Bottlenose Dolphin Surveillance Team for the Mississippi Sound

MS.R. 798 A Bottlenose Dolphin Surveillance Team for the Mississippi Sound, funded under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Coastal Impact Assistance Program.

The University of Southern Mississippi will provide academic training to graduate students and these students will receive relevant, practical field experience from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Seven Ph.D. students (or seven full time equivalents – FTEs) will receive experience in bottlenose dolphin research over the course of this four-year project funded by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Three students will work with the PI and focus on research involving relationships between pathogenic microorganisms and bottlenose dolphins. One student will examine the incidence of Vibrio species in dolphins. The second student will work with morbilliviruses in dolphins. The third student will examine bacterial isolates from dolphins and antibiotic resistance patterns.

Three students (one fully dedicated and two partially dedicated) will work with Robin Overstreet, one of the two co-PIs, to better understand the parasites and possible stresses caused by those parasites in dolphins. Their research will involve diagnostic aspects of parasites from necropsies, assessments of non-invasive indicators of dolphin health, parasite indicators of marine mammal origin (inshore/offshore pods) and migration, and public health aspects of known and potential zoonotic agents.

A seventh student will work with Kevin Dillon, the other co-PI, examining carbon, nitrogen and sulfur stable isotopes in stranded dolphins and prey items in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This work complements existing studies examining trophic linkages of food webs involving oyster reefs and menhaden in Mississippi waters. Tissues collected from the dolphins will span a range of tissue turnover rates to evaluate the consistency of each dolphin’s diet over time.

In the first year, the graduate students will spend the equivalent of one week at the IMMS. They will learn field collection techniques for dolphins and biopsies, stranding intervention and relevant observation procedures. The graduate students will also work with NOAA/NMFS to learn about protected resources, especially bottlenose dolphins.

Project Team

Principal Investigators

Graduate Students

Recognizing a Stranded Dolphin

"How to Tell the Difference between Stranded Dolphins vs. Dolphins Engaged in Normal Behavior" - To avoid false alarms, review this pdf fact sheet before reporting a stranding. Certain normal feeding behaviors of bottlenose dolphins may give the false impression that the animal is in distress.

A dolphin in distress typically:

Report a Stranded Dolphin

To report a dolphin or other species of wildlife in distress, please call the Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program at (866) 557‐1401. [Note: As of January 14, 2014, this number no longer contacts the stranding reponse program. The new number will be posted soon.] This program is part of the the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.