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Student dolphin research grants awarded (2005)

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

2005 NC Student Grants

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Photos by Keith Rittmaster

Congratulations to the 2005 “Protect Wild Dolphins” grant recipients and thank you for your good work.

Recipients are all NC graduate students doing research on bottlenose dolphins. The grants are to help them defray the cost of presenting their work at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium March 18-20, 2005 in Wilmington, NC. Below is a list of the recipients with a short paragraph on how their research will help us protect and learn more about bottlenose dolphins. These grants are funded by the sale of the NC Maritime Museum’s “Protect Wild Dolphins” license plates.


Michelle Barbieri – UNCW

An assessment of seasonal changes in the dorsal fin surface temperatures of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, FL, USA

The goal of this study was to investigate the physiological and behavioral responses of resident bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota, Florida to seasonal changes in water temperature. Dorsal fin surface temperatures of free-swimming dolphins were measured across seasons using infrared thermography. This direct physiological measurement was paired with an assessment of how water temperature and dolphin distribution changed seasonally throughout the study area. Assessment of how these physiological and behavioral mechanisms interact is important in understanding bottlenose dolphin thermoregulation. These data describe the ability of dolphins to respond to environmental fluctuation, and can provide insight into thermal stress as well as the implications of global climate change for resident and migratory marine mammals. Seasonal distribution data may also be used to inform local management decisions, specifically in areas with rapidly developing coastlines, such as the Sarasota Bay region.


Victoria Thayer – Duke

Effort to disentangle a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) calf in Beaufort, North Carolina

Entanglement is an important conservation problem for marine mammals in many parts of the world. In January 2005, we sighted a bottlenose dolphin calf swimming with an odd surfacing posture alongside its presumed mother in the waters near Beaufort, North Carolina. The mother was known from ongoing collaborative studies in the area by North Carolina Maritime Museum and the Duke University Marine Laboratory. Photographs taken that day and the following day confirmed suspicions that the animal’s swimming ability was severely hampered, likely by fishing gear not visible at the surface. The decision was made to intervene and capture the pair. Unfortunately, the calf died while restrained; post-mortem examination revealed extensive entanglement of 40 lb test monofilament line that had cut deeply into the mandible and caudal peduncle, and fungal sinusitis. The female was released and has subsequently been photographed with other dolphins. This case study reinforces the threat posed by discarded recreational and commercial fishing gear to marine wildlife. We hope to educate fishermen in North Carolina about appropriate means of discarding unwanted line by instituting a program similar to the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program in Florida.


Erin Meagher – UNCW

Seasonal differences in heat flux across multiple body surfaces in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

The work I will be presenting describes how wild bottlenose dolphins regulate their body temperature across seasonal changes in environmental temperature. Understanding these mechanisms may provide insight into their seasonal distributions and will hopefully provide baseline information that will be useful for monitoring populations of dolphins as global warming changes their coastal ecosystem.


Ari Friedlaender – Duke

Historic and recent mass stranding events of short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) on the US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts

Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) are known to mass strand along both the US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. These events offer scientists unique opportunities to gain insight into the biology, physiology, ecology, behavior, and social dynamics of the species. The Smithsonian Institution has compiled over 50 mass stranding event records from 1896 to 2005, ranging from 3 to 140 animals. Mass stranding events are most common in the Gulf of Mexico in August, while February and October have the highest incidence along the US Atlantic coast. The average group size of mass strandings is higher along the US Atlantic coast (23.86) than the Gulf of Mexico (17.57), as is the average number of mass stranding events per year (0.42 versus 0.22). The most recent mass stranding event in January 2005 in North Carolina highlights the ability of marine mammal stranding networks to mobilize from various institutions and collect the highest quality tissue samples from a large number of animals. These samples will be used for myriad research projects to, in unprecedented detail, investigate both the cause of the stranding event and learn about the biology of short-finned pilot whales.

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Tursiops truncatus is the scientific name for the common bottlenose dolphin. Tursiops is also the user name shared by volunteers who contribute to this blog. If you have an idea for a blog post, or think we should comment on an article you’ve found, click the contact button above and drop us a line!

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