Here have a lei and let me tell you about Hawaiian spinner dolphins…

Dylan, Melody, me and Demi at the Open House. Photo by Katie Wood

Dylan, Melody, me and Demi at the Open House. Photo by Katie Wood

Yesterday the Duke University Marine Lab hosted a public Open House and it was quite a success. I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I volunteered to tell people about my research on Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins but it sure wasn’t 300 visitors in two hours (a new record for the DUML open house!). Go Marine Lab!

I joined forces with Demi Fox, a recent Master of Environmental Management graduate and postgraduate researcher at the marine lab, Kenady Wilson a PhD

Kenady and the future seal scientists

Kenady and the future seal scientists

candidate, and her summer undergraduate colleague Emma. Together we were the Mammals in Hawai’i team! And yes, we had leis. 200 of them to be exact! Kenady and Emma tackled Hawaiian Monk Seals and showed off some amazing crittercam footage. Kenady even placed an elephant (yes a fake one! we don’t have elephants on island) with a tag in the room and used what scientists use in the field to locate that tag and the elephant. Lots of fun for all ages!

Demi and I spoke about Hawaiian spinner dolphins. It was so fun to watch Demi show off her Nai’a Guide throughout the day. It was her master’s project and it is an amazing free app I wrote about in my last entry. We had extra iPads for the day so people were able to click through the app, check out the content and ask questions! Sometimes they started with Demi and then hopped over to me others started with me and then moved over

Hands-on app learning with the Nai'a Guide

Hands-on app learning with the Nai’a Guide

to Demi. Either way, we tried to make sure that people walked away with a lei and the knowledge that spinner dolphins rest during the day and feed at night.  “I’m sure Heather told you that spinner dolphins rest during the day,” Demi would say. And that was really the goal, to tell people about the dolphins and their predictable daily behavior.  So some people walked away with new facts about spinner dolphins, others with business cards about the Nai’a Guide so they could download it when they got home and some future marine biologists, hopefully they got the inspiration to continue pursuing their dream. But all, now, should at least know a little something about the dolphins.

It was also quite fun for me to share some sounds recorded by our acoustic loggers in Hawai’i and watch people listen to spinner dolphins. The smiles on their faces reminded me how fun the recordings really are. Some visitors got a kick out of a recording I call “Scuba Steve.” If you don’t know the Big Daddy reference, here’s a short clip. Anyway, the recording is of a scuba diver that has found our acoustic logger and proceeds to yell at it! It is quite entertaining.

Here are two files if you’d like to listen! Put on headphones if you have them, you will hear more.  Dolphin Sound and my dear friend ScubaSteve

I was also happy to pass out some of my new outreach coordinator business cards. Alyse Larkin and I are the new PhD student outreach coordinators and I made some business cards for us to hand out.  I met teachers from the area who were interested in having DUML students visit their classrooms! If you are a teacher in the area reading this entry please feel free to contact us at and check out my For teachers and students page.

The Duke Marine Lab is 3.5 hours from main campus and on an island, literally. People pass right by us after they go over the big Morehead City bridge right before the little Beaufort bridge and I’m sure some of them, have no idea we are here. Sure we have a small sign on 70 that says Duke University Marine Lab but I’m not so sure how many people actually see it. However, on Saturday, big wavy signs and balloons joined that small blue sign and we did our best to get people on our island and show off a little. There is some amazing stuff going on at the lab and it was great to show people our research and outreach and to welcome them to our community for the afternoon.

Waiting for new friends at the Nai'a table.

Waiting for new friends at the Nai’a table.