Subject: Interview- Research with Dolphins

Caroline DeLong (delong@hawaii.edu)
Mon, 26 Apr 1999 13:59:09 -1000

>Hi,
>	I am doing a project on Marine Biology and I chose Baleen Whales.  The
>project is to do a magazine about Marine Biology.  My feature article is
>about Humpback whales and I need an interveiw to get a good grade.  I was
>wondering if you could ansewr some Humpback or Baleen whale questions or
>maybe some one else could help but I don't know much and I only have boring
>questions.  Please help me.  My e-mail is elk@dnc.net.  Please get back to
>me soon.  Or tell me someone else that can answer Humpback whale qusetions.
>			Thanks,
>				Kelsi
>

At 01:16 PM 4/25/99 -1000, you wrote:
>Caroline,
>	I wrote these questions before hand so they might not apply to you, I was
>hoping you could talk about humpback whales but whatever you want....
>

Dear Kelsi, 
I will answer the questions that are relevant to my research subjects- the
bottlenose dolphin. I asked a colleague who works with humpback whales to
answer the questions as well so you can get the whale perspective.  I will
send her answers your way if she completes your questionnaire. If all goes
well, you may get two sets of answers! Here are my answers--

>What kinds of whales (dolphins) do you research/study??

Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and Pacific bottlenose
dolphins (T. t. gillii).  I am doing echolocation work with both.  I am
also working on a collaboration with another researcher on communication
signals of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin.   

>
>Any interesting behavior?

Our Pacific bottlenose, Kelohe, is quite a clown during feeding time.  She
likes to whistle and squeak and twirl her body around.  Of course, I only
throw the fish once she has settled into the right position (facing me,
next to the tank)! The other animals we have (2 male and 2 female Atlantic
bottlenose dolphins, a Risso's dolphin, and a false killer whale) are
usually more serene when they eat.  We rub zinc oxide onto our false killer
whale's back because she likes to hang out near the surface of the water
('sunbathing').

>
>What is a typical day of watching whales?

Well, a typical day for me doing research with captive dolphins (weekdays)
includes meeting the trainer early in the morning, going out to the pens
and setting up all the equipment we need for the current echolocation
experiment (it takes about 30 min.- we have multiple hydrophones, screens,
a hoop, start float, targets, wires to hook up, etc.), setting up the
computer program that collects data, running the experiment, and then
taking down all the equipment.  Running the experiment takes about an hour,
and includes 50 separate trials.  The dolphin gets a fish reward every time
she gets one right.  After setting up and running the experiment in the
morning, I go back to my office and do many of following-  test and fix
broken equipment, meet with members of the research team to plan what to do
next, write and run computer programs that analyze data, write papers and
proposals, study and read research articles, or help out with odd tasks
around the lab.  On Saturdays, I go in and help prepare the fish, feed the
dolphins, clean the prep room, refuel the boats, and do anything else the
head trainer needs done. Sometimes, we have to drop everything and work on
one thing all day- like today when I had to help the head trainer fix some
pens that had holes in them.  There's always lot to do!    


>
>What have you learned from them that has changed you?

Studying dolphins is like trying to understand what someone is thinking
when you can't ask them.  Dolphins can't tell us what's going on in their
heads, so we have to design clever experiments that tell us how they think.
So...what I have learned  are ways to build an experiment that can help us
understand what they think/hear/see/know. You have to turn into a really
good problem solver and thinker. 

>
>What would you like to learn and do?

I would like to learn which parts of the echolocation signal (the echo) the
dolphin uses/processes to know what object is in front of them. I would
also like to know which parts of the communication signals (other than
frequency contour) the dolphin pays attention to. 

>
>How were you motivated to study whales?

I started to study dolphins in high school.  I did a project on dolphin
communication signals for the International Science and Engineering Fair,
which was a lot of fun.  I have always wanted to know how animals think and
how they communicate.  Dolphins are one of the many animals I find
fascinating.   

>
>Could you give me a background of yourself??

You already know I got started in high school with my dolphin communication
project.  From there I went to New College of the University of South
Florida and did research at EPCOT's Living Seas (Disney) with Dr. Heidi
Harley.  I had an interdisciplinary major- I studied both biology and
psychology.  I took lots of chemistry, biology, physics, and math, along
with cognitive and comparative psychology, neurobiology, physiological
psych., and linguistics. I came to the University of Hawaii for graduate
school. I research dolphins with the Marine Mammal Research Program (Hawaii
Institute of Marine Biology) at Coconut Island in Kaneohe, Oahu. I am going
for my doctorate. I am working on my Masters degree right now.  

Good Luck Kelsi!

Aloha,
Caroline
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Caroline DeLong
Marine Mammal Research Program 
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
P.O. Box 1106
Kailua, HI  96734
delong@hawaii.edu