Rain, rain, and more rain! Yes, October is the beginning of Roatan’s winter rainy season, but Kathleen was hoping for sunny skies on her recent trip to Honduras’ Bay Islands. Although most Roatan tourists stuff their suitcases full of dive gear, Kathleen filled her two suitcases and two carry-ons with high-quality electronic equipment. Mask, fins, snorkel, and wet suit…check! Camera, video, laptop, hard drives, cords, batteries, and acoustic recorder…check! Unlike the average Roatan visitor, Kathleen did not fly over 700 miles to dive the second-largest barrier reef in the world (not this trip, anyway). Her travel was driven by scientific curiosity and 22 bottlenose dolphins who call Bailey’s Key home.
Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski, an Associate Scientist with Azura and Director of the Dolphin Communication Project (DCP), has been studying dolphins for over 20 years. Her curiosity about dolphin communication has taken her to worldwide destinations where she has researched the vocal behavior of bottlenose dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins. As a marine mammal acoustics expert, Kathleen has also used her skills and high-tech acoustic recorders to study the distribution of other species, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Her recent research trip to Roatan is part of DCP’s long-term study of bottlenose dolphin behavior, acoustics, and communication.
Kathleen spent the last week of October recording the vocal behavior of bottlenose dolphins at Anthony’s Key Resort on Roatan. Armed with her mask, fins, and snorkel, she deployed an underwater passive acoustic device called an SM2M to record daily vocal activity of the dolphins resident to Bailey’s Key and the Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences. The daily downpours did not get her down! Despite the murky waters due to the rain, Kathleen successfully collected video data during underwater observations of the dolphins interacting with one another. She also recorded several training sessions during which the dolphins showed off their creative sides by inventing new behaviors to do together. This skill requires a lot of communication and coordination between the dolphins.
Overall, the Roatan field trip was a success, but the work is not done yet. Kathleen and DCP volunteers now get to review the many hours of video and audio data. They will spend the next several months listening to lots of whistles and clicks and viewing the various behavioral interactions among the Bailey’s Key dolphins. Stay tuned for updates about their research findings.
You can read more about Kathleen’s research adventures in Honduras at www.dolphincommunicationproject.org.
Photo caption: Kathleen uses her award-winning device to record simultaneous video and audio data of bottlenose dolphins.
Photo by: John Anderson, Terramar Productions
— Azura Consulting LLC (@AzuraConsulting) November 13, 2014