Mr. Sparky

The longest-running study of any wild dolphin population in the world will continue in Sarasota Bay thanks to a five-year, one million dollar Dolphin Research Grant.

The One million dollar grant from the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation to the Chicago Zoological Society will help fund ongoing research into the lives of Sarasota Bay’s Dolphins.

“We have many individuals that we’ve been studying for their entire lifetimes,” Dr. Wells said. “We’re out there observing their parents when the kids are born. And can determine when their born. We work closely with Mote Marine Lab’s stranding investigation program to help them recover and understand why dolphins die.”

Director of the Sarasota Dolphin research program Dr. Randall Wells says their research has been used as a control group for research around the world.

“For example with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” Dr. Wells said. “NOAA came to us to serve as a reference population, and there was difference in the health and the survival and the reproductive patterns that were observed between Sarasota Dolphins and those in Louisiana.”

Researches still have a lot to learn.

“We’re still trying to understand what it is that attaches populations of dolphin to particular real estate,” Wells said. “Even in the face severe threats to their continued existence and that’s going to be key to being able to protect them in the future.”

And Dolphin research could provide information on how the environment will affect humans.

“These are large mammals that live in our backyard,” Dr. Wells said. “They breathe the same air, they swim through the same water, they eat the same fish, and environmental changes that impact them are likely to impact us.”

The grant was part of $2.1 million dollars in grants that also will benefit schools and children’s programs.