2003 NC Student Grants
Photos by Keith Rittmaster
Congratulations to the 2003 “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 Society for Marine Mammalogy XV Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals Dec. 14 through the 19th. in Greensboro, 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 observed changes in dorsal fin surface temperatures, which reflect delivery of body heat to the periphery via blood flow, may influence the ability of an individual to dissipate excess body heat. A better understanding of the adaptive physiological mechanisms used by bottlenose dolphins, specifically the role of the dorsal fin in thermoregulation across a broad range of water temperatures, will provide the knowledge necessary to guide decisions regarding the health, in the case of incidental beach strandings, and conservation of wild dolphins. Though the particular project I am presenting focuses on dolphins in Sarasota Bay, I am collecting data for similar research in the Wilmington, NC area in hopes that this may help us understand the physiological adaptations of our local dolphins to environmental temperature as well.
Kim Fleming – UNCW
Social structure and behavior of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in relation to shrimp trawlers in Southport, NC
Most studies of dolphin-fishery interactions focus on negative aspects such as competition and entanglement. My research takes a novel approach by looking at potential impacts of fishery interactions on dolphin behavior and social structure. Using photo-identification, I am evaluating whether dolphins that interact with shrimp-trawlers in Southport, NC differ from those that do not with respect to their activity and association patterns.
Leigh G. Torres – Duke
Bottlenose dolphins as an indicator species of ecosystem restoration in Florida Bay
Habitat quality is an important factor in the management of wild dolphin populations. This work links various measurements of habitat quality to the distribution ecology and habitat use of bottlenose dolphins throughout Florida Bay.
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 are able to regulate their body temperature across a range of ambient temperatures. These data will hopefully provide baseline information that will be useful for monitoring populations of dolphins as global warming changes their coastal ecosystem.
Robin Dunkin – UNCW
Blubber’s contribution to buoyancy throughout ontogeny in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
My work is going to help us understand the impact of changes in a dolphins blubber mass on functions such as buoyancy and thermoregulation. Additionally, it promotes the protection of wild dolphins by furthering our understanding of their basic physiology. This kind of information is a necessity for understanding energetic demands, potential natural and anthropogenic stresses, and a number of other parameters that influence the survivorship of wild dolphin populations.
Carter Morrissette – UNCW
Quantifying stereotypy of bottlenose dolphin signature whistles
My research focuses on quantifying features of bottlenose dolphin signature whistles, such as duration, frequency content, and inter-loop intervals. This work will provide insights as to what constitutes a single whistle, an issue that is currently quite controversial. This information could prove useful in situations where remote acoustic monitoring could be used to assess the number of dolphins in a particular area. Such a technique could be a valuable supplement to photo-identification for purposes of stock assessment and/or management.