Day 10
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Wednesday, June 14th, 10:15PM

I didn’t have a local today, but it was still a good day. I’m trying to get to bed early, so I’ll try to be brief in today’s entry.

John Potter, a sound specialist from Singapore, decided to come today instead of waiting until tomorrow. He seems like a nice guy, with a heavy english accent, and was very open to comment about the institute’s research. In particular, while having the angular resolution demonstrated to him, he was quick to suggest things that might improve results. Hiapo wasn’t doing too good today in this paradigm. While he answered correctly for every single trial when it was placed in front of him, whenever the bars were put in the apparatus, he couldn’t get a correct answer. This seemed totally strange since they put the sets of bars (a set of four and a set of two, separated by a gap all mounted vertically beside each other) directly in the water by hand in almost totally the same position as the apparatus. For whatever reason, Hiapo was only able to figure out the correct side when it was put under water by hand. Brian, the guy running the paradigm, was really confused. Hiapo had 100% accuracy in previous situations, but not today. Oh well. Ellie and Hiapo had 100% accuracy in the cross-modal echolocation study.

During the angular resolution paradigm, I was up in the tower timing delays between trials along with Dr. Herman, Dr. Pack, Brian, and our special guest John Potter. The "doctors" and Brian were being very serious about what was going on, and I suppose that’s understandable considering they were trying to demonstrate to their guest.
Akeakamai spitting water
Akeakamai doing a water spit. Photo-Jeff (?)
Hiapo was being trained by Jamie for the angular resolution paradigm, and Elele was being trained by a curly, long-haired dude named Mike. Mike is a great guy, enthusiastic and upbeat, and a great trainer too, but the initial impression you get from his physical appearance made him the perfect person to have caused what happened (no offense Mike). In between trials, Mike sent Elele on a bunch of side-jumps all around the tank, since apparently he was told energetic behaviours would be ok between trials. Ellie was in a high-energy mood and she caused rather large waves. Maybe she just knew she wasn’t supposed to be jumping during research and was just being a brat like usual. In any case, she caused quite a large number of waves, and Mike was completely oblivious to how bothered Dr. Pack and Dr. Herman were getting from all of this, while I personally could see the tension building in each of them beside me. Dr. Pack told Mike (after getting his attention) to "stop that" and not to do jumps during research. All three of the "doctors" and Brian were talking about the cross-modal paradigm like they were during the entire session, and things weren’t going so well at the time. They went on another break between trials, and during that break, Jamie sent Hiapo over to Mike and he spat water at him. In retaliation, Mike pointed over at Jamie and told Ellie to do a spit straight-jump. I guess he wasn’t too clear about his signal, or Ellie has a really great sense of humor, but she did a huge jump up to the tower deck and spat water all over "the doctors" and me! You should have seen how mad they were, I had to struggle not to burst out laughing! Here they are, trying to figure out the problem with the current paradyme and look as professional as possible, and some dolphin is spitting water at them! It was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever been witness to.

There are a few things worth mentioning from the cross-modal paradigm. In one of the trials, it was suggested that the object in the box be rotated 180 degrees from the one displayed visually (so it would be displayed upside-down). Sure enough, Ellie had no problem finding the right one out of the three choices. They were complex objects too, and her selection process was kind of funny. She almost went right by the correct answer, then did a double take and came back to it right away. I was impressed.

Just before the end of the session, Brian ducked inside the box and Hiapo was sent over just like previous trials. This time though, Brian’s hands were the only things in the water in the box rather than any objects. When Hiapo echo-located into the box, Brian did the butterfly hand gesture. Of course, the people watching, including myself, had no idea what Brian was doing, and seeing Hiapo do a butterfly swim after echo-locating made it seem like he was doing something wrong. Nope. He was following the hand signal in the box! It was amazing!

I spent some time watching Sean work with Akeakamai today. I thought he’d have a hard time since his collar bone is broken and can only use one arm for hand signals, but Akeakamai figured it out quickly.
Sean says goodbye to Akeakamai
He really was quite good with her too, which I suppose kind of surprised me (to be honest). He was very clear about his wishes, he gave great encouragement, and had a number of very good combinations and maneuvers. It was a little sad to see him up there though, being it was probably his last time working with Ake. He’s been here 10 months and is leaving on this Monday because of his shoulder.

Akeakamai was up to her usual tricks today between sessions. She got my attention by whistling, clicking, and tail slapping and I came over to the side of the tank. When I got there, she stuck her rostrum up close to me and opened her mouth. I thought at first she was trying to get a fish handout, but when I looked closer, I saw there was a small amount of wood in her mouth. She was obviously bringing it to me to try to get a fish, and I guess it worked. We’re supposed to reinforce anytime the dolphins bring us something from the tank that could potentially be hazardous to them. For instance, if someone dropped a pen in the tank, if the dolphins brought it to us, we’d give them all a fish for it. You have to reinforce all of them so that it’s not a competition for who gets to the pen first. We can’t reinforce everything though, since Akeakamai in particular used to take advantage of this system. She learned that paint chips would also get her a fish, so she began to peel off the paint from the tank walls and bring them out for her reward. Also, she’s been known to take an object such as a piece of paper and hide it somewhere, bringing small chunks at a time rather than the whole thing so she can get rewarded multiple times instead of just once. Clever girl!

I realize now that I should have asked a trainer to come over by this point, but at the time I didn’t think it was really necessary. I thought at the time that since she had already come to ME with the piece of wood, having me walk away would give the wrong impression. I know now it wouldn’t have made any difference if I had walked away, and I have to assume a trainer would be better suited to be dealing with a situation like this. Oh well, everything worked out fine in the end.

I took the wood out of her mouth (it was more of a splinter than a piece of wood), and took it to one of the trainers. I told one of the trainers about what had happened, and she brought over a fish for each dolphin. I was told that in the future I should ask a trainer to come over if something like this happens again. Next time I will.

Tomorrow’s another day…
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