Biscayne Bay Bottlenose Dolphin
Biscayne Bay is a shallow body of water surrounded by the city of Miami and Miami Beach in the north and encompasses Biscayne National Park in the south. It is a hotspot for a wide range of human activities, both recreational and commercial, causing the Bay to become highly congested with boat traffic and noise. Biscayne Bay also serves as important habitat for a number of commercially important and protected species, including bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Over the past two decades, Biscayne Bay has undergone many changes, including the dredging of Port Miami, large-scale seagrass die-offs, re-routing of storm pumps, increased development, and extreme climatic events. Little is known about how these changes have impacted the resident bottlenose dolphins.
In collaboration with the NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center, this project will investigate the impacts of these disturbances and environmental changes on the habitat use and distribution of bottlenose dolphins within the Bay. Specifically, we study how environmental changes affect the spatial distribution, habitat use and behavior of bottlenose dolphins and their prey. More specifically, we model the distribution of these animals in relation to environmental parameters and prey distribution, their feeding ecology and their social structure. Ultimately, we aim at understanding how environmental changes affect the ecological importance and group dynamics of species as a model system. This project will be important to understand the resilience of resident dolphin populations inhabiting urban estuaries during periods of habitat degradation and environmental change.