OBX Center for Dolphin Research hopes to expand research efforts in 2020

A mother and her calf take a cruise in Albemarle Sound.

Each year, the holiday season brings a flurry of shopping, sales, food, and gifts. For the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, it marks the conclusion of our Annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cook-off, our largest fundraiser of the year, and a time to compile, analyze, and interpret our research data. The holiday season is always a time to reflect on what we are grateful for — and what we hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Since our nonprofit was incorporated in 2008, we have been lucky to find amazing, dedicated volunteers that assist with research surveys, outreach efforts, and fundraisers to promote our mission of conserving wild bottlenose dolphins in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In the summer, our volunteers brave scorching temperatures, gusty winds, and long days out on a small boat to collect photo-identification information on our local dolphin population. Besides local volunteers, our research team also consists of summer interns that join our organization for several months. In addition to assisting on our boat surveys, interns also complete independent research and conduct outreach programs aboard the Nags Head Dolphin Watch to teach others about dolphins and promote awareness.

I am so thankful for our volunteers and interns that help to make our research efforts possible and successful. These efforts are directly visible in the health of our local dolphin population, specifically our seasonal residents that return to Roanoke Sound each year to feed and raise their calves. Several of our seasonal residents, such as Onion and Fatlip, have been sighted in Roanoke Sound for more than 20 years, indicating the sound remains an important environment to them.

I am also so thankful for the support of our local community in our conservation efforts. As important indicators of environmental health, the well-being of our local dolphins is directly related to the health of our coastal environment, which our economy is so dependent upon. Each year, our local businesses provide support in the form of sponsorships or silent auction items for our shrimp cook-off fundraiser. Thanks to this fundraiser, hosted by Ocean Boulevard every November, our research and outreach efforts continue.

The support from local community foundations, such as the Outer Banks Community Foundation and the North Carolina Community Foundation, has allowed our research and outreach efforts to expand.

In 2020, we hope to continue to expand our research efforts on dolphins in Roanoke Sound in order to learn more about their feeding behavior, habitat use, and health.

We also hope to continue to document more calves in the sound, possibly brothers or sisters to older calves we have gotten to know in past years. Our wish list for 2020 includes funds for boat gas, boat maintenance, and outreach programs. In addition, we hope to expand our volunteer program allow more local residents to volunteer out on the water and meet our local dolphins as well as increase our outreach efforts by offering more internship opportunities and local school programs. We look forward to what 2020 brings.

Biologist Jessica Taylor is president of the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research. Taylor has a bachelors of science degree in marine science from Rutgers University and a masters of coastal environmental management from Duke University. She has participated in several field research studies of bottlenose dolphins, humpback whales, Stellar sea lions, and predatory fish in Florida, South Carolina, Australia, Alaska, and New Jersey. In 2008, she incorporated the nonprofit Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research, which is dedicated to conservation of bottlenose dolphins in the Outer Banks.

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