As we've been prepping to get out on the water, we scheduled the boat for her yearly service. When she didn't start-up, we knew it needed a lot of work! We were very worried about cost; an unexpected trailer repair ate up a lot of our boat maintenance budget last week. All in all, the work being done on this engine would normally cost about $2,000. Thankfully, Joel of WeFixBoats has saved us and has made multiple house visits over the past week to work on the boat for a fraction of the cost as a donation to CKDP! With Joel's help, we've been slowly chipping away at a long list of necessary repairs. It has also been an opportunity for everyone on our team to learn more about boat repair/maintenance as we've helped Joel. We've even gotten our hands dirty by doing some of the repairs ourselves! At this point, we are hopefully nearing the finish line and will have a well-oiled, running engine in a day or two!
If you live within an hour of Cedar Key and ever need your boat repaired, give WeFixBoats a call!
And if you have some spare change, consider donating to the Cedar Key Dolphin Project so we can make engine parts purchases and pay Joel for all his hard work!
Today Stefanie and I were scouting the local launching sites and completing some last-minute fixes on the trailer while the boat was in the water. Right next to the boat ramp, Stefanie spotted two dolphins... who started doing Driver-Barrier behavior! (See below for video!)
So what is DB behavior? It's a foraging technique used by some dolphins here and no where else in the world. It involves one 'driver' dolphins scaring and herding a school of mullet. Then, one or more 'barrier' dolphins block the escape of the fish. Trapped, the mullet choose to jump above the water's surface, where they then fall into the waiting mouths of the dolphins! This behavior is extremely interesting because it is the first confirmed example of role-specialization in a marine mammal, meaning that the 'driver' and 'barrier' dolphins never switch places and become specialists at their role only. My thesis will be the next piece of the puzzle to understand this behavior. I will be recording underwater sounds during DB to see if the dolphins use acoustic communication to coordinate their movements. If they do use consistent communication during DB bouts, it would be strong evidence that the behavior requires intentional cooperation, which would be a first in non-humans!
Needless to day, seeing DB today was very exciting and we are now even more eager to get out on the water to see more!
All dolphin photography and videography taken under MMPA Permit #14450. May not be used for commercial purposes.
I arrived at Stefanie's house outside of Gainesville on Sunday and we've hit the ground running! We're currently busy fixing up the trailer, getting the boat engine serviced, buying equipment, setting up living accommodations, charging endless batteries, etc.
We're very excited for our two field assistants to arrive soon and thought we would make a post to officially introduce the whole team!
Dr. Stefanie Gazda is the Biology Online Major Coordinator for the University of Florida. She first came to Cedar Key as a Masters student to document the area's famous driver barrier behavior. She then established the Cedar Key Dolphin Project to turn her work here into a long-term study. She is generously providing lodging for the team at her home this summer and is helping Becca lead the field season with her expertise of the area and driver-barrier behavior.
Jolinde recently graduated with a bachelors in science from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. She has a diverse background of experience from studying lowland gorilla behavior to restoring coral reefs. She first got experience working with marine mammals when she joined a study on snubfin dolphins in Australia. Jolinde will be assisting with our project for the full duration of the field season (3 months) before starting a masters degree in the fall.
Monica got her bachelors of science from California State University. She also recently finished the marine mammals postgraduate diploma program at the University of St. Andrews and is considering pursuing a PhD in marine mammal science. She has extensive experience working on large ships as a marine mammal observer and has worked on small-scale marine mammals research projects in Chile and Scotland. Monica will be with CKDP for the first half of the season before returning to Scotland to walk at graduation from St Andrews.
Stefanie and I are looking forward to welcoming Jolinde and Monica on Sunday!
Alyssa is currently pursuing a BSc from the University of Florida and will graduate in December. Her research experience includes ruminant nutrition, and dairy calf behavior and welfare. She hopes to pursue a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in the future with an aquatic medicine focus with research in behavior or the One Health Initiative. She is a volunteer with the UF Aquatic Animal Health and Stranding Network. Alyssa will be with CKDP three days a week for the entire season.
Stay tuned for updates once we get out on the water!
I'm happy to announce that my thesis fieldwork is being funded by both a National Geographic Early Career Grant and a Louis M. Herman Research Scholarship via the Society for Marine Mammalogy! Thanks to this generous funding, I will be able to conduct a full field season in collaboration with the Cedar Key Dolphin Project from May 21st until August 20th. I will be arriving in Cedar Key on May 14th, where Stefanie Gazda and I will take the week to complete preparations for the field season, which includes buying supplies, setting up the recording equipment, and getting the living accommodation ready to welcome our two full-time field assistants. I've been extremely excited to get out in the field for the last few months, but all I've been able to do until now is hurry up and wait! With the field season less than 2 weeks away, I'm excited to get this blog up and running to keep you updated on our progress!
What to expect in the next 2 weeks: more details about my project, introductions to our team for the summer, and updates from our first few days on the water!
Be sure to follow the Cedar Key Dolphin Project on Facebook to keep up-to-date on all the field site news!