Sunday, June 11th, 12:50AM (Saturday night)
Weekends at the lab are much less formal than weekdays. When I arrived at 11AM, there was only something like 3 or 4 people there, most of whom actually live there full time. On weekdays, thered often be 20 some people at the lab, so having so few people around was sort of strange. They only have 2 feeding sessions on weekend days, but the dolphins get the same amount as they normally would because they double number of fish for the two sessions.
Sean has been great in describing some of the things the lab has done for research. Theyve done a bunch of studies into language, and actually trained Phoenix with an acoustic language relating to objects and actions. The problem was that when Phoenix tried to respond to questions, no real time response was possible since humans cant hear into a dolphins full acoustic range and youd need a computer to analyze the sound to give you an answer for it. Eventually, she just got bored of the lack of interaction and didn't want to do it anymore. They also trained Ake with a gestured language relating to objects, and Ake could actually respond to whether an object was present or not present. In one example, when asked to bring the Frisbee to the person, and there was no Frisbee in the tank, she actually brought the person to the "no" paddle without ever being trained to do that. Sean says that without a doubt its commonly assumed that Akeakamai is the smartest, or at least most educated, non-human on the planet. Apparently people have tried to recreate the experiments done in this lab without any success at all. I guess this facilitys training philosophies are better or the dolphins are just more eager to do things. Whatever it is, this is definitely the worlds most respected and advanced dolphin research facility. I feel very lucky to be part of it for even a short time.
One of the new interns, Rachel, asked if I could film her "training practice" session for her. Since I had nothing better to do, I said itd be no problem. I was actually hoping that the informal style of the day would allow me to maybe help out with the feeding somehow, but I guess that was always a long shot. Oh well, maybe some other time.
You could see that Rachel hadn't done many of these types of sessions. She was working with Phoenix, who had been having trouble doing front and back summersaults properly, so Rachels "task" was to have her do a front summersault and then immediately after do a back summersault. Interns are assigned these tasks as part of learning to become a trainer. She spent nearly the whole session working on it, but you could tell that Rachel wasn't totally confident in what she was doing while trying to complete the task. She didnt seem to be making the right decisions for what to tell Phoenix to do to complete the routine properly. She spent close to a half-hour trying different things unsuccessfully, only to have her supervisor walk in and get Phoenix to do it the first time. To be fair though, Rachel had already given Phoenix a good idea of what she wanted her to do, so the trainer was just finishing off the routine. As with many things, Im sure something like this takes a while to get good at, and it's easy for me to stand there and criticize while she actually had to do it.
Sean and I decided to stick around and have a barbecue with a bunch of the guys from the lab in the front lanai section. It was dark when we got back from Safeway with the stuff we needed, which was quite a change from the normal blazing sun of the daytime that I was used to.
A number of times all four dolphins came up to the windows for some attention, an extreme rarity during the day. Now it seemed like they always wanted attention, just to kind of hang out with you with no other reason than just for the company. Theyd kind of float there beside me with their eyes half closed and would whistle and click at me softly.. Quite a few times tonight I saw Akeakamai or Elele lift their pectoral flipper up in the air like they were waving at me. Sean thought they probably learned that from us humans, since we are always waving at them. Its neat when you get to interact with the dolphins in that way, when you know they have no other reason to do it than just to be with you.
Sean and I decided not to follow the rest of the guys to the nuddie bars (it was Brians birthday) since both of us expected to be up rather early in the morning. So much for that idea, its already 1:30 and Im still typing this journal. Anyway, instead we went up with some of the labs residents to watch "Two to Tango" in the conference room.
I think Ill go back to the lab tomorrow. Steve and I were going to go to Pearl Harbor tomorrow morning, but he didnt get too much sleep last night and wanted to do it another day. He went camping with a bunch of the girls from the lab to some bay where supposedly a bunch of dolphins go in the mornings. He didnt see any dolphins though, and nothing really happened, so he said I didnt miss a whole lot. Not like I could have gone anyway, I didnt even know about it until he was already leaving to go.
Theyre probably going to get sick of me at the lab, but who cares. Im paying to be here so I can do lab chores in my free time if I want to =)
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