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Current Studies

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As part of our commitment to global stewardship, Dolphin Quest is dedicated to conservation and the advancement of marine mammal research. Dolphin Quest proudly contributes significant funding for field studies, staff expertise in the field and on-site, as well as involving the Dolphin Quest animals in responsible non-invasive scientific studies at our sites. Many of the projects sponsored by Dolphin Quest are associated with renowned scientists from universities and organizations around the world. These studies provide new scientific information for a better understanding and conserving of marine mammals. In addition to marine mammal studies, Dolphin Quest assists with projects involving the islands and local communities where Dolphin Quest resides.

Learn more about the completed studies we have supported. 


  Current Studies   Project Investigator – Affiliate Organization
1 Health Assessment of Bottlenose Dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida   Randy Wells – Chicago Zoological Society
2 Lung mechanics, gas exchange and metabolic cost during breath-hold dives, swimming and beaching in bottlenose dolphins   Andreas Fahlman – Texas A&M
3 Improving Non-invasive Suction Cup Attachments for Electronic Data Loggers for Tursiops truncatus and Other Cetaceans   Michael Moore – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
4 Movements, habitat use and diving behavior of Hawaiian odontocetes: assessment of high-density areas, stock boundaries, and behavior in relation to habitat.   Robin W. Baird – Cascadia Research Collective
5 Tissue Archival and Evaluation of Trace Elements, Organic Contaminants, and Metabolic Profiles in Captive Bottlenose Dolphins   Colleen E. Bryan – National Institute of Standards and Technology
6 Preliminary Investigation for Detecting Immunoreactive Serum and Urine Concentrations of Prolactin and Temporal Changes During Pregnancy and Early Post-Partum in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)   Kristi West – Hawaii Pacific University
7 Postnatal Development of the Muscle Biochemistry that Supports Swim Performance in Spinner Dolphins: Modeling Calf Vulnerability to Separation from the Pod During Interactions with Tuna Purse-seine Fisheries   Shawn Noren – University of California, Santa Cruz
8 Water Quality/Stream Monitoring   Andrea Rosse – Goose Creek
9 Bermuda Wild Dolphin Tracking Project / Deep Diving Bottlenose Dolphin Study   Michael Moore – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
10 Health Assessments using Photogrammetry   Andreas Fahlman – Texas A&M
11  The Importance of Being Active: Persistent monitoring of managed marine mammals for improved health and well-being   Alex Shorter – University of Michigan

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Health Assessment of Bottlenose Dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida

Project Investigators – Randall S. Wells, Ph. D.
Affiliate Organizations – Chicago Zoological Society
Project Started – 1970
Dolphin Quest Supported – 1997 to present
Project Web sitehttp://www.sarasotadolphin.org

Project Description
♦ 
The Sarasota Dolphin Research Program began in 1970 and is the longest running wild dolphin research program in the world.
♦ 
This program is an ongoing, long-term research assessment of health life history of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, Florida.
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Benefits to Marine Mammals
♦ 
The primary contributions to science have been to gain a better understanding of the biology, behavior, ecology, health, and population dynamics of coastal Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).
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Conservation Benefits
♦ 
In addition to maintaining dolphin population life history data, this assessment is helping to evaluate the impact of oil spills and other environmental contaminants and biotoxins on dolphins.

Lung Mechanics, gas exchange and metobolic cost during breath-hold dives, swimming and beachin in bottlenose dolphins

Project Investigators – Andreas Fahlman, Micah Brodsky, Gregg Levine, Julie Rocho-Levine
Affiliate Organization – Texas A&M – Department of Life Sciences; Micah Brodsky Consulting
Project Started – 2013
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2013 to present

Project Description
♦ 
The main objective of the proposed study is to develop minimally invasive methods and equipment for pulmonary (lung) function testing in cetaceans.
♦ Pulmonary function testing has the potential to provide critical information about cetaceans for early detection of disease, diagnosis, the evaluation of response to therapy, and monitoring of disease progression.
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Conservation Benefit
♦ 
By testing these methods in a controlled environment, we establish important baseline lung function information for the species that can be used for lung health evaluations of dolphins in human care or in the wild.

 


Improving Non-invasive Suction Cup Attachments for Electronic Data Loggers for Tursiops truncatus and other Cetaceans

Project Investigator – Michael Moore
Affiliate Organization – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Boston, MA
Project Started – 2012
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2012 to present
Project Description
♦ 
The overall goal of this project is to enhance the duration of suction cups when deployed as the attachment mechanism for short term archival tags.
Conservation Benefit
♦ These studies will help researchers better interpret data in numerous field studies with wild dolphins and result in the development of even better data loggers in the future.

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Movements, habitat use and diving behavior of Hawaiian odontocetes: assessment of high-density areas, stock boundaries, and behavior in relation to habitat.

Project Investigators– Robin Baird, Daniel Webster
Affiliate Organization – Cascadia Research Collective
Project Started – 2014
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2014 to present
Project Web site – http://www.cascadiaresearch.org/

Project Description
♦ 
Use remotely-deployed satellite tags on several species of toothed whales in Hawaiian waters
♦ Examine movements, to assess critical habitat, stock boundaries and overlap with the long-line fishery exclusion boundary, as well as diving behavior (using depth-transmitting satellite tags).
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♦ This work will be done in concert with ongoing studies of odontocetes in Hawaiian waters, focusing on rarely-encountered species such as melon-headed whales, false killer whales, killer whales, pygmy killer whales, sperm whales and beaked whales, but also including species for which there are gaps in knowledge regarding movements and diving behavior, such as bottlenose dolphins and pantropical spotted dolphins.
Conservation Benefit
♦ 
Monitoring and tracking odontocetes in Hawaiian waters, gives a better understanding of the species that travel or live in the area. This might aid in expanding national marine sanctuaries or changing shipping lanes if animals are found to frequent specific areas.

Tissue Archival and Evaluation of Trace Elements, Organic Contaminants, and Metabolic Profiles in Captive Bottlenose Dolphins

Project Investigator – Colleen E. Byran, P. Becker, Tracey Schook
Affiliate Organization – National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Project Started – 2010
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2010 to present
Project Description
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The objectives of this research were to archive blood, milk and tissue samples and analyze these samples for trace elements and organic pollutants, as well as physiological health status and metabolic changes over time.
Marine Mammal Benefit
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Bottlenose dolphins have been proposed as a good sentinel species for coastal ecosystem health and human exposures to contaminants in seafood due to some of their life history traits, such as being relatively long-lived mammals and the frequency at which they produce a single offspring at a time, and they share some of the same coastal resources as humans. For this reason, the data obtained serves as valuable information for the marine mammals.
Conservation Benefit
♦ 
Collecting and analyzing baseline blood, milk and tissue samples from dolphins in human-care will help researchers compare and evaluate levels in wild dolphins to test the health of their coastal ecosystem.


Preliminary Investigation for Detecting Immunoreactive Serum and Urine Concentrations of Prolactin and Temporal Changes during Pregnancy and Early Post-Partum in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

Project Investigator – Kristi West
Affiliate Organization – Hawaii Pacific University
Project Started – 2013
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2013 to present
Project Description
♦ 
A preliminary investigation is to validate a prolactin hormone immunoassay (a procedure for measuring this hormone) for use with dolphin serum or urine in dolphins
♦ If successful, initially characterize prolactin during pregnancy and post-partum as prerequisites before exploring the full potential for application of a prolactin-based immunoassay as a specific hormonal measure to be diagnostic of pregnancy status and, perhaps, indicative of mammary gland development and predictive of parturition and successful lactation.
Conservation Benefit
♦ 
If criteria can be established, collecting dolphin urines may become an alternative in monitoring dolphin pregnancies through hormone evaluations.

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Postnatal Development of the Muscle Biochemistry that Supports Swim Performance in Spinner Dolphins: Modeling Calf Vulnerability to Separation from the Pod During Interactions with Tuna Purse-seine Fisheries

Project Investigator – Shawn Noren, Kristi West
Affiliate Organization – University of California, Santa Cruz, and Hawaii Pacific University
Project Started – 2014
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2014
Project Description
♦ 
In collaboration with Dolphin Quest, the swim effort and performance of bottlenose dolphin calves was quantified to model the potential of fishery induced chase to separate spinner dolphin calves from their mothers (Noren et al. 2006, Noren et al. 2008, Noren and Edwards 2011)
♦ 
To refine these models, species-specific development of the muscle biochemistry that supports swim performance must be quantified
♦ This study will examine how the aerobic and anaerobic capacity of the major locomotor muscle changes after birth in spinner dolphins so that the age of vulnerability for separation during fishery induced chase can be identified
Conservation Benefit
♦ 
Due to a lack of physiological data on spinner dolphins, the bottlenose dolphin has served as a model to assess the potential for immature spinner dolphin calves becoming separated from their pod during the high speed, long duration chases induced by tuna purse-seine fisheries in the eastern tropical Pacific.


Goose Creek Stream Monitoring Program

Project Investigator – Andrea Rosse
Affiliate Organization – Goose Creek Association
Project Started – 2008
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2008 to present
Project Web sitehttp://www.goosecreek.org
Project Description
♦ 
The fundamental mission is to protect and preserve the natural resources of 835 stream bank miles of Goose Creek watershed. ♦ Monitoring and testing of 13 macro invertebrate, E-coli and turbidity
♦ Conduct a variety of tests through support of stream monitoring volunteers
Conservation Benefit
♦ 
Stream monitoring helps determine water quality in our streams, which aids us in keeping our waterways healthy, preserved and protected.


Bermuda Wild Dolphin Tracking Project / Deep Diving Bottlenose Dolphin Study

Project Investigators –  Michael Moore, Randy Wells, Aaron Barleycorn, Jason Allen, Jay Sweeney, Andreas Fahlman, Alexandra Eppel
Affiliate Organizations – Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Chicago Zoological Society, Texas A&M, Dolphin Quest
Species – Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Project Started – 2015
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2015
Project Description
♦ 
Study health, diving and respiratory physiology, resting metabolic rate, and acoustic, diving and movement behavior of a resident, deep diving population of Tursiops truncatus in the waters off Bermuda
Marine Mammal Benefit / Conservation Benefit
♦ 
To gain a better understanding of the bottlenose dolphins species living in the waters off Bermuda

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Health Assessments using Photogrammetry

Project Investigators – Andreas Fahlman, Danielle Kleinhenz, Brooke Lagunas, Michelle Campbell
Affiliate Organizations – Texas A&M, Dolphin Quest
Species – Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Project Started – 2015
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2015
Project Description
♦ The purpose of this study is to track and document growth rates of several calves through the first year of life
♦ There is little known about calf growth rate, which is vital to determining the health of the calf
♦ Photos taken at regular intervals will be used to monitor the development of body size of calves during their first year of life
Marine Mammal Benefit / Conservation Benefit
♦ 
This valuable baseline calf growth rate data will be available to assist with health assessments of calves in human care or in the wild

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The Importance of Being Active: Persistent monitoring of managed marine mammals for improved health and well-being

Project Investigators – Alex Shorter, Laura Ojeda, Michael Moore, Thomas Hurst
Affiliate Organizations – University of Michigan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Species – Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
Project Started – 2015
Dolphin Quest Supported – 2015
Project Description
♦ 
This study will develop tagging technology specifically for animals in human care where quantitative assessment tools are currently lacking
♦ These analyses will build on preliminary work and enable event detection, quantification of whole body motion, and fine scale pace analysis of the tagged animals
♦ Additionally, we will incorporate data from video and human observation to provide important contextual information to supplement tag data
Marine Mammal Benefit/Conservation Benefit
♦ 
To minimize the impact of tagging to the animal for improved health and well-being


 

 

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