Saturday, May 19, 2012
Scientist at Work: Searching for a Pair of Dolphins in the Gulf
"Patience is key when it comes to tracking dolphins in the wild. If we lose sight of them or if our tracking devices — the DTAGs — fall off prematurely, like they did on Monday, it takes hours and hours into the evening until we find them again. It’s important that we find the DTAGs. They took 13 years to develop and cost thousands of dollars each. But losing sight of the dolphins is also difficult to deal with and that’s what happened to us today.
Around 2 p.m., our focal animals — two male dolphins named F276 and F142 — decided to venture out of Sarasota Bay into the Gulf of Mexico portion of their range. Sarasota Bay is an estuary, so its waters are partly enclosed and therefore relatively calm even at high tide, which makes tracking easier for us than if we were in the open ocean. But we felt an immediate difference when the dolphins left the bay and entered the Gulf of Mexico portion of their range. Though the Nai’a, our tracking boat, is sturdy, it was not designed for rough waters. It jerked violently up and down with the choppy waters of the gulf, and we soon lost sight of both F276 and F142."