We waited almost two hours but the power still did not return. Unfortunately, our computers were low on battery, so we couldn’t do any DCP work, but there was a nice breeze and we were able to sit outside and enjoy some air. It was starting to get late with the sun setting when Taylor and I had a great idea. We were starving for dinner, but without power, we couldn’t make anything until the power was back on. Taylor and I had no clue when the power would turn back on, so we decided to bike over to the Hilton Hotel and have a fancy dinner. The Hilton still had power, so we were able to enjoy some cool air and a meal. Eventually we biked back to our cottage, crossing our fingers that the power would now be on by now. Luckily for us, the power came back on while we were gone! It was a great end to a great day.

Until next time, cheers!

-Nat and Taylor

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The Daily Dolphin: Life Without Boat Trips
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: Life Without Boat Trips

Our routine is a little different now since our last boat trip was about a week ago. Life on land is not as exciting as being on the water looking for our daily dolphins. Nat and I have got into a new routine that involves waking up when the sun rises, taking a break for lunch, and then getting caught up on sighting data or photo sorting. We have been taking advantage of our beautiful beach that is in out front yard, but it is nothing compared to being on a boat. The island was especially busy this weekend due to the famous Regatta weekend. Boats from all over were coming to celebrate a little sailboat race on the west coast of the island. The island was jamming with music that couldn’t be tamed, and a good amount of people. It was a good celebration minus the little power outages that have been occurring recently.

Yesterday was one of the hottest days on the island. The sun was shining, and the sky was clear, but there was no ocean breeze. Despite the hot air we started the morning with a beach trip. Luckily, it wasn’t as busy as compared to the daytime, so we spent the morning in the crystal-clear blue water looking for shells and sea glass. Since the beach seemed undisturbed by all the people, we took a nice walk on the beach before returning to our work. After our lunch break, we tried to get ahead in the sighting data, and the photo sorting for a good length of time. I was sorting photos that consisted a lot of dolphins that were considered either a C2 or C3, which were hard to tell apart from each other. The spot pattern on the different dolphins is what makes it easier for me to sort the different individuals. After a while, the dolphins started to blend together, and I looked over at Nat to signal that I really needed a break from the work and the heat inside the cottage. She came to the same conclusion, and we both decided to go to Big Game restaurant for dinner. It was a very nice to overlook the water, and see all the boats that had anchored at the dock for the weekend.

After dinner, we decided to watch a movie to relax from the day. After the movie was over we read our books for a little bit. Suddenly, we were visited by a strange creature that was too big to be a bug of any sort. It turned out to be a little lizard friend that sought refuge inside our cottage. We tried to catch him, but he was too fast for both of us. After the excitement we were met with a quick lights out because the power went out (again). We are both patiently awaiting more boat trips to come our way!

Until next time, Cheers!

Taylor and Nat

PS: Did you know that you can support DCP’s research through our Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin program? It’s easy – you pay $30 or $35, choose a dolphin and get all sorts of fun info, photos and videos! Click here to check out the details.

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No Power… Beach Time!
21 September 2020

No Power… Beach Time!

These past couple of days have been filled with office work and short trips to the beach. We have just entered our long stretch of no boat days, which gives Taylor and I a great opportunity to get some photo sorting, video logs, and sighting sheets recorded and analyzed. On Thursday we began our day with a little bit of photo sorting and then headed over to Kel’s house to place a video call over to Marineland! We were happy to leave our little cottage because our cottage did not have power all morning. They needed to change the power box, so they had to shut off the power, which means our little home on Bimini got really hot, really quickly. We took the beautiful ocean view walk over to Kel’s where Taylor and I introduced ourselves to the students at Marineland and then Kel gave a full lecture about dolphin identification and why it is important. It was a lecture I remember hearing from last year, but I still enjoy listening to it and re-familiarizing myself with the photo identification materials.

After Taylor and I came back to the cottage, the power was still shut off because of the power box exchange. We decided to go down the street to CJ’s deli to get a bite to eat and sit by the beach. Hank said it would only be able 20 more minutes until the power was back on, so we decided to wait stretched out on the beach. After going swimming to cool off, we came back to our cottage but the power on the entire island was now off! Since our computers were low on battery and our cottage was now at a steamy 95 degrees, we decided to hit the beach again and do some snorkeling in our backyard. It was a nice snorkel around the rocks and Taylor and I say a cute little stingray that swam with us for a while. We relaxed on the beach for a while, and would periodically return to the cottage to see if the power returned, but we had no such luck. We decided to stay on the beach and continue to stay cool in the water, even if it meant having to constantly reapply all of our sunscreen. Soon, Kel arrived with kids in tow – they had the same idea, beating the heat by floating in the sea. It wasn’t until around 5:30 that Kel spied a nearby streetlight turn on: power was back! Taylor and I headed inside so we could try and get some more office work done since we had spent most of the day at the beach. We did some photo sorting and had leftover lasagna for dinner. It was one of our hottest days on Bimini with the power going out, but Taylor and I tough it out and still love our island life all the same.

Until next time! Cheers!

-Nat and Taylor

PS: Here's a pic from our beach clean-up with Sacred Heart University - with all the dolphin sightings, we never posted it!

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The Daily Dolphin: Sharks, Rays, and Shipwrecks….Oh My
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: Sharks, Rays, and Shipwrecks….Oh My

Tuesday was an unusually long day aboard Renegade. We boarded our vessel at 11:00am and we headed due South, instead of our normal course to look for dolphins. Little did we know, that today was going to be one of our busiest days consisting of three different snorkel stops and looking for dolphins at the very end.  Our course was chartered for our first stop, the ray encounter, which was the furthest South. The very chaotic encounter involved a lot of friendly stingrays that seemed to love the human’s presence in the water. We had the opportunity to feed the stingrays, which was my favorite part. I held the piece of shrimp out for the stingrays to see, and soon enough I was greeted by two stingrays going after the same shrimp. One stingray got there first, and vacuum suctioned the food right out of my hand. The “sea pancakes” were so smooth and slimy to touch due to the fact that they don’t have bones like we do, but they are one of the most graceful creatures to watch under the surface. Pretty soon the stingrays got wise to the idea that we were out of food and moved on to the next group of people. We said “bye” to the stingrays and made our way back to Renegade to head toward our next stop.

Our second stop of the day was at Triangle Rocks, a specifically good location to see Caribbean reef sharks. These weren’t little, tiny reef sharks; they were sharks of decent size that were swimming all around us. To see these sharks up close was an unbelievable sight. They were mostly there for some easy food, but some did try and check us out as well which made a great encounter. After being one with the sharks, we could snorkel near one of the rocks. It was a beautiful snorkel along the reef that was made up of sea fans. Nat and I saw a big barracuda that crossed our paths right before we headed back to the boat to look for some more sharks. Captain Kat saw a hammerhead that was below the surface among all the sharks. Nat and I didn’t see, but we wished we had. Next: we headed to a shipwreck known as the Sapona.

The Sapona was another good snorkel stop – it’s a massive, concrete wreck in shallow water. It’s pretty deteriorated, but has a rich history and is now home to plenty of fish. Because this group missed a dolphin trip due to weather, we used the last bit of daylight after the snorkel to search for dolphins. Unfortunately, today was met with no sighting of our dolphin friends, but we enjoyed the boat ride, nonetheless. We said goodbye to the students and the professors of Manhattan and Hunter colleges because it was their last day in Bimini. Today was our last boat trip for a while, but it gives us an opportunity to catch up on the office work. Overall, the past eight boat trips aboard Renegade was our form of nirvana. We both are happiest being on a boat in the middle of the ocean looking for dolphins. More adventures ahead!

Cheers!

Taylor and Nat

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Summer on Blue Lagoon Island home of Dolphin Encounters!
21 September 2020

Summer on Blue Lagoon Island home of Dolphin Encounters!

On Sunday, I traveled from Florida to Nassau, The Bahamas, to collect some data on the dolphins at Dolphin Encounters (on Blue Lagoon Island). It is my return to collecting data underwater with my MVA2. The last sessions for me using the array was about half a dozen years ago. I’m only here for a few days to collect data and also to chat about two other studies we have ongoing or slated to begin this year. It is always a pleasure to head “into the field” … and this trip is no different. Thankfully, yesterday, I was in the water most of the day and did not realize the temps were in the high 90s (°F) with a high heat index! Data collection is mostly above water today and I am feeling the heat! Thank goodness for rash guards and sunblock! Still, some of the older dolphins seemed to relax around me and the MVA2 after a couple of sessions; the younger dolphins seemed to be a mix of curious and trepidation, at least at the start. 
 
I’ll have a couple more updates this week. And, then we resume our delayed gratification study in September. 
Cheers
Kathleen
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Patience Pays Off… With Dolphins!
21 September 2020

Patience Pays Off… With Dolphins!

We have not been too lucky these past few days with the weather: Sunday’s boat trip was canceled due to poor weather conditions. Although Taylor and I waited with our things prepared to hop aboard Renegade, the weather still remained not in our favor. We hoped the weather would improve for Monday’s adventures, and although it was not perfect by any means, we were still able to find a window to search for dolphins!

In the morning, Taylor and I joined Hunter and Manhattan Colleges for their beach clean-up. It was cloudy and windy, but so far there were no thunderstorms. The wind was actually a blessing in disguise because it warded off all the sand flies that have been eating our legs alive! We cleaned the beach of Styrofoam boxes, plastic straws, bottle caps, and other plastic items and collected at least 10 trash bags full of trash! It was a very successful clean up. We love participating in these clean ups because we love to help keep at least some plastic out of the sea. Afterwards, Taylor and I peddled our bikes over to the little grocery stores, to restock for the week. On our way back home we got stuck in a torrential downpour and at first we were worried that our boat trip would be canceled again. We were supposed to depart at 1:00 to make a snorkel stop for sharks and rays, but with the thunderstorm above us, Captain Al pushed the departure time back. Taylor and I waited with our bags packed by the door for the storm to clear. Eventually, our luck changed and the storm passed! We were able to depart at 2:45 to search for dolphins. We didn’t make it to the snorkel stop, but at least we were able to get out on the water.

The boat trip was definitely a bumpy ride because of some moderate swells, but nothing we couldn’t handle. There was some light rain here and there, but luckily it never poured while we were looking for dolphins. After searching for a couple of hours, we finally came across a group of 8 spotted dolphins! From the surface I was able to identify Inka (#93), Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36), and Stefran (#82). Soon we were able to try an encounter and we swam with the dolphins for a solid seven minutes. Then in a second they were gone! We got out of the water to try and find them again, and found them we did… with more dolphins! The dolphins we found previously met up with another group of spotted dolphins, and among this new group was Sulphur (#102) and Vee (#110)! Now there were about 16 + dolphins in the water. We were able to have another encounter for 14 minutes with this new group! Despite the poor weather in the beginning of the day, it turned out to be a great dolphin day. After this group of spotted dolphins left, we made our journey back home because there was another thunderstorm lurking in the distance. We made it back just in time, and later that night, sure enough, it was raining again. We had the perfect window for dolphin searching and timed it perfectly with the weather. I guess good things, or dolphins, come to those who wait!

Until next time, cheers!

-Nat and Taylor

PS: Snag one of the spots on our August 11 – 16, 2019 (yes, this summer!) ecotour. We added this session late, but we know we can get five more sign-ups. Are you one?! Click here for more info.

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The Daily Dolphin: In the Eye of the Storm!
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: In the Eye of the Storm!

The dark storm clouds surrounded us on either side, I could see the rain in the distance. The captain of Renegade stayed our course to the snorkel stop, hoping the weather would clear. We stopped at a location known as Bimini Road. The rocks were stacked on either side of a sand path making a highway for fish underwater. We all jumped in the water excited to explore this new area and be one with the fishes for a while. I happen to see one of my favorite fish among them, a French angelfish, one of the most elegant fishes under the surface. Nat and I also had some fun practicing our free diving (with no dolphins in sight) and being one with the school, a school of fish that is. After a good snorkel it was time to return to the vessel and resume our search for our daily dolphins.

The search continued even though nasty weather was upon us. We were searching for the dolphins for hours with no luck. The captain had to change course multiple times to try and out run the storm that seemed to be surrounding us. Miles upon miles of blue ocean was ahead of us with no dorsal fins or flukes breaking the surface. The storm by now unexpectedly caught up to the boat. It started to pour, and the waves grew in response to the roaring wind (but don’t worry – we were safe!). It didn’t look like the storm was going to clear up, but we continued the search. Luckily, we did, because it the far distance captain Kat saw some dorsal fins in the distance and turned Renegade sharply heading toward the dolphins. I eagerly climbed down the ladder and got all my gear on as quickly as I could in hopes of entering the water. We started our encounter with this massive group of 39 dolphins (Captain Al’s final count) all around us. I started to swim and saw the group of dolphins on the bottom exhibiting social behavior towards each other. By the time we swam to them, they swam off. So, the captain called the swimmers back to the boat, only to drop us off at another group of dolphins up ahead.

With my gear already on, I waited patiently for the signal to enter the water once again. This second encounter was my favorite as compared to the first one I witnessed. As soon as I entered the water, I heard loud clicks and buzzes. They seemed close, but I didn’t know how close. I looked down and to the right and to my surprise three dolphins were below me who seemed to be trying to join the big group up ahead. I just froze in awe; I froze in awe because I felt like any one movement could lead to unintentional interaction between me and the dolphin. I looked to my right and left, I was accompanied by the professors of Manhattan and Hunter Colleges on both sides. We were all trying to get video footage of the dolphins’ behavior. The group of three dolphins that I previously mentioned stopped up ahead and were hanging out in the waves. Meanwhile two juvenile dolphins were being playful and showing us tail slaps and jawing. The dolphins seemed to get away from us because we didn’t want to chase the dolphins up ahead. I thought the encounter was over and it was time to return to the boat. Suddenly, the dolphins up ahead came towards us. From the surface, they startled one of the swimmers in the water. We all looked down below to find the dolphins returned, even for a short period of time. After a rocky day at sea it was good to finally see some action. Over the course of these observations, we saw Split Jaw (#22), Tim (#069), Sulfur (#102), Weiloo (#110, pictured here - and we're fixing her adoption link soon!) and many others that we’ll need to ID from video and photos.

After Nat got in the water for another attempted encounter, Renegade was headed home to the island. The storm had cleared up quite a bit, but it was still drizzling on our way back. The trip back was a lot of fun because the boat was hitting some big waves. Today was a great day at sea, following the routine of having a perfect ending to rough starts. Ready for more adventures!

Cheers!

Taylor and Nat

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Cloudy with a Chance of Dolphins
21 September 2020

Cloudy with a Chance of Dolphins

Slowly, Taylor and I are starting to get into our island routine. Wake up with the sun, do some DCP office work, hit the beach for 15 minutes because it gets too hot, then head over to the boat at the Sea Crest for dolphin expeditions. Today we joined Manhattan and Hunter Colleges again on their search for dolphins. Taylor and I sat up top so we could scan the horizon for dorsal fins. It seems our boat trips are starting to get into a routine of their own because our luck sighting dolphins has not been in our favor during the first couple hours of the trips. I scan the horizon, hoping to catch a glimpse of flukes, dorsal fins, or splashes, but there were no dolphins in the beginning of our trip.

With a creeping storm behind us, I almost gave up hope that we would be seeing dolphins today, but you really never know! And sure enough, as we were heading home with cloudy skies above us, we were able to spot four spotted dolphins! They were two mother-calf pairs. One of these pairs was Tina (#14) and her calf, un-named #121! Her calf is very distinct because of his unique dorsal fin notch (I was able to see he was a male underwater). Once I saw the calf’s dorsal fin, I was quickly able to ID check Tina and find the white spot on her peduncle I remember noticing last year! Luckily, there was still time to try an encounter with the mothers and calves so we all grabbed our snorkel gear and cameras and got ready to slide into the water.

As I slowly entered the water, the two calves were immediately noticeable because they were right next to the boat. I started recording them as they swam in between and around the snorkelers. At one point they were both playing with a clump of seaweed. One would have it against their dorsal fin, then slowly brought it down to their fluke. The other calf used their rostrum to take the seaweed from the other’s fluke. Needless to say, I was charmed by this cuteness overload. Tina and the other mother in the meantime were off in the distance, but eventually they got closer to their calves and we were able to see them up close as well. Soon the calves were swimming in infant position to their mothers and we got to see one calf nurse! It was so exciting to see the mother-calf pairs swimming in infant position! Definitely one of my favorite behaviors. I didn’t want to get out of the water, but after a 15-minute swim, the dolphins swam out of view and it was time to climb back onboard to make our journey home. When we got back it was time for dinner and a quick lights out after an exciting day!

Until next time!

-Nat and Taylor

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The Daily Dolphin: Dolphins, where are you?
21 September 2020

The Daily Dolphin: Dolphins, where are you?

On Thursday, I found myself sitting, waiting for the dolphins to make their location known to me. But looking upon miles of blue ocean with no dolphins in sight really damped the mood. Traces of any dolphins were not being seen by any one on the boat. The captain tried to set a course that was close to the spots where we saw the dolphins at the end of the previous day. But her plan didn’t work, so we changed course to try and find some action in another direction. That didn’t work, so we changed course again in hope of seeing some dolphins. Hours went by without seeing any dolphins. All hope seemed lost, and I was about to give up looking for the difficult dolphins. (Note: though it may have felt like we were just aimlessly zigging around, the search is, in fact, fairly consistent and somewhat methodical. Captain Al and DCP want the boat to behave predictably; even though we always want to see the dolphins, we know it is important that they can avoid us if they prefer. And, it is not uncommon for it to take a few hours to find the dolphins. Such is research – or vacation – with wild animals!)

It was getting late, and the captain decided to head back to the dock, and I was ready to put my gear away. Finally, we come across a big group of dolphins. At first, I thought they were bottlenose, but it turns out they were the spotted dolphins. The best part is the massive group of dolphins were just casually hanging around the boat. Al made the decision to put swimmers in the water as quickly as possible. Nat rushes down to get her gear on and get the GoPro ready to take video footage of these beautiful creatures. The encounter lasted about 10 minutes, with lots of mating and/or socio-sexual behavior, before we moved onto another group of dolphins up ahead. The best part of this encounter for Nat was amongst all the chaos, one of the dolphins touched* her fin.  The first encounter of the day was a good one!

As we approached the second group of dolphins that were farther in the distance, Nat turned to me and asked if I wanted to take a turn. Naturally I said “yes,” and rushed down the later as quickly as I could so that I could get all my gear on before we arrived at the dolphin’s location. Once ready, I slid into the water and kicked as hard as I could to reach the dolphin that was at the bow. It was only one dolphin sitting there right below the surface waiting for us. He or she was more interested in picking up a piece of floating sargassum then in the humans. I was able to follow this one dolphin for a while. There is always calm before a storm. Little did I know there was a group of spotted dolphins bow riding trying to be steered toward us in the water. I could see blurry shaped in the water and suddenly, I exchanged eye contact with three dolphins that were heading straight for me. I thought they were going to ram right into me. Lucky for me, they ducked right under me at the last possible second (as they always do, I’m told!). All I could in this moment is freeze and be completely still because I felt that any one motion, I could touch the dolphin – including Split Jaw (#22). Those moments under the surface are what makes me fall in love with dolphins. To top this day all off, on the ride back the sun was setting but there were dolphins spotted by Nat in the distance. A picture-perfect moment happened, where the dolphins was diving up in the air with the beautiful sunset behind it. I think it was the prettiest seen I have witnessed while on a boat with the sun setting.

What seemed to be a rocky start to our daily search of dolphins, turned into a day that was nothing short of amazing. I am so blessed to be a new member of the Dolphin Communication Project team, and calling Bimini my home for the next month. Can’t wait for another day on the water!

Cheers,

Taylor and Natalie

*DCP feels very strongly about not touching wild dolphins. We never touch the dolphins on purpose and when a dolphin does touch us (which is very rare among the Bimini-born dolphins), it is not an invitation to touch them back.        

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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:

info {at} dcpmail {dot} org

THE DOLPHIN COMMUNICATION PROJECT CHARITABLE SOLICITATION NUMBER CH42894, MEETS ALL REQUIREMENTS SPECIFIED BY THE FLORIDA SOLICITATION OF CONTRIBUTIONS ACT.  A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE (800-435-7352) WITHIN THE STATE OF FLORIDA, OR 850-410-3800 WHEN CALLING OUTSIDE THE STATE.  REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE.

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