Undergraduate Research in the Southern California Bight
As an undergraduate student at San Diego State University, I devoted two years to assisting CBL graduate students and faculty on a number of field research projects including thesis projects by Lynne Barre and John Day (Barre and Defran 1995, Day and Defran 1995 ). The goal of all our work was an analysis of the behavioral ecology of bottlenose dolphins in the Southern California Bight. Fieldwork for these projects consisted of systematic sampling of dolphin behavior and movement patterns from both land and boat-based observation platforms. During this time I acquired training in small boat operation in an oceanic environment, tracking schools of dolphins and classifying their behavior, and in many aspects of archiving, analyzing and displaying data from this research. My senior project examined dolphin behavioral activities as a function of several environmental variables within the San Diego study area.
Research in Turneffe Atoll, Belize
From March 1995 to March 1996 I conducted a research project studying Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the waters of Turneffe Atoll, Belize. This research project, which was a cooperative venture between and the Oceanic Society, involved collection of photoidentification and acoustical data as a means of examining the population parameters, social ecology and whistle repertoire of dolphins in the atoll Campbell et al. 1997. The photographic data I collected during 1995 and 1996 has been integrated with similar data collected in Turneffe Atoll between 19921994, and a manuscript summarizing the findings of the four-year study will be submitted for journal publication this Fall.
Research in the Drowned Cayes region of Belize
In February 1997, I returned to Belize to start a new research project studying Atlantic bottlenose dolphins along the barrier reef and around the "Drowned Cayes." This project represented the next phase of our long-term photoidentification study of dolphins in the Belizean region. The data collected during this research has offered us the opportunity to learn more about the population parameters and social ecology of bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the coral reef/mangrove/seagrass habitat characteristic the Belizean region Campbell 1998. We are currently carrying out comparisons between Drowned Keys sightings the 81 individuals photographically identified in the Turneffe Atoll study area, 16 km to the east. These comparisons should allow us to gain further insight into the range and residence patterns of the Turneffe dolphins. Our newest graduate student, Kecia Kerr, recently began her masters thesis research in the Drowned Cayes region and she plans to spend the next 12-16 months collecting additional photographic data in this area.
Research on Baleen Whales
While bottlenose dolphins have been the focus of most of my research, I have also had the opportunity to work with several cetacean scientists in their studies of baleen whales. In February and March of 1998, I assisted with land and boat-based acoustic and behavioral observations of humpback whales off the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii. In June of 1998, I worked with Tom Norris conducting photoidentication surveys of blue whales off the coast of Southern California.
My thesis research project is dedicated to examining intra- and inter-population variability in the whistle structure of bottlenose dolphins from three distinct geographic locations. Acoustical data collected in Turneffe Atoll, Belize, San Diego, CA and Catalina Island, CA between September 1995 and the present is currently being analyzed. Whistle repertoire comparisons among the three proposed groups will allow a better understanding of both geographical variation and dialect formation in bottlenose dolphin whistles and may assist in refining techniques used for delphinid stock assessment.
Photo Quality Project
Mark-recapture studies are common in the cetacean literature, and in many cases the data collected from these projects is used to estimate population size. One of the primary assumptions of many population estimators is that each dolphin has an equal probability of being captured during each sampling period. Because bottlenose dolphin dorsal fins vary significantly in distinctiveness, those animals with larger and more obvious notches can often be identified in photos of lower quality than their less distinctive counterparts. In an attempt to meet the assumption of equal catchability for the Turneffe Atoll photographic data set, Kecia Kerr, Mandy Toperoff and I developed a new rating system for photographic quality based on five separate dimensions. The Kappa measure of agreement was used to confirm high reliability between the three of us as well as Kim Dudzik who functioned as an independent analyst. I am currently preparing a description our rating system so that we can share this technique with other researchers and receive feedback on its effectiveness for other studies.
While I have an interest in the scientific study of many aspects of cetacean biology, I am focused on collecting information that will assist in the conservation of cetaceans within their natural element. Over the last four years, I have given lectures on both marine and terrestrial species and I have found teaching to be a valuable tool in promoting the intelligent and conservative use of natural resources. After completing my masters degree, I plan to pursue the Ph.D. in marine mammal science and eventually work as a faculty member at a university where I can continue to participate in and direct field research.
My involvement in the marine mammal field stemmed from a deeply interest, love, and
respect for the ocean and all of its flora and fauna. Over the last ten years I have
devoted a great deal of time to surfing the waves and exploring the shores of California,
Mexico, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Costa Rica. SCUBA diving is also a love of
mine and I have recently become more involved with the experience of free diving. In the
terrestrial environment, I enjoy downhill snow skiing, hiking, camping, and traveling to
beautiful natural locations. I appreciate musical talent and I am attempting to foster my
artistic abilities through acquiring and learning to play percussion and string