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Galveston Bay Foundation and the Environmental Institute of Houston (University of Houston at Clear Lake) are pleased to share the latest Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program (GDRCP) quarterly update.  Thank you for your interest in our research!
The cooler months tend to be the slower field season for our research team, and this year was no exception. The boat crew completed five field days in our primary study area and sighted a total of 35 dolphins in 13 small groups.  In March, the team surveyed an area in lower Galveston Bay and sighted 49 dolphins in just one day.  This wasn't surprising since we typically find many more dolphins in the lower area of the Bay during this time of year.
Sightings of bottlenose dolphin groups in Galveston Bay from January to March 2020
Unfortunately, the team was unable to complete a second field day in our primary study area in March.  March is typically a rainy and windy month with few good field days, but this year, it was Covid-19 that prevented the team from completing surveying of the primary study area.  Spending an entire day on a small boat with 4-5 people does not meet social distancing standards. Our research program is certainly not alone in how it has been affected by Covid-19: a myriad of examples from across the world show how the pandemic has interrupted scientific research. 
Although our boat survey work was interrupted, we are excited to announce that this quarter marked the beginning of a new graduate research project that will help us monitor dolphins when we are not present in the Bay.  On March 10, graduate student Mackenzie Farrell deployed the first hydrophone in Galveston Bay aimed at studying bottlenose dolphin sounds.  A hydrophone is an underwater microphone, used to detect and record sounds in the water.  Bottlenose dolphins produce two types of sound, clicks and whistles. Clicks are used in echolocation for foraging. Whistles are used to communicate with one another and socialize. The hydrophones can pick up these sounds from at least a mile away and further with favorable environmental conditions. The data is displayed in what is called a spectrogram which presents the sound clip as frequency versus time. This study will help us monitor areas of Galveston Bay where we do not usually survey during our photo-identification surveys.  Although we are unable to identify individual dolphins with our software, we can learn about dolphin activity and their movements.
Mackenzie Farrell, EIH -UHCL graduate student, deploys a hydrophone that will record
bottlenose dolphin sounds in Galveston Bay.
We had the opportunity to participate in a couple of unique events this quarter.  First, in February, the research crew participated in the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's annual abandoned crap trap removal event.  The crew pulled seven traps while surveying for dolphins.  Then, in March, as part of GDRCP's outreach efforts, EIH-UHCL researchers Jenny Oakley and Sherah McDaniel, hosted a booth at the Meet Jeff Corwin event at Moody Gardens.  Jeff Corwin was at Moody Gardens to discuss his new film Expedition Chesapeake and the parallels of Chesapeake Bay and Galveston Bay.
GDRCP's researchers participated in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's
annual abandoned crab trap removal event.
Dr. Jenny Oakley and graduate student Sherah McDaniel hosted an outreach booth at Moody Gardens.
On March 10th, the crew spotted a newly entangled dolphin: an older calf (approximately four years old) that is likely the calf of mom #62.  Although the injury does not appear to be life-threatening, he/she will likely loose the top of its fin.  Please always remember to discard properly of your fishing line!  If you see an entangled dolphin, please report it to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (1-800-9-MAMMAL) so they can assess the extent of the injury. 
The content of this section is available only to our program donors.  To receive updates on our individual dolphins, please adopt or name one of our dolphins.  Adoption kits are a fun and unique gift!  All funds go directly to the GDRCP.
Adopt a Dolphin Now!
Two of our dolphin moms will be available for adoption as Mother's Day gifts: Delfini (#220) and Pepsi (#285).  Because of Covid-19, we will be delivering the adoption packages electronically and they will include a photograph with information about the dolphin (see example above) and a sighting map. Please help us spread the word about this unique virtual gift! 
It is not uncommon for us to hear someone talk about the "porpoises" that they see in Galveston Bay.  "Porpoise" and "dolphin" are often used interchangeably.  But, in fact, these are different animals, and there are NO porpoises in Galveston Bay. The only aquatic mammal that regularly inhabits Galveston Bay is the species we study - the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops trucantus).   Porpoises include seven species, classified under the family Phocoenidae.  In the Western Hemisphere, porpoises are usually found at higher latitudes (with the exception of the critically endangered vaquita found only in the Gulf of California).  Compared to dolphins, porpoises have shorter beaks, spade-shaped teeth, and a triangular (non-curved) dorsal fin.  Please visit NOAA Fisheries to learn more. 
We will be including the "what YOU want to know" section in some of our future quarterly reports.  If you have a question regarding the GDRCP, Galveston Bay dolphins, or dolphin biology, please submit your question using the button below.  We will select questions to cover from your submissions.  We look forward to knowing what YOU want to know!
What I would like to know!
We are very excited to announce that we will soon be launching a website to house or research output!  Please plan to visit in the near future.
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 77565 · USA