Trip 3 (June 6th – 15th)
Crossing the Gulf Stream ahead of a front line entering Florida we knew we might be in for a stormy trip. Indeed, we had to take shelter for two days in the protection of the West End harbor. Although summer is our best time for work, it is also hurricane season. Storms, waterspouts, and squalls are often part of our fieldwork. So although not unusual, this was a tough way to start a trip. When we finally left port we ran into multiple groups of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Although not our main focus, we always take photos for identification of the bottlenose dolphins. Over the years our graduate students (Kelly Rossbach, Cindy Elliser) have worked hard pulling together these identifications and monitoring their home ranges and locations. Sommer Kuhn, a current graduate student, is monitoring and analyzing the status of bottlenose dolphins after the spotted dolphin move in 2013.
Bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas are a bit notorious, at least with our research group, for being less tolerant of humans in the water observing them. For this reason we only rarely try to take underwater video of their behavior. We did see some very interesting surface behavior of a large bottlenose group this trip, though after entering the water we realized it was terrible visibility, due to all the wind the previous days. As we listened we could hear squawks and jaw claps, whistles and echolocation. We knew the dolphins were fighting each other by these sound types, but we couldn’t see anything underwater. Although most field sites in the world have bad visibility, the normally clear waters of the Bahamas is the reason why I chose to study the underwater behavior of dolphins here. But not today!!
Stay tuned for the blog from Trip 2017-04 coming soon!
-Denise Herzing, PhD