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Bahamas: Dolphin Volunteer Research Program

Volunteer with our research team in the Bahamas for the opportunity to observe and swim with wild dolphins up-close, in their natural habitat.

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Overview

  • Assist researchers in collecting data on the behavior and vocalizations of wild dolphins as part of long-term research efforts.
  • Learn about dolphin behavior, communication, physiology, evolution, research techniques, and more through presentations and workshops throughout the trip.
  • Participate in daily surveys to look for and observe the behavior of wild dolphins
  • Enjoy opportunities to snorkel some of Bimini's best known snorkel sites with opportunities to see reef fish, corals, sharks, rays, and more.

For more than 20 years, researchers have been studying the behavioral ecology of spotted and bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas, and volunteers are needed to assist with their work. The Bahamian dolphin populations are very habituated to human beings, allowing for the unique opportunity to observe these animals in their natural environment.

Students and volunteers who join our team will assist researchers in studying the underwater and surface interactions of these wild dolphins, including recording underwater observations, photographing dolphins for identification purposes, recording environmental data, keeping records of dolphin sightings, and analyzing photos for identification. Observations will be made underwater while snorkeling, and on the water’s surface from a boat. Additional snorkel excursions will be allow you to observe the behavior of coral reef fish, sharks, and rays. Participants must know how to swim, but no prior field experience is needed.

Trip Dates & Cost

2018: Dates to be announced. Please contact us for information.

Click here for our full expedition terms and conditions.

Photos
Naturalist

Dr. Daisy Kaplan has been studying the behavior of wild spotted and bottlenose dolphins in the Bahamas since 2002, when she first came aboard with Oceanic Society. She completed her master’s degree at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, where she studied juvenile social interactions among wild spotted dolphins in White Sand Ridge in the Bahamas. She then served as a researcher and naturalist for The Whale Center of New England, studying the behavior of humpback whales. Her PhD work looked at the acoustic characteristics and contextual use of whistles in wild bottlenose dolphins and spotted dolphins in Bimini, the Bahamas. Her present area of study is in communication and the use of biphonation in spotted dolphins, and foraging behavior in bottlenose dolphins. She is currently a Professor of Psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Itinerary

Note: This is a tentative schedule and is subject to change depending on weather conditions.

Day 1: Arrival to Bimini, Orientation
Arrive to the Sea Crest Hotel in North Bimini, Bahamas and check-in to the hotel. Before dinner, you will receive an orientation briefing by the naturalist to learn about the research and the plan for the week.

Day 2: Morning lecture, afternoon dolphin survey
After breakfast, the naturalist will give a presentation on the life history of spotted and bottlenose dolphins to prepare you for the research. We will then do a check-out snorkel nearby to be sure everyone is comfortable in the water. After lunch, we will head out for our first boat-based dolphin survey, returning in time for dinner.

Day 3: Morning workshop, afternoon dolphin survey
After breakfast, the naturalist will give a presentation and workshop on research methods in photo identification of dolphins. Following lunch, we will embark on our second boat-based dolphin survey, returning in time for dinner. Over dinner, the naturalist will give a talk on coral reef fishes, including species we may encounter during our snorkel outings.

Day 4: Morning snorkel, afternoon data entry and dolphin survey
After breakfast we'll head out for a snorkeling excursion to look for sharks and explore the wreckage of the SS Sapona. Over lunch, enjoy a presentation on the topic of marine mammal sensory perception, anatomy, and physiology, and the evolution of marine mammals. In the afternoon, we'll take our third boat-based dolphin survey.

Day 5: Free morning, afternoon snorkeling and dolphin survey
Enjoy free time this morning with many optional activities available including a mangrove tour and visit to the healing hole, SCUBA diving, or a visit to the Bimini Biological Field Station, a.k.a. Shark Lab. Note: Some of these activities incur an additional cost and must be arranged on your own, on-site.

Prior to lunch, assist with data entry and dolphin photo ID. Over lunch, the naturalist will give a talk about marine mammal culture & societies. This afternoon we snorkel the reef at Three Sisters Rocks before heading out on our fourth boat-based dolphin survey. This evening, enjoy a lecture on animal intelligence & comparative cognition.

Day 6: Morning snorkel, afternoon dolphin survey
After breakfast we'll make a snorkeling excursion to look for rays and other wildlife at the popular snorkel/dive site of Turtle Rocks. Over lunch, enjoy a presentation on the topic of mangroves.

In the afternoon, assist with data entry and photo identification before we head out on our fifth boat-based dolphin survey.

Day 7: Free time, beach cleanup (optional), snorkeling, and dolphin survey
Enjoy free time this morning with many optional activities available. You may also choose to participate in a cleanup of a nearby beach, and to go snorkeling among mangroves. Prior to lunch, assist with data entry and photo identification. Over lunch, we'll discuss conservation, stewardship, and responsible ecotourism. In the afternoon we'll enjoy snorkeling at the famed snorkel/dive site, Bimini Road, followed by our sixth boat-based dolphin survey.

Day 8: Departure
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and take a water taxi back to the airport for your departure home.

Accommodations

Participants will stay at Sea Crest Hotel in North Bimini. All rooms are double occupancy, air-conditioned, with compact refrigerators and cable TV. All rooms have bay and/or ocean views, and the nearest beach is only steps away. All meals and lectures will be in the common room; meals are prepared by a professional chef.

The boat we will use for dolphin surveys is a 42 foot Hatteras with comfortable seating and plenty of room to rest and to search for dolphins on the bow and at the stern.

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