The SDRP and Mote’s Education Division teamed up once again to involve high school student interns in research and education on dolphins in the Sarasota area.
This program was similar to a project done in 2007-2009 where students helped collect data on dolphins and boats in high traffic areas of Sarasota Bay during weekends. They then learned how to analyze and present the data.
A focus of this current project was to collect video of dolphins engaged in various behaviors to add to SDRP’s video archive.
One of the highlights of our many days out was watching two mother-calf pairs surfing in some waves over the sandbar in Big Pass.
As part of the educational outreach part of the internship the students created fun and engaging activities for classrooms and environmental festivals such as World Ocean Day highlighting dolphin anatomy, behavior, and human impacts.
One activity had participants match human skeleton parts to dolphin skeleton parts to educate about similarities and differences. Another activity highlighted two dolphin family groups in Sarasota Bay and some of the natural and human-related causes of death and also involved participants in a fin matching game.
A final activity had dolphins diving for ping-pong balls that had either types of fish the dolphins are known to eat attached or marine debris such as plastic bags and fishing line. Participants then had to sort the real dolphin food from the trash.
The student interns all learned a lot about the Sarasota Bay dolphin community and were inspired to reach out and talk about dolphin conservation issues through teen science cafes, summer camps, and classroom presentations. In fact, one of the students from the group in 2007, Sean Russell, has since gone on to become a Youth Ocean Conservation Leader (see more about Sean in “Fishery gear interactions with marine animals – identifying the problem and reaching for solutions”).
This article was published on page 36 in the January 2014 Nicks n Notches.