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Bahamas Dolphin Research Program for Students
Volunteer with our long-term research on spotted and bottlenose dolphins on this week-long liveaboard trip and earn college credit.
Join this 7-day student-oriented program aboard an 86-foot motoryacht, and learn about wild dolphins while contributing to long-term research efforts.
Oceanic Society has been studying Bahamas’ dolphins since 1984, with research topics ranging from behavioral ecology, communication, and social mechanisms to human impacts from vessel traffic. Our research today focuses on the use of acoustic signals by spotted and bottlenose dolphins. Participants in this program will visit study sites to assist in data collection from the ship and while snorkeling in warm, clear waters. The researcher will also provide an in-depth introduction to dolphin biology and ecology, research, and conservation efforts throughout the week. Enrolled college students may take this program as a for-credit course.
Research Background: Since 1984, Oceanic Society has sponsored research on the behavioral ecology of spotted dolphins off the Bahamas banks. In the early 1990s, a dolphin communication component was added to the project, and a vessel impact study was initiated in 1996. In the year 2000, the project was expanded to include a behavioral comparison study between spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). In 2002, we began focusing on the social mechanisms of both species of dolphins, and from 2004-06 we focused on the social behavior of juvenile spotted dolphins.
In 2009, with a grant from the National Geographic Society, researcher Daisy Kaplan focused on developing a fine scale research project that looks at acoustic signals when spotted and bottlenose dolphins are interacting. Research results were published in Marine Mammal Science.
Under Daisy's direction, we continue this acoustic research as well as our long term work studying how dolphin social affiliations change over time, and updating the dolphin identification catalog of over 140 individual dolphins. This educational field program will offer an in-depth introduction to dolphin biology and ecology, plus provide an overview of current research and conservation efforts.
The warm waters of the Bahamas are ideal for dolphin observation. We know of no other place where wild dolphins can be observed underwater with such consistency and excellent visibility. Using only snorkel equipment, we will observe the dolphins who seem to enjoy human companionship. Participants must know how to swim and snorkel, but no special skills or experience are required to participate.
We spend time at anchor in several dolphin sites, weather permitting, awaiting the approach of the spotted dolphins, who seem to initiate these human encounters. The clear shallow waters allow for detailed observations of social interactions and feeding behaviors. We will look for old "spotter" friends such as Concordia, Topnotch, Stubby and Macho, dolphins we have observed for the last decade and whose life histories we know first-hand. Trips begin and end in Palm Beach, Florida.
Travel and accommodations are aboard an 86-foot motoryacht in air-conditioned, double-occupancy cabin and shared bath.
Day 1: Afternoon arrival in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Overnight on vessel.
Day 2: Early morning departure for dolphin site on the Grand Bahama Banks. Begin dolphin study and snorkeling.
Day 3-5: Full days on study site for underwater observations of dolphins and snorkeling.
Day 6: Morning dolphin observation at site. After lunch continued opportunities for dolphin observation and snorkeling enroute back to Freeport. Overnight aboard vessel
Day 7: Disembark vessel at 10:00am.