Ever wondered what's happening inside the blowholes of large whales? Us too! To find out how the anatomy of blowholes vary across different species of baleen whales, we're doing examinations of stranded animals and high-resolution imaging of their nasal anatomy. I'm working in collaboration with Dr. Joy Reidenberg at Mt. Sinai Hospital in NYC and Ocean Alliance in Gloucester, MA.
Does the flight of a small multirotor drone affect the behavior of marine mammals? As part of my Ph.D. dissertation, I examined the behavioral responses of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) to the overhead flight of small DJI quadcopters. To learn more about what we found, read the article we published in 2018 in Frontier's in Marine Science.
Do dolphins select specific patches of seagrass to target prey during bottom foraging? What factors influence their decisions in choosing these locations? In one of my dissertation chapters, I am investigating the relationship between bottlenose dolphin fine-scale foraging behavior and seagrass density at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve in Belize.
Resident dolphins in this population feed in seagrass habitats, and despite many years of study, we're not sure what drives their feeding behavior or movements throughout their home range. In this study, we used behavioral observations of dolphins from small drones and geospatial sensor data from the aircraft to build trajectories of dolphin movements.
Do large whales respond to little drones during snot collection? I work with Ocean Alliance to study the responses of large whales to small drones during respiratory blow collection. This work was presented as a poster at the 2017 Conference for the Society for Marine Mammalogy in Halifax, Canada (available here), and will be submitted for publication soon!
Oceanic Society started a study on the bottlenose dolphin population at Turneffe Atoll, Belize in 1992. Since then, we’ve conducted dozens of studies on the dolphins at a Turneffe. The population of 100-200 is small for the size of the lagoons and reefs they inhabit. They are most often found in small groups.
What kind of skin conditions do the bottlenose dolphins in Belize and Mexico exhibit? Are any of these conditions symptoms of underlying diseases? To answer these questions, we are documenting the occurrence of different skin diseases in bottlenose dolphins throughout Belize and Mexico. Using a catalog 410+ dolphins throughout numerous sites, we examined images for the presence of skin diseases on dolphins. Most importantly, we reported on the presence of lobomycosis-like disease (LLD) in several dolphin populations throughout Belize and on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The findings of our study were published in 2018 in the journal Diseases of Aquatic Organisms.
What marine mammals call Belize home? I've been working since 2011 to better understand the distribution of marine mammals in the region. With a slew of partners, we've documented all known sightings of marine mammals in Belize and build a database that we could use to ask questions about them.
How do dolphins in Belize use their sounds across their activities? We're working to answer some of these questions with our research on the behavioral context and function of bottlenose dolphin vocalizations. Since 2011, I have been collecting acoustic recordings of bottlenose dolphins in Belize during concurrent behavioral observations. Now, we use drones to track their behavior, and its revolutionizing our ability to track callers and understand the context of their complex sounds!
What are those strange sounds some of them make while feeding? As part of my masters thesis, I investigated the occurrence of a call we named “thrums.” Resident dolphins produces these calls while feeding in seagrass habitats in specific locations of the Atoll. When observed underwater, the dolphins bottom fed in seagrass beds by swiping their rostrums up and down while searching for prey. Our findings were submitted as an article that is currently in review.
Can we use autonomous drones to In 2016, we deployed a custom-built autonomous vehicle at Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserve in Belize. Our goal with this project was to develop an autonomous electronically motorized marine surface vehicle that could find and record dolphins in the lagoons of an offshore marine reserve. We'll be working with the Robodolf again soon!
Data from our ongoing study were used by our partners at ECOMAR to advocate for the establishment of No-Wake Zones on the leeward side of St. George's Caye.
We presented data from our study to local stakeholders at a participatory GIS workshop organized by ECOMAR and Dr. Ellen Hines at San Francisco State University.What's something exciting your business offers? Say it here.
Can we use passive acoustic monitoring to track the activity of Antillean manatees? We deployed PAM recorders in seagrass channels and resting holes near St. George's Caye.
Did you know there were dolphins in New York City? Well there are tons! I collaborate with Master's student Kristi A. Collom (Hunter College) and Gotham Whale to improve our understanding of the distribution and population stock of dolphins in the New York/New Jersey Bight. We've developed photo-ID catalog for dolphins in the region so we can study their populations over time. We're also looking into the presence of barnacle that hitches a ride on dolphins.
I serve as a guest scientist for the Whales of Guerrero Research Project. So far, we published on the presence of a skin disease in bottlenose dolphins in this region. My research here includes drone-based behavioral observations of marine mammals including humpback whales, spotted dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins.