Week 2 @ Shoals

The second week of IMMB 2015 flew by faster than the first.  The students were busy with more seal surveys, another whale watch, a fish lab, a scrimshaw art project, a seal necropsy, a post-necropsy swim call (water temp = 56 degrees!), and a stranding response to the rarely seen Delphinus inflatus.  In addition, each student completed an oral presentation for our class symposium, Seal Week – a theme that we modeled after Shark Week – to educate people about the misconceptions about the recovering seal populations of New England.

RadioLab: Hello

“It’s tough to make small talk with a stranger – especially when that stranger doesn’t speak your language. (And he has a blowhole.)”

RadioLab is a FANTASTIC radio program that presents engaging [and often fascinating] stories about science.  (Co-host Jad Abumrad recently won a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for his work on this and other programs).

This episode focuses on dolphin intelligence and communication.  D. Graham Burnett, science historian and author of “The Sounding of the Whales: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century”, gives a great analysis of why people care so much about whales and dolphins.  Act Two, describing a wild dolphin communication project in the Bahamas gives a very realistic account of why field work can be so difficult – and why projects can go for several years with no results.

[UPDATE – 07/23/15] This piece was highlighted in “Roughly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism” for 2014 by The Atlantic.

Day 6 @ Shoals

Independence Day arrived along with a prequel to Hurricane Arthur.  The storm is forecast to deflect far to the east, and so far we have only seen rainstorms out on the island.  Today the students helped hand shuck 80 ears of corn for the 4th of July BBQ – some shucking corn for the first time.  We completed a Skulls and Skeletons lab, where students sketched seal, otter, manatee, walrus, and dolphin skulls, noting the differences between groups.  We also organized a dolphin skeleton, previously contained jumbled in a box.  This task was completed very quickly and with much enthusiasm.  After the BBQ, we played a trivia game, where the prize was an additional shower (we’re restricted to 1 per week due to water shortages).  In a heartbreaking lightning round tie breaker, our team came in second place.