Dolphin Data: Those satellite tags keep ticking!

Hi all,

I'm back from some travel (that didn't involve rescuing sea turtles in 115+ degree heat - imagine that!) Upon my return, the Aquarium's mapping specialists notified me that we were still receiving strong signals from our released dolphins.

To refresh your memory, back in March of this year we responded to a mass stranding of white-sided dolphins. Upon arrival one animal was dead however four others were found alive. (Click here for much more information about this stranding event.)

In the photo below you can see the three live dolphins in the foreground and the deceased dolphin on it's side in the background. The other live dolphin was a smaller animal found in the mud about 50 yards from this group.

In the photo below a team of us prepared to perform health exams on the dolphins.

Kerry performed a health exam on the smaller dolphin found separated from the group. In the photo below Kerry collects a heart rate using a stethoscope.

Prior to release, Kate and I tagged two of the dolphins with TDR (time depth recorders) satellite tags from Wildlife Computers. The photo below shows the tag attached to the fin of the dolphin prior to release.

Okay enough with the stranding event history...the animals were released on March 11, 2010 from Provincetown, MA. Since that time the tags have been sending data on the location, dive depth, time at depth and other important behavioral information. Years ago we had no means of determining survival of these mass stranded dolphins that were transported and beach released. This tagging project has given us great insight into their survival, behavior and habitat use.

As you will see from their tracks in the map below, both animals have traveled extensively and appear to have re-entered their habitat successfully after a traumatic stranding, relocation and release. It should not be simplified though that this will work for every stranded cetacean (whale, dolphin or porpoise). Careful health assessments are performed on each animal to determine if they are fit for transport and release.

In the map below, the travels of the two dolphins are shown in different colors for ease of viewing. The small inset map in the top right corner highlights the extensive distance traveled by one of the dolphins.

This research has been vital to our stranding response and has helped us refine our health assessment protocols, transport methods and release criteria for mass stranded dolphins. The data collected from this research project has been compiled and was recently submitted for peer-review publication. We patiently await word of its acceptance...I'll keep you posted.

- Connie


  1. As a dolphins fan - both the team and the animal- thanks for the great site.

  2. What is the name of the photographer who took the first picture of the dolphins stuck?

    1. Katie, we'll check on that for you. Why are you interested, do you need to use the photo for something?