Wednesday, August 29, 2012

DRC Reopen after Isaac!

Tursi leaps into the brilliant blue sky after we reopen on Tues a.m.!

This visitor from London was thrilled that she could resume her vacation and swim with Delta!
Dolphin Research Center worked hard all day on Monday and we were happy to reopen for visitors first thing on Tuesday morning after Tropical Storm Isaac blew through the Keys.

The dolphins, sea lions, birds, cats and all of the people are fine and we sustained only minor physical damage.

Now all we need is for people to resume their vacations or make new plans to visit the fabulous Florida Keys. 

In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with the people in the path of the storm as it makes its way to the Gulf Coast.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preparing for Isaac!

We're expecting the storm named Isaac to visit the Florida Keys in a few hours.  It's unsure yet whether we'll experience this as a tropical storm (winds in the 45 mph to 73 mph range) or a Category 1 hurricane (winds 74 to 90 mph).  Whatever the case, Dolphin Research Center has completed thorough preparations to secure the facility and, of course, our dolphin and sea lion family!

A stay-behind crew will remain at DRC for the duration of the Isaac event.  This morning it was still safe enough for some of the trainers who live near the facility to go in, feed and care for the pod.  Before the storm arrives in full strength and makes in unsafe for people to be out on the grounds, the stay-behind crew will provide another meal and then hunker down in the safe building.  As soon as possible after the worst of the weather passes, they'll be out on the grounds to check on the dolphins and sea lions and the entire facility.

Everyone always asks what exactly we do to prepare for a hurricane.  We have a detailed plan that we follow and actually began our storm preparations on Friday.  Well in advance of any storm, the Environmental Services team checks the generators and lays in supplies that might be needed.

Staff members take care of their offices and buildings, making sure that equipment is protected and storm shutters properly installed.  As you can imagine, there's a great deal to be done around the lagoons and public areas.  We temporarily remove some of the floating docks and increase the security of others.  Everything that could get blown around or into any of the lagoons is removed and stored.  This includes benches, stairs, gear, equipment, trash and recycling receptacles, and all of the signs that are normally posted around the dolphins.

Even the lunch truck is moved from where it usually sits near the front lagoon and taken to a more secure location!

The tropical birds that normally live in an outdoor aviary take up residence in the DolphinLab classroom to keep them out of the wind and weather.  The various cats are kept inside as well.

Preparing for a storm event is a lot of work, to be sure, but the DRC family works great as a team and everything that needs to be done to protect our home and family is completed in time.  There was a lot of activity yesterday, and we snapped some photos to share a few of the tasks with you.

As soon as possible after the storm, we'll post an update to let you know that everything's okay.  You can also check our Facebook page throughout the storm, as weather, Internet connection and available power permit!

Crossbars were added to reinforce the Causeway Tiki
Guest Services staff shuttered the Gift Shop

Volunteers collected toys and gear for safe storage
Dylan and Adam worked on the sound system

Even the ropes that line the lagoons are removed.  Aleta checked out our progress.

Trainers Laura (red cap) and Loriel bring a meal to the dolphins in the front lagoon.
Loriel is multi-tasking -- getting a storm update from Linda on the phone.

Visual Communications staff and volunteers moved
equipment from the Photo Tiki

The sun shade was taken down from over the lagoons.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Change it Up!

 “Pandora’s all smiles when the trainers go out of their way to entertain her during sessions”.
Dolphin Research Center is a facility where you will never exactly see the same session twice. We are constantly changing up our routine, trainers, and educators during each program. You could spend an entire month at DRC and every session would be different.

We don’t change what’s going on for our audience, but for our dolphins. Just like us, dolphins can lose interest in something they’re doing and once you’ve lost a dolphin’s attention the session is over. Our dolphins love when our trainers and staff members act silly. Our trainers run up and down the boardwalk, dance around, and work hard to make every session unique; whether it’s new training, enrichment, or research.

It doesn’t stop there. If you walk by a dolphin on the causeway and don’t interact, they make it known. Our dolphins will literally call out to you to be entertained! When that happens, you can’t walk away. You’ll often find people bobbing up and down, waving, or blowing kisses to our beautiful dolphins.

Several of our dolphins can do an entire session simply based off the attention they’re given. Pandora, for example, loves when her trainers entertain her and could care less about the fish they’re offering. Since she was a calf, Pandora has been curious about the world. She loves to play with new toys and feeds off of the energy she’s given. Interactions with Pandora tend to be fast paced and energizing.

Not only do our dolphins love attention, we encourage our guests to be as silly and playful as possible. Our visitors come from other cities, states, and even countries to see the DRC family and we want them to have a memory that lasts a lifetime. Jax waving or Rainbow giggling at you is a unique story to tell to your friends and family and a great way to remember your day at DRC!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What's in a name?

A.J. was named for his parents.

Guests often ask how we name our dolphins. Our animals have unique identifiers that are given to them for various reasons. Some of our dolphins like Molly, Sandy, and Rainbow, came to us from other facilities and we didn’t want to change the handle they already knew. Other dolphins have been named based on their “dolphinalities”.

Pandora, for example, was given her designation because she was a curious little girl. She was nicknamed our “bumper baby” because she would get into anything and everything. Her mom, Merina, had a hard time keeping up with her! Even as a newborn, Pandora was an independent calf eager to explore her surroundings.
Our rescue dolphins, Jax and Louie, were given their names because of where they were rescued. Jax was found in the Saint John’s River in Jacksonville and Louie was found after the oil spill in Louisiana. We felt it important to honor their stories.

Many of our other dolphins were given names connected to their genealogy. A.J. is in honor of his parents Aphrodite and Joe. Delta’s name is a combination of his grandfather Delphi and mom Aleta. We love our dolphin heritage and it’s important for us to always remember our cherished dolphins.

Luna and Pax got their names because of when they were born. Luna was born on a blue moon so she was given the Spanish word for moon. Pax, means peace in Latin, and we thought this appropriate for a dolphin born on Easter Sunday.

Unlike humans, we do not name our dolphins when they are first born. We take suggestions for names from staff and members, but nothing is official until we know more about our new little blessing. Gender cannot be established until we get a good view of a baby’s belly side which may take several months. Once we know whether we have a female or male baby dolphin and a little bit about their personality, we can select the perfect name for our new family member.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Kids of all ages

On a daily basis, guests say that those of us who are fortunate to work at Dolphin Research Center have a dream job. The most rewarding part of the job is seeing the happiness and excitement on our guests’ faces. Whether they just swam with dolphins, or are waving to them from the causeway, you can’t help but enjoy seeing how mesmerized people are by our animals.

DRC is a great place to bring children. We have a refreshing Sprayground, a multitude of educational narrations all day long, and questions are always welcomed. Often times, you’ll find members of our Education Department in the Dolphin Theatre twenty minutes after a program has ended listening to kids’ stories and what they have to say about dolphins. It’s a great environment to learn in, since we have no behind the scenes and no topic is taboo.

We love to consider our doors open to kids of all ages. Adults clap and cheer with the same enthusiasm as a child. When we ask our guests where they’re from, many will say they’re from another continent and have been members of DRC and dreamt about coming to swim with our dolphins. Parents run around the Sprayground with the same vivacity as a toddler and ask staff questions as eagerly as an elementary school student.

During a recent session, emphatic cheers could be heard for every one of our dolphins. “Great job, Tursi!” “Way to go, Louie” “Molly, you’re so funny!” “Go, baby dolphins, go!” The screams were so loud; they competed with our dolphins’ squeals. If you’ve ever heard our dolphins scream, you know they’re boisterous! When I turned to look and see who was cheering on our dolphins with such devotion, it was a man who looked to be in his early thirties. He wasn’t there with his family or friends, he just loved our dolphins and couldn’t help but go on and on about our fantastic facility. He’d been a member for over ten years and absolutely adored everything DRC stood for. Hearing him speak about DRC, he had the same intensity as a child on the playground telling his friends about a summer adventure in the Keys. It was such a refreshing encounter, and one that DRC staff is privileged to have on a nearly daily basis.

The great part about Dolphin Research Center is that our programs are meant for kids of all ages. It doesn’t matter if you’re a four year old girl seeing a dolphin for the first time, or an eighty year old man swimming with dolphins for the tenth time, DRC transcends all age groups.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DRC Establishes New College of Marine Mammal Professions!

Dolphin Research Center is proud to announce that we have now established The College of Marine Mammal Professions (CMMP), a fully licensed academic institution where students will acquire extensive practical knowledge and hands on skills.  Not only will they receive the training they need to work in this industry, but they will also earn a college degree in the process when they successfully complete the program!
In September, 2013, the first CMMP program, an Associate of Science Degree in Marine Mammal Behavior, Care and Training (MMBCT) will commence.  In the future, we intend to expand and offer other degrees within the field of marine mammal professions.

The application period for the first program begins in a few months on November 1, 2012!

Among the many skills that students in the MMBCT program will develop will be the ability to assess marine mammal behavior, adeptly provide appropriate husbandry care and apply positive training techniques for the well being and enrichment of marine mammals in human care. Additionally, graduates of this program will learn a variety of presentation techniques to assist them in educating a wide range of audiences.

As a long time innovator in the field of marine mammal professions, DRC is excited to take a lead role in offering professional degreed programs that will positively enhance the lives of marine mammals in human care and around the world.

For more information, please click here.