As part of our mission to better understand and protect the Potomac-Chesapeake bottlenose dolphins and their ecosystem, we make it a priority to promote environmental stewardship through sound education and community outreach. This portion of our project is just getting started, and we have big plans for the future so check back soon for more updates!
We have several students (both graduate and undergraduate) working with the PCDP, both in the field and back in the lab at Georgetown University. Some students are working on specific research projects while others are learning the ropes and helping to process general project data. In the summer of 2015, Kate Jin, an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, came out with us to learn how to collect data on synchrony, when two dolphins breathe at the same time in close proximity. Kate, with the help of PhD candidate Megan Wallen, is working on a research project focusing on mother-calf synchrony and how synchrony rates change over the course of development. In fact, she presented her work in March at the European Cetacean Society's annual conference, this year held in Funchal, Madeira (Portugal). Georgetown undergraduates Rebecca Rojas and Anna Lauchnor recently joined the project. Together, they are processing photographs, one of the most important tasks in our research. By combing through thousands of photographs of dolphins and coding them based on who is in the photo, what the dolphin(s) is doing, what parts of the dolphin can be seen, etc., they are providing invaluable data that will help us learn more about the dolphins. This effort will help us match dolphins to the greater Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog to see if the dolphins we see at our field site, have been seen elsewhere along the east coast of the US.
We are always looking for new, excited, and passionate students (from anywhere, not just Georgetown) to join our project. There is always more work that needs to be done, and more data that need processed. If you are a student and want to learn more about joining the project, fill out our quick questionnaire located on our get involved page. Be sure to check out Georgetown University's new REU Site Program too! It is a great way to spend your summer learning about environmental policy and conducting research with us, plus it provides full financial support!
Last year (2015) was our first field season and we spent most of our outreach efforts communicating with the local community at our field site. The locals are well aware of the dolphins in the nearby waters, and were very excited to learn about our research project. Dr. Janet Mann gave a small research seminar to the local community near the end of our field season and the participants thoroughly enjoyed hearing about our project so far. In fact, they weren't at all surprised by our current findings, specifically that the dolphins seem to prefer shallow waters. Many of the local residents and fishermen regularly see the dolphins close to shore, hugging the coast during their daily travels. One of the highlights of this seminar was learning the dolphin names. Residents quickly caught onto our naming scheme and began testing each other on their knowledge of the presidents and historical US figures. Head over to our dolphins page to try it for yourself! In this upcoming 2016 field season, we plan to expand these research seminars and further our involvement in the community. A big part of this expansion will be getting the community directly involved in the research by encouraging them to get out and see the dolphins for themselves. The public can make a huge difference and even help in data collection! Want to help? Head over to our get involved page to learn how you can contribute photos, sighting data, and even GPS information on where you see dolphins. These data are critical in helping us track these wide-ranging animals. For some of the most recent sightings of bottlenose dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay, check out the DolphinWatch below.