TDP Board of Directors
P.O.Box 60753, Savannah GA, 31420
TDP Board of Directors
President, Edu Outreach, Training
Vice President, Edu Outreach
SC Education Liaison
Dr. LORI MUSKAT
MARGARET ANN BROWN
DONNISSA & DOUG BUSCH
Survey Photo Coordinators
DOLORES DYSON ENGLE
Publicity - Coast
Membership, Survey Logistics
Adopt A Dolphin
FROM THE HELM
It’s been a hot, steamy, wet summer here, but we’ve been
keep busy while trying to keep cool. We’re in the
development stages of a program for middle school
students, making plans for our 25th Anniversary and a new
and improved database for our membership and survey
logistics. Our survey crews have spotted interesting dolphin
behaviors over the summer. We welcome all of our new
members and look forward to working with you.
TDP was supposed to be a 10-year program!?!?!?
We can hardly believe that we are actually starting to plan
our 25th Anniversary which will take place on
July 19th 2014.
Mark your calendars.
There will be a survey scheduled for that day as well.
If you know of any TDP members who were involved in the
late 80’s and 90’s, let us know.
If you can recommend sponsors, please contact us.
Our 20th Anniversary was great fun;
Our 25th will be even better!!
If you’d like to help with the party and silent auction, please
contact Peach—[email protected]
+ Dolphins & Desserts social
DR. TARA COX/Savannah St. U.
CLAY GEORGE /GA-DNR
CHERYL BONNES / NOAA
DR. ROB YOUNG/Coastal Carolina U.
All members in The Dolphin Project are volunteers
and receive no compensation for their services
Thanks to Krystal Goodwin, we’ve got a great
Please check us out and be our ‘friend’ and have
your friends be our ‘friend’ too!
If you are a survey crew member and haven’t been to a training workshop in a few years,
please plan on a refresher course. We have added a lot of new information, scientific
facts and survey protocol to our program. Our next coastal training is scheduled for at the
Southside Savannah Library (behind Target on Abercorn) for September 14th at 10am.
If you are eligible for inclusion on or are currently on our NMFS-NOAA Permit due to your
hours of ‘on the water experience’, you will need to attend training soon. Our permit is
processed for renewal every five years and is up for review early next year.
Photographers: PLEASE adjust your cameras prior to the survey so that the photos
being taken will start will 1, or 001, or 0001 and proceed in an ascending order. It’s
confusing and time consuming for the photo review chairperson to review the photos after a
survey when they start with 4682 or another large number. ..even worse when the numbers
Only the official survey photographer is permitted to take photographs while on the survey.
NO personal photographs are allowed unless you are at the dock, on lunch break or
going to/from the zone.
Photographers: Be sure and fill your viewfinder with the dorsal fin as best you can.
Skippers need to keep their speed down when traveling the survey zone. Fast enough so
that the boat is reaches a plane but slow enough so that you can see the dolphins—
typically about 8-10 MPH.
When Skippers sign up, they are assigned a zone within their preferred list. Ideally we
would like each boat to cover more than one zone since our zones are based on outdated
criteria and are small in area. Skippers are notified as to what other skippers are
participating and their phone numbers. Please check in with the other skippers who are
in your area so that when you choose your second zone, you will not be overlapping the
assigned or secondary zone of another skipper.
Skippers: be sure you have your boats inspected by the Coast Guard Auxiliary every
year. It’s free! For more info on an available inspector call George Scuorzo 912-756-5152
Team Leaders: Be sure to use our new and improved event sheets which are on the TDP
website. They will minimize the confusion between the latitude and longitude, make it
easier to indicate dolphin behavior and remind you to continue the number of event
sightings throughout the day—from the morning period through the afternoon so that at the
end of the day, you’ll know how many sightings you’ve had.
Please use the fine-point markers when completing the event sheets so that when they
are copied they are readable.
When sighting a dolphin in distress or deceased, call the emergency number on the
marine mammal stranding form. South Carolina and Georgia have different contact
TDP will begin a pilot program to test for salinity and water temperature on our surveys.
Thanks to a donation form the Savannah-based Jolly Foundation, we will be purchasing
small, hand-held refractometers to start the program for a select few crew members. After
a period, we will expand it to all Team Leaders. Training will be given for those using the
equipment. The testing is not difficult. A few
drops of water are dropped onto the
refractometer and it will automatically give
the salinity. Then the number will be entered
onto the event sheet. The current event
sheets will be revised to accommodate the
information for temperature and salinity.
Given the massive amount of rainfall and the
opening of upstream flood gates, the influx of fresh water to our salt water estuary is
expected to have significant impact on the vegetation and wildlife on our coasts. Testing for
salinity and temperature will prove to be a significant addition to our Photo-ID research.
TDP received a letter in the mail recently that we’d like to share with you…
Dear Dolphin Project members,
Hi, my name is Hilary and I am 10 years old. For
my birthday party I asked all my friends to
bring money instead of presents. Even though
I’m Canadian I go to South Carolina every year
and I saw a presentation by your group at the
Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head
So I would like to donate the money
I have raised to adopt 3 dolphins because
I love dolphins.
Hilary also added a lovely graphic of a dolphin on her letter. We sent her 3
dolphin adoption packets and a snazzy TDP cap. She’ll be coming back to
HHI with her family at the end of August and may join Board member and
skipper, Frank Sitera for a cruise in Georgia waters with hopes of seeing
some wild dolphins.
TDP Dolphin Adoptions make great gifts for all occasions and obviously all
ages! To adopt: http://www.thedolphinproject.org/adopt.html
Fall Festivals ...
Fall is traditionally a time for
festivals as the weather cools... we
hope it cools!!! The Dolphin Project
will be participating in several
festivals this fall. We could use your
help to man our displays. We will
be selling merchandise at some
venues and host a coloring contest
for children at the Bluffton Art &
Seafood Festival. We will be
scheduling shifts for helpers
VOLUNTEERS NEEDED for lotsa fun and a little work ...
(these are currently confirmed for TDP)
Saturday, October 5
Coastfest at DNR HQ in Brunswick GA. 9am—5pm
Saturday, October 19-20
Bluffton Art & Seafood Festival, on Calhoun Street in Bluffton SC
Saturday, October 26
Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Savannah—Marine Science Day. noon to 4pm
If you can lend a hand, email: [email protected]
If you know of any festivals that welcome environmental organizations, please let us know.
Training hours: 10am to 12noon
SAVANNAH training will be held at the Southwest Chatham Library (behind Target at
Savannah Mall) 14097 Abercorn Street, Savannah 31419
September 7—October 26
ATLANTA training will be held at REI, 1800 Northeast Expressway NE, Atlanta 30329
Nominations are being accepted for positions on the 2014-2016 TDP Board of Directors.
Please send your nominations to [email protected]
Our local wild, estuarine Bottlenose dolphins do NOT live in PODS, they live in GROUPS.
They live in a FISION—FUSION SOCIETY. Dolphins come and go within groups.
ORCAS live in PODS. They have very strong family units.
In the wild, male ORCAS stay with their mothers for life!.
Bad News ...
Sea World allows young dolphin (Pilot whale) to strand :
Note in the video how a larger Pilot whale tries to assist the young dolphin which was most
likely calling for help.
This documentary focuses on the captivity of the killer
whale Tilikum, who was involved in the deaths of three
individuals, and the consequences of keeping such
large and intelligent animals in captivity. The coverage
of Tilikum begins with his capture in 1983 off of Iceland
and shows how he was harassed by fellow captive
whales and left in dark tanks for hours, which Director
Gabriela Cowperthwaite argues contributed to the
whale's aggression. Cowperthwaite also focuses on
SeaWorld claims that whales in captivity live longer, a
claim that the film argues as false.
Sea World is trying to squash this film.
About The Film:
Many of us have experienced the
excitement and awe of watching 8,000-pound orcas, or
“killer whales,” soar out of the water and fly through the air at
sea parks, as if in perfect harmony with their trainers. Yet, in
our contemporary lore this mighty black-and-white mammal
is like a two-faced Janus—beloved as a majestic, friendly
giant yet infamous for its capacity to kill viciously. Blackfish
unravels the complexities of this dichotomy, employing the
story of notorious performing whale Tilikum, who—unlike
any orca in the wild—has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. So what exactly went
wrong? Shocking, never-before-seen footage and riveting interviews with trainers and experts manifest
the orca’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity over the last four decades, and
the growing disillusionment of workers who were misled and endangered by the highly profitable seapark industry. This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our
relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and
enormously sentient fellow mammals. - See more at: http://www.magpictures.com/blackfish/
Mother Dolphin tries to rescue newborn calf.
Frank Sitera’s June 22nd survey crew witnessed a dead male neonate (newborn dolphin) being
pushed by its mother near the junction of the Half Moon and Bull Rivers. Photographer Michael
Tiemeyer photographed and videoed the event while Frank called Clay George with DNR for
instructions. Charlotte Keenoy recorded the event and completed the Marine Mammal
Stranding Report which was later emailed to Clay. TDP crew was told not to interfere with the
situation. Typically the mothers are left alone unless their well-being is compromised. The
mothers do not eat. Their focus is on trying to the reviving their calf. We’ve had several events
like this in Georgia this year. This calf was actually a neonate (newborn) with the umbilical cord
still attached. The pictures are too distressing so we will not include them here.
Good News ...
August 1, 2013. A recreational boater spotted a live Bottlenose dolphin entangled in a
crab pot buoy line in the Wilmington River in Savannah. The UGA MAREX staff
responded while the Georgia-DNR staff traveled from Brunswick. The dolphin had the
line wrapped tightly around her tail and peduncle and had trouble getting air to breathe
with the crab trap pulling her
down. She also had a calf with her
that was around one year old.
The MAREX staff was concerned
that the dolphin might drown so
GDNR gave permission to cut the
ropes and free the dolphin.
Attempts were made to cut the
line but the dolphin was wildly
thrashing about. The crew added
two polyballs to the crab line in
order to buoy the crab pot. The
dolphin was then able to breathe
easier. When the GDNR crew arrived, they worked together with the MAREX crew to
carefully secure the dolphin’s tale and cut the lines. After about 5 hours of work by the
MAREX and GDNR crews the dolphin was finally swimming free and did not appear
seriously injured. All the fishing gear was collected. Both dolphins appeared to be
WHITE DOLPHIN sighted off coast of Cumberland Island
From Clay George– GNDR:
It was sighted in the Atlantic Ocean, off the south end of Cumberland earlier this year Given
that location, I would expect it to be part of the coastal stock, which could explain why we
haven’t received any other reports (it could be anywhere between Florida and Hatteras, or even
farther north). White dolphins have been documented in other locations. Perhaps the most
famous was “Carolina Snowball,” who was responsible for SC passing a state law prohibiting
capture and display of wild dolphins:
This is a video of the white dolphin. http://youtu.be/vZRltXHXzqw It also shows young boys in
the boat without life jackets out in the ocean and an anchor in an extremely dangerous
position—someone could fall on it and be impaled !!!!!!
Note that the video is entitled “Casper the friendly dolphin”. Wild dolphins are not necessarily
friendly and certainly not trying to be our ‘friends’. They are wild animals. They can bite and hurt
humans. They are not Flipper. In fact Flipper, whose real (human) name was Kathy didn’t like
being Flipper so much she committed suicide according to her trainer Ric O’Barry
FYI: White dolphins have difficulty surviving in the wild due to their lack of protective coloring.
They are susceptible to shark attacks—and humans grabbing them for captivity.
Where do the survey photos go?
Data Trials and Data Accuracy: Notes from TDP’s Principal Investigator,
Dr. Lori Muskat
When I am out on a survey, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is: “What
happens to the data and photographs after the survey?” The answer: it is a multi-step process…
Step 1: After a survey, the event sheets and camera cards/film are sent to the Photo Review
Chairpersons, Syd & Doug Busch or TDP President, Peach Hubbard, with all of it being reviewed
by the Busch’s
Step 2: Doug and Syd review the photos for usability.
Each photographer’s goal is to get a snapshot of each
dolphin’s entire dorsal fin (i.e., as opposed to partially
submerged), on a horizontal plane, and so that the fin
takes up 50 percent or more of the photo frame. Photos
should be of single fins. Groups of fins are typically
unusable unless a single fin can be viewed separately
and is clear. Even for seasoned photographers, this can
be a very hard to task to accomplish. Fin photographs
need to be taken flat-on, not on angles. It’s
hard to judge which way the dolphin will be
turning. When dolphins behave as they
were meant to in the wild, they are only
minimally interested or not at all interested
in us humans—and they can be very
elusive animals to photograph as most of
NOT good photo
us learn very quickly out on our first survey.
Photos that are less than the ideal may still
be usable—depending upon their clarity. In
any survey, there are more unusable photos than usable ones. The Buschs filter the photos, save
the usable ones and delete the ones that are unusable. This saves a lot of time for the folks whose
job it is later to work with the data.
Step 3: Peach routes the event sheets to George Scourzo. It is George’s job to ensure that event
sheets have been filled out legibly and accurately. This is essential. If event sheets are inaccurate,
the information is unusable. If the information is not usable, it may mean that even if excellent
photographs were taken, the dolphin cannot be traced because we do not know where it was seen
or when, whether it was traveling with a single partner or in a larger group—and we also do not
know the weather and tide conditions.
Step 4: Once the data and photos have been “filtered”, they are returned to Peach, who then
forwards them to me. In my role as a Professor at the Georgia School of Professional Psychology, I
work with a team of students (i.e., research assistants or “RAs”), whose job it is to enter the data
from event sheets into a master table. In this process, the RAs also log any additional information
such as unusual behaviors or unique markings. They also make sure that data from the master
Where do the survey photos go?
table readily corresponds with the photos of event sheets and dorsal fins. If inaccurate or
difficult to read event sheets arrive at this step, it slows down the data entry process
immeasurably. That is why event sheet accuracy is critical and TDP members are urged to go
through training annually to ensure that they are up to date on the latest procedures for the
accurate completion of event sheets. I would like to give special acknowledgement and thanks
to my research team for the 2012 – 2013 academic year... Stacey Berry, Carin Wolfe and
Jeremy Salzman, for the fantastic job they have done. We wish Stacey and Carin the best of
luck and success as they progress to their internships. And we are delighted that Jeremy will
be staying on board to lead the RA crew for the 2013 – 2014 year.
Step 5: The master table is then submitted to Kim Urian, a
research associate at Duke University Marine Mammal Lab.
Kim then filters the data further. First, she uses FinScan
software to identify any matching fins. FinScan is a software
program that works according to the same principles as the
software used to match human fingerprints—except that it is
applied to usable dorsal fin photos. When matches are
identified, data from event sheets can be used to track the
locations where the specific dolphin has been seen over
time. This information is then entered into two databases:
OBIS-SEAMAP (Ocean Biogeographic Information System –
Spatial Ecological Analysis of Megavertebrate Populations)
and MABDC (the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog).
These databases are available, free of charge, to any
researcher anywhere in the world who is conducting dolphin
research. TDP members can be proud that for the past
nearly quarter-century, we have been the largest contributor
of data related to Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins from Hilton
Head to Richmond Hill.
Up until this year, TDP’s main role has been to provide data to OBIS-SEAMAP and the
MABDC for the use of other researchers. This will continue to be TDP’s main role for the
foreseeable future. However, in the coming year, TDP will begin to do its own research as
well. This is related partly to our NOAA permit. It is our permit from NOAA that affords us a
waiver of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and allows us to get closer than 50 yards to
dolphins and to follow them from a safe distance in order to photograph them. As part of the
environmental and scientific responsibility that goes along with having this type of permit,
NOAA encourages research presentations at professional conferences.
This year, Dr.
Michael Tiemeyer of Armstrong Atlantic State University and I will be collaborating in the
analysis of TDP’s data and hope either to make an oral presentation or to develop a poster
presentation for the 2014 SEAMAMMS conference. (SouthEast and Mid-Atlantic Marine
Were it not for The Dolphin Project, very little would be known about the Atlantic
Bottlenose population from Hilton Head to Richmond Hill. TDP continues to play a very
important role in increasing the world’s knowledge of these majestic and magnificent animals
we are blessed to have in our intra-coastal and coastal waterways. In July 2014, TDP will
celebrate its 25th anniversary, a remarkable achievement for any volunteer organization. None
of this important work could be done without the time, energy and expertise of our most
precious asset, YOU….our volunteers. On behalf of the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin
population, we offer our heartfelt thanks. We hope that we will see you out on surveys or on
land at our education/outreach events and socials for many years to come!
We’re in the news!
There is an awesome article about The
Dolphin Project in the latest Georgia
Magazine. written by TDP member and
survey photographer Amy Schnieder. The
Georgia magazine is published by the
Georgia Electric Membership Corporation
and is read by more than 1.5 million
Georgians each month. If you don’t receive
this publication, go to our website and there
is a link to it on our home page.
< Check out our cover girl—Krystal Goodwin!
The Savannah magazine had an article
entitled “Nice People Kill Dolphins”. We were
under the impression the article was to be
about The Dolphin Project, but it was not.
They “interpreted” facts and information
given to them about the dangers to our local
dolphins. We are pleased that some of our
information went out to the public about the
dangers of balloons, pollution and dolphin
During our July 27th training in Savannah, a reporter showed up unexpectedly with a video
camera and filmed a portion of our training and interviewed Peach Hubbard about The Dolphin
Project. That night a few minutes of the interview and video appeared on WJCL (ABC) at
11:00pm and the local FOX station at 10:00pm. We appreciate the coverage.
Need a Speaker?
We love spreading the word about our dolphins. We have a program that is both educational
and entertaining. Speakers are available for Southern South Carolina, the greater Atlanta area
and the Georgia coast. We offer age-appropriate programs for pre-schoolers to seniors and
Contact [email protected]
We’re looking for funding for our middle school project and refractometers for salinity testing. If
you know of a corporation, foundation or individual that funds education programs and
environmental issues, please let us know. [email protected]
LOVES OUR SPONSORS...
Sincere gratitude to
Don & Judy Bender, Tammie Walz,
and the Jolly Foundation
for their generous donations to
The Dolphin Project