Thursday, March 26, 2015

Imitation Train




It's often difficult to keep the attention of four dolphins at the dock.

Santini, Cayo, Pandora and Gypsi are smart ladies with very different dolphinalities. Santini is a Teacher’s Pet who always wants to do everything perfectly. Sisters Cayo and Pandora are extremely independent, curious and need to know what is happening at every moment. Gypsi, the youngest of the bunch, is a free spirit who swims wherever the tide takes her. You can imagine with such dynamic dolphinalities a session with them would always keep you on your toes.

That’s exactly what one of our trainers, Emily, discovered as she spent time with these four ladies. They all had a bit of trouble focusing on what was going on. Pandora kept sneaking over to the side of the dock to hang out away from the pack. Cayo had a little remora hanging on her belly, so Santini did not want to sit next to her. Gypsi wandered off, which is typical, then came back and acted as though she’d never been gone.

To keep all of the girls engaged, Emily had them practice some imitations. She’d ask Santini to do her shark behavior and then ask Cayo and Gypsi to copy. Pandora was asked to bob up and down, followed by Santini and Cayo. At one point there was even an imitation train.  Emily sent Gypsi on a wave, and then asked each dolphin to follow one at a time, imitating what the girl directly in front of them did.

When they returned to the dock, Emily responded with lots of excitement , making it a huge party for the dolphins. They did so well mastering all of their imitate behaviors. Plus, it made them even more eager to hang out all together at the dock. Since each of the girls loves attention, it was a bit hard to keep them all on their flukes. By the end of the session, all four were happy to sit next to each other, even with the remora still hanging around. It was a fun time for all!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Delta's Hidden Treasures




Delta is known for hiding toys under docks and in his lagoons.

Living in a natural environment off the Gulf of Mexico, there is always more going on under the water than there is above. Often, the dolphins bring up rocks, mangrove pods or sea grass. Other times, they resurface with hidden scarves or long lost toys. Somewhere underneath the murky water, there seems to be a dolphin treasure chest.

On occasion we are privy to the treasures hidden in the lagoons, especially when in the presence of gift givers like Delta. During a session, he randomly brought up an array of objects -- rocks, mangrove pods, dive rings, a target pole, and other fun items that he was hiding somewhere in the lagoon. As Delta emerged with more and more gifts, we began to hand them out to guests who were standingon the front seawall. A little girl was given a rock, while her father showed off his lump of seaweed. Others laughed as we handed them tiny strands of sea grass and a few leaves. When a new guest was given a dolphin present, Delta swam away to locate another one. Somehow, he had an endless supply of goodies to spare.

The next day, during an enrichment session, Delta began to hoard toys in the lagoon. Not sodiscreetly, he grabbed a ball and placed it under a floating dock. Stealing from his good friend, Cayo, he hid a target pole under the boardwalk. It began to be clear that there was a reason he was able to find so many gifts the day before: he had them stashed from other sessions! Although he had several eyes on him, he nonchalantly took the toys to different areas of the lagoon to save for later.
Delta isn’t the only dolphin who hoards toys. Louie  loves dive rings and is known for bringing up several of them at random moments. Pandora and Calusa hold onto their target poles and hula hoops for days. Pax and Talon knock balls into the mangroves and then either reclaim them later or watch their trainers dig them out. We want to always ensure that the dolphins have a great time, so we’re happy to let them keep the toys they enjoy the most. After all, their personal likes and interests are all what makes their dolphinalities so unique. 

As a nonprofit, our members help us keep the toys in the lagoons. Throughout the year, we are fortunate to receive new items along with donations to ensure the dolphins and sea lions are always amused and entertained. All of the toys are deemed dolphin safe to ensure that they provide tons of fun with no injury. These gifts continue to give as we share sweet stories about our flippered family members.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Luna Shares Her Toys


The target pole is the instrument Luna's trainer is holding while she dives over. We have many of varying lengths and often the dolphins carry around shorter versions of this tool for fun.


 Luna comes from a family of target pole lovers. Her mom, Pandora, is known to beach herself on docks if she sees one she can get her flippers on. Her aunt, Calusa, swims around with one as if it’s a majorette’s baton.   Obviously, it’s ingrained in this little girl to have a love for the training tool.
This makes it ever so special when she offers it up to her human family members. She’s done this on several occasions, often coming up to the seawall by the front lagoon and pushing it towards people she recognizes. 

One day, a staff member went onto a dock to say hello to the dolphins in the front lagoon. Many whizzed by to see what was happening. However, Luna took a few minutes to come over and assess how familiar she was with her human friend. After a few seconds, she swam away. Thinking nothing of it, the staff member sat on the dock and waited to see if any of her flippered friends wanted to play. Then, Luna popped up with a target pole inches away from the dock.

We’ve learned never to take certain items from dolphins, even if they seem to be giving you the option of taking it away. Pandora and Calusa do not give up their favorite toys.. However, Luna released the pole from beneath her pectoral flipper and moved it closer to the dock. Out of respect, the staff member asked “Do you want me to take it?” and Luna backed away leaving the pole near her friend. Under Luna’s wishes, it was lifted out of the water and put on the dock followed by a huge applause for the oh-so-sweet dolphin!

She got very excited and did a victory lap around the lagoon. Afterwards, Luna proceeded to come back with a multitude of gifts. She brought up a mangrove pod, some leaves, and chunks of sea grass. Each time she was applauded and cheered for, she swam off to get something new. Luna absolutely adored the reinforcement she received for bringing the items up to the dock.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dolphin Research Center Wins First Prize with Ocean 180

Middle school students in over 1,600 classrooms around the world spent the past two months carefully evaluating and judging the 10 video finalists submitted to the 2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge. Student judges thoughtfully critiqued each entry and ultimately determined which 3 minute video abstracts best explained the results and significance of the scientists’ research. Ballots cast from 336 schools revealed the top 4 entries, each of which will be awarded a portion of a $9,000 prize package to honor their work in communicating science to the public.

Dolphin Research Center's Blindfoded Imitation I study.

This year’s two first place films, Dolphin Research Center Blindfold Imitation Study led by Dr. Kelly Jaakkola at the Dolphin Research Center and Drones at the Beach led by Patrick Rynne at the University of Miami, were singled out by students for being innovative, creative, and thought provoking. Rounding out the winning submissions was second place entry How to Treat a Bruised Flipper: Developing Pain Medications for Dolphins from Dr. Claire Simeone at The Marine Mammal Center and third place entry Rescuing the Gentle Giants led by Charles Waters at the University of Auckland, Institute of Marine Science.

Participating scientists were motivated by more than just the prize money. First place winner Dr. Jaakkola saw Ocean 180 as a chance to make her mark on the next generation of ocean scientists. "For a lot of students, science can have a negative, scary image. They picture people in white lab coats talking about topics that nobody understands in the most boring, unimaginative way possible,” explained Dr. Jaakkola. “If we want to get kids excited about science, we need to change that image.”
Thanks to the videos created by this year’s finalists, the 37,795 student judges were exposed to a range of ocean science topics, from submarine volcanoes along the Oregon coast to fish migration in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to sharing the results of recent research, the videos also described the importance and relevance of the research to society. Teachers around the world applauded the effort of the finalists to make connections between classroom lessons and the impact of scientific discoveries.

“Too often, students only see science in isolation with the benchmarks assigned to them, rather
than the real-world application of that learning,” said Kathryn Blysma, whose students at Dr.
John Long Middle School in Wesley Chapel, FL participated as judges. “Although our state
benchmarks are thorough in supporting key learning for our students, making connections
between classroom learning and the real-world is critical to being good stewards of our planet.”
Short films, like those submitted to Ocean 180, have become an increasingly popular tool for
presenting research to non-scientists in an engaging way. “For me, some of the most inspiring
science writing uses analogies, metaphors, and similes to communicate aspects of the scientific
process, particularly the relevance of results,” said third place winner Charles Waters. “Video
helps lift images from print and the message comes closer to being an experience for the
audience in contrast to a mere information stream.”

Using their video abstracts, the Ocean 180 Video Challenge provides scientists with a platform
to connect with a broad audience and offers an opportunity to practice translating the
importance and outcomes of their research to non-experts. As first place winner Patrick Rynne
explained, the ability to communicate scientific findings is an essential skill to develop. “At the
end of the day, most research is funded by the taxpayer,” said Mr. Rynne. “Although it is
critical that work go through the peer-review process such as technical journals and conference
proceedings, we also have a responsibility to deliver our findings in a digestible way to the
general public.”

See Dolphin Research Center's submission here.

Visit http://ocean180.org to learn more and to see a full list of finalists and participating
classrooms

2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge Winners:

1st Place (Amateur Category)
Drones at the Beach
Patrick Rynne, University of Miami
Fiona Graham, University of Miami/ Waterlust
Ronald Brouwer, Ad Reniers, and Matthieu de Schipper, Delft University
Jamie MacMahan, Naval Postgraduate School
Laura Bracken, University of Miami/ CARTHE

1st Place (Professional Category)
Dolphin Research Center Blindfold Imitation Study
Kelly Jaakkola, Emily Guarino, Mandy Rodriguez, and the Visual Communication Staff, Dolphin
Research Center


2nd Place
How to Treat a Bruised Flipper: Developing Pain Medications for Dolphins
Claire Simeone, The Marine Mammal Center

3rd Place
Rescuing the Gentle Giants
Charles Waters, University of Auckland, Institute of Marine Science
Scott Ewing
Richard Story, Cook Islands Ministry of Marine Resources
Mark J. Costello, University of Auckland

Blood Drive Scheduled at Dolphin Research Center


Give the gift of life by donating blood when One Blood holds a blood drive on Friday, March 13th at Dolphin Research Center, mile marker 59, Grassy Key.  The blood mobile will be stationed in DRC's parking lot from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Blood is always needed for emergencies, and for people who have cancer, sickle cell, anemia, blood disorders and other illnesses.  Anyone who donates blood during the day will receive free admission to Dolphin Research Center.  Donors also receive a free wellness checkup including blood pressure, temperature, iron count, and cholesterol screening, and a free t-shirt.  To reserve a time to make your donation, call Nancy at DRC at 289-1121, extension 243.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sea Lions: Unusual Mortality Event




Sea lions need your help!

An overwhelming number of malnourished sea lion pups are showing up on the California coastline.  The stranding centers and marine mammal rescue response teams are stretched to the limit with available resources.  They need public help as they diligently work to rescue and rehabilitate these starving animals with a goal of releasing them when they are healthy.  Please join Dolphin Research Center and the other members of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums in offering support and donations.  

You can donate directly to the National Marine Mammal Foundation (www.nmmf.org) or to any of these stranding centers:  Marine Mammal Care Center, San Pedro. (www.marinemammalcare.org); Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Laguna Beach (www.pacificmmc.org); Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute, Santa Barbara (www.cimwi.org); or The Marine Mammal Center, Sausalito (www.marinemammalcenter.org).  Thank you!