By Haily Jones
Kathleen Dudzinski, Director of the Dolphin Communication Project (DCP), studied Atlantic spotted dolphins north of Grand Bahamas Island, The Bahamas from 1991 to 2002 for her doctoral study. She spent six months every year collecting data on dolphin behavior and sounds onboard a boat, and had a passion for understanding these mammals and the way they communicated. She decided to develop DCP as its own entity during her involvement with the IMAX film, DOLPHINS, which she worked on while completing her post-doctoral studies. Dudzinski didn’t take the academic route, but decided she wanted to give research results to the general public and scientific community about dolphins. DCP made opportunities available for Eco tourists and the general public to have direct access to the research being done with dolphins, offering insight on how to collect data, access it, and disseminate it.
The team at DCP studies dolphins in different parts of the world, and looks into their behavior and sounds through mobile video/acoustic systems that record dolphins. DCP analyzes the data collected and is able to draw conclusions about what type of mammal dolphins are, how they interact with other beings, and what ways they communicate with one another. DCP gives individuals the unique opportunity to observe dolphin behavior and learn about dolphins in a variety of settings.
Making discoveries in this field takes time. Results yield significant details after hours of examining data. An awesome discovery made by DCP is that research has shown that dolphins are complete social mammals; they have affiliative behavior, social behavior, aggression, playfulness, and a lot of cognitive ability. Dolphins are actually very similar to other social animals, like humans or chimps. It is thought that differences between dolphins and other social animals might be related to the dolphins’ body structure or it may have to do with the fact that dolphins are fully aquatic as opposed to terrestrial animals.
Getting as much research done as you can and being able to disseminate that to an audience is tough, but they are doing it through their website and newsletter, as well as getting scientific papers out to make sure that the research they’ve done is entered into the literature for the science community. DCP strives to share the information they have gained in their research through various outlets and make sure they do that regularly as they continue to do the research that drives them.
The programs offered by DCP allow individuals of all ages to get involved with dolphin research in a variety of ways. Students may be involved with DCP as an intern, volunteer, or graduate student in association with several different universities. Field course programs are offered to students, and DCP plans to offer more programs in collaboration with universities. Eco tours are also available for individuals to collect data in the field while observing dolphins. Other programs who do dolphin research even collaborate with DCP to share their own research to the public. The programs offered benefit those involved in a variety of ways. This organization shares with individuals of all backgrounds what is being learned about dolphin research in hopes that they will gain some excitement about dolphins as new details are discovered. With that, DCP hopes that individuals impacted by this organization would be inspired to do something to want to protect the environment. By helping to protect a dolphin’s environment, all kinds of aquatic life can be protected.
For all nonprofits, it’s important that you can connect with and expand your audience. Finding the best way to communicate what your mission is, what your goals are, what your results are, and how you’re getting your information out are key parts of communicating passions. This organization sees the value in communicating complex topics to the public, and does so quite successfully. DCP likes to seek out new advantages that media has to offer, without forgetting the true methods of personal contact. When you’re passionate about something, you want to take advantage of every communication strategy possible to spread the great news that your organization is doing, and sometimes the best way to communicate that is in person. Too often it is forgotten that the electronic images we have of the world actually represent the real world, so individuals should go out and be a part of that world.
DCP strives to learn and understand how they can communicate with people, whether they be in pre-K or retired. Kathleen tries to find the best ways to get their message out and ensure that everyone hearing the message understands what is trying to be communicated. In her experience with DCP, she has been able to continually work and improve her ability to communicate with people. Just as it is important for DCP to research and understand dolphin communication, it is important for individuals to know how to communicate with one another about their passions. With excellent communication skills between audiences, DCP hopes to inspire others to become passionate about dolphins and how they can help to preserve their lives.
Kathleen Dudzinski is the Founder and Director of the Dolphin Communication Project. Her current research focuses on three groups of dolphins in human care – at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) in Honduras, at Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon Island (DE) on Nassau, The Bahamas, and at Zoo Duisburg in Duisburg, Germany.
Haily Jones is an undergraduate student in the English Education Department at N.C. State University.