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The Galveston Bay Foundation and the Environmental Institute of Houston (University of Houston at Clear Lake) are pleased to share with you the third quarterly update of 2018 of the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program (GDRCP).  Thank you very much for your support!
As we have come to expect, the summer was a very busy time for the GDRCP's research crew, with high concentrations of dolphins in the upper Bay. The crew completed a total of 19 survey/field days (760km) throughout the quarter, during which they sighted over 1300 dolphins.  During these summer surveys, there was a tendency to find large "happy hour" social groups as the crew headed back to the boat ramp (at 5pm or so).
Sightings of bottlenose dolphins in Galveston Bay from July to September 2018
The field days were long and HOT and we give a huge thanks to the dedicated field assistant volunteers that gave us their all from sun-up to sun-down! We are excited to announce that on August 11th, the GDRCP hosted its annual Field Assistant Volunteer workshop and trained 18 new citizens to become field research assistants and participate during the boat surveys.  Volunteers now participate in over 70% of the GDRCP's boat surveys and have become and integral part of our research team.
The third annual GDRCP Field Assistant Volunteer Workshop was held on August 11, 2018.
In addition to our regular photo-id surveys, when the crew focuses on taking photographs of dolphins to identify individuals, remote biopsy darting field surveys were conducted in August. Remote biopsy darting is a widely used technique that allows scientists to collect a large amount of data about a free-ranging wild animal with low-level effects. By obtaining a small tissue sample from an individual, free-ranging dolphin, we can learn their sex, explore population genetics, determine exposure to contaminants (e.g., dioxins, persistent organic pollutants, mercury), and analyze stable isotopes that inform us of diet and feeding ecology.  Our trained sampling team uses a crossbow to shoot a sampling dart that bounces off the dolphin, collecting a small amount of skin and blubber.  This usually produces a brief reaction before the dolphin returns to its previous behavior.  Sampling sites typically heal quickly and without complication and are often smaller than ones dolphins may regularly receive while engaged in normal activities in the wild.  If you would like to learn more about this technique, we recommend this article by researchers at Texas A&M and collaborators.
The GDRCP has been fortunate to receive continuing support and mentoring from the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP, which conducts the world's longest-running study of a wild dolphin population).  Jason Allen, Lab Manager of the SDRP, spent a week in Galveston Bay helping our research crew with the biopsy sampling project. 
An exciting result of the biopsy sampling is confirming the sex of our dolphins.  We recently received lab results from samples taken in previous summers that revealed the sex of 35 dolphins in our catalog.  Of our adopted dolphins, we can now confirm that Squirt (#1) and Catsu Two (#282) are both males! 
Since inception of our surveys, we have occasionally observed dolphins engaged in what our field crew has dubbed "line lifting" (including #334 featured above).  This is a concerning behavior that involves a dolphin lifting up the net lines of a shrimp trawler with its head/body.  They may do this to hold the net up while others go under the net or they may just be "playing" with it - we do not know. However, some dolphins have scars that appear to be the result of one of these lines being rubbed or pulled tight against their body or a result of temporary entrapment.


During this busy quarter, the crew sighted 17 of our adopted dolphins. On July 10th, Squirt (#1), Mariner (#23), Rudy (#81), and Calypso (#203) were seen milling and socializing at the intersection of the Bayport Ship Channel and the Houston Ship Channel. Nina (#30), Island Byron (#48), and Tide(#69) were also seen later in the month. In August, during both photo-id and biopsy surveys the crew sighted Squirt (#1), Dutch (#10), Island Byron (#48), #61, Ducky(#75) and her calf, Rudy (#81), Lucy (#132), Catsu Two (#282), and Astro (#495).  Finally, in September, we again saw many of the adopted dolphins spotted earlier in the summer, as well as Babe (#6), Terry Lynn (#88), Ted (#89), and Shiner (#225).
Sightings of adopted dolphins from July to September 2018
Lucy (#132) was sighted in lower Galveston Bay, socializing in a large group southwest of Evia Island ("Bird Island").  It is unlikely that he/she is a resident of upper Galveston Bay (like some of our other adopted dolphins), as the crew has seen him/her more frequently in lower Galveston Bay when they survey outside of our main upper Bay study area.
Lucy (#132) has a new scoop on the top portion of his/her dorsal fin.
In September, we were pleased to see our only adopted mother/calf pair Terry Lynn (#88) and Ted (#89), who we had not seen since last year.  Although Ted is at least four years old, he is still with his mother.
Terry Lynn (#88) and her calf Ted (#89) were seen in September following shrimp trawlers. 
Catsu Two (#282), a confirmed male, on August 25, 2018
Babe (#6) and Shiner (#225) were spotted together again on September 18th, suggesting that they have or are forming a "male pair-bond". This strong relationship between adult male dolphins has been studied in other bottlenose dolphins populations (click here to learn more). Of our adopted dolphins, Squirt (#1) and Rudy (#81), and Catsu Two (#282) and #237, may also comprise a male pair-bond.
*Nina (#30) and Astro (#495) were also seen on July 12, 2018 and August 23, 2018 (respectively), but we do not have their photographs available to share at this time.
In our previous quarterly report, we congratulated Ducky (#75) on the birth of her new calf (that we photographed with prominent fetal folds, top photo). We are
happy to report that the crew spotted Ducky (#75) and her calf again on
August 9, 2018 (bottom photo).
Kristi Fazioli (far left), Research Associate at the Environmental Institute of Houston, and Dr. Vanessa Mintzer (far right), Research and Conservation Fellow for the Galveston Bay Foundation, are the lead scientists of the GDRCP.  In August, they had fun on the water with Sherah Loe (EIH graduate student), Ashley Burke (volunteer), and Shelby Yahn (Field Research Technician) and filmed two live Facebook feeds to provide a peek of a dolphin survey.  Island Byron (#48), one of our adopted dolphins, is featured in the video, along with #45 that will be available for naming in time for the holidays! Check them out here Survey Video 1  and
Survey Video 2!
Please visit our website to renew your annual adoption or adopt/name a new dolphin.
doption packages will make great holiday gifts!
Adopt a Dolphin Now!
A huge thanks to the generous program donors that named Nina (#30) and Ducky (#75) this summer!  Ms. Amy Ardington named Nina (#30) in honor of her friend who celebrated her 80th birthday this year. Bren Gorman named Ducky (#75), the new mom featured in our Adoptee Highlights, after her late grandmother who would have turned 88 in August. 
A very special thank you to all of our individual supporters and to our sponsors and partners.
The Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program
is a collaboration between the Galveston Bay Foundation and the Environmental Institute of Houston at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

All activities are conducted under NMFS Research Permit #18881.
Galveston Bay Foundation
1100 Hercules Avenue, Suite 200
Houston, TX 77058
(281) 332-3381

Environmental Institute of Houston
University of Houston at Clear Lake
2700 Bay Area Blvd.
Houston, TX, 77058
(281) 283-3950  

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Galveston Bay Foundation · 1725 Highway 146 · Kemah, TX 7565 · USA