TDI 2001Home124567891012131415fin

Thursday, May 24th, 2001

I don't know where to start describing today. We arrived at lab at around 8:35, just in time for presession. Scott informed us during presession that there was a press meeting scheduled outside the lab at around 9 am, so things might get shuffled around a little to accomodate any possible media requests.
Here's a great shot of the lab (click for bigger picture)
Apparently, a local lady with animal rights Hawaii had started spreading information about the lab that could possibly be taken in the wrong context, and had managed to get media attention to these facts. Dr. Pack was on hand to deal with the outrageous number of phone calls and reporters the lab had received early on.

People around the lab were very confused, almost angry, that someone would be willing to spread information in a negative light about our particular facility. I know I personally was very saddened that someone would try to bring down such a well run, highly productive and sucessfull facility that is so important and has contributed so much to our understanding of the animals they study. We all wanted to help out as much as we could, but there wasn't much we could do outside of cleaning up around the facility to make it look even better. It's very disheartening that such a small group of individuals can manage to sway public opinion away from the absolutely amazing work and excellent animal care practices of this facility where the people spreading this info have never even been inside the facility.

First session and second session were changed from research into "free" sessions to accomodate the potential for media coverage. We basically just sat around and watched the trainers work with their dolphins and tried to help out where we could to deal with the situation. I tried to take some pictures, but didn't have much luck today for some reason.

All three dolpins enjoy a free play session with their trainers (click for bigger picture)
After the cameraperson had left the lab, I had a local with Phoenix to replace the one I was supposed to have yesterday with Haipo. Phoenix had been sitting around for quite a while that session, and wasn't interested in doing much unfortunately. She did eventually do everything I asked her. I think the dolphins have a different attitude towards a session when there are two people on the stand. I'm getting a little more comfortable being up there with the dolphins, and the behaviours that I want to try come to me more easily now. This means there's a lot less time spent sitting there thinking of what to do and that usually helps to maintain a good attitude with the dolphin you're working with. When you give Phoenix a sign she doesn't particularly feel like doing, she'll just sit there for a few seconds and stare at you like she's saying, "You REALLY want me to do that?", but then she'll go off and do it. I don't see this from the dolphins very much when there's only one trainer on the stand. It's possible maybe Phoenix is waiting for the other trainer to encourage her a little further, who knows. I know I'm not the only one to have this problem during locals.

Everyone else was busy helping with the language session so I couldn't get any video of the session. Oh well. The only thing worth talking about was how Phoenix reacted to a combination I gave to her: spit tailwave straightjump. She went off, a little confused the first time, so I signaled again. She went off, jumped out of the water and spat out water, but then she brought her tail around and ended up doing a twisting jump instead. Alanna agreed it wasn't what I asked for, so I asked for it again. Same thing. She came back, and I gave her the tail wave command. She did that no problem. Then I asked for a tailwave striaghtjump again. She went off, jumped up, waved her tail a bit, but she still did more of a twisting jump than a straight jump. I think maybe she has trouble waiting until her tail's out of the water before she waves it around, and as a result she ends up pushing herself a little further out of the water than she wants and this results in a jump that looks like a twisting jump.
Sophie working with Phoenix before I had my local (click for bigger picture)
This combo actually raised her spirits a little and helped her to do a few higher energy behaviours that I asked for after that.

One other thing I made a point of noticing today was how Phoenix's eye looked. I've been trying since last year to get a better idea of how a dolphin eye actually looks compared to what I thought it looked like. They have a white part of the eye like us, and a majority of their eye is a darker, almost brown colour. It almost looks like what gasoline looks like floating in water, like what you see in puddles sometimes from oil and such. It's sort of a rainbowy, inconsistant look with no defined points of light entry. I've known since last year that a dolphin's eye has two openings in it in a sort of horseshoe shape to allow light to enter, but I've never actually seen this on the dolphins until today. Why it is that their iris, that darker, rainbowy part of the eye tends to glow when you shine light in there, still confuses me. Normally seeing light reflect like that means you're seeing the retina reflecting light. I'll have to ask about this. Her eye looked really cool anyway...

At lunch, Brian gave us a lecture into bioaccoustics and how a dolphin's sounds are composed. He looked at the frequencies of the whistles a dolphin produces and the frequencies of the echolocation clicks, and tried to explain technically how it is a dolphin's echolocation works by showing us the echo that is produced when the click hits the object being inspected. He demonstrated that different objects of different densities will reflect sound at different rates and produce a different reflection sound. This would allow the dolphin to determine the material of the object it's inspecting, and explains why a dolphin can tell the difference between objects of different materials.
Becca works with Ake during the language session (click for bigger picture)
He also talked about signature whistles and their relevance to a dolphin's social structure with it's family and other dolphins.

Third session, it was decided that it'd be a good idea to bring in one of the TV stations to record some of the stuff the lab does to go with whatever story they were running about the lab. This way, hopefully people will get to see the great nature of the facility along with any other information they're being told. Since the most famous stuff the lab does is language research, this is what we did third session. It was absolutely great to see this kind of stuff being run. Probably the best thing about it, is seeing just how much Akeakamai enjoys doing it. She LOVES it. I guess she likes the challenge of it or something, because the minute the sign is given, she rushes off to do whatever it is she is asked as quickly as she can. Ake is usually quite enthusiastic towards anything she's asked to do, but nothing like I saw today.

After third session, we ran an angular resolution session with Hiapo. He was actually in a very good mood today after his initial few minutes of not stationing - standard issue for H man. My job was to help get the apparatus changed for each trial and hand the sets of vertical bars to Leonard, who was putting them on the rack to be displayed to Hiapo. We ran 30 trials and Hiapo was very consistant in how he reacted to the changes in the bars compared to last time. Brian was very happy and said a number of times how great the data was that we got today.

This picture does little justice to how beautiful the sunset was tonight (click for bigger picture)
After we left lab, we walked over to a hotel in Waikiki to have dinner at a Japanese restaurant Julia had reserved a table at. I've had japanese food before, but never in this sort of a restaurant where the chef cooks the food in front of you. Mattias joined us again and very quickly made conversation with the chef we had... Greg. Not that it was hard to talk to him; quite the opposite. He was a rather large, native Hawaiian from the North Shore with a very outward demeener and EXCELLENT abilities with a knife. He was flipping stuff around and chopping things left, right, and center, all the while cracking jokes and laughing it up with all of us at the table. No wonder the meal was $20. It included salad, soup, vegitables, rice, entree, tea, and desert, and was worth every penny. I had the scallops hoping they would be some special kind of marinated thing or something, but even though they were just plain scallops, they were still very good. Geoff had the "chef's choice", including beef and chicken tariyaki. He was VERY impressed. With the radical chef, the great food, and the great group of people, tonight's dinner was a load of fun!

Well, tomorrow's our last full day at the lab. It's hard to think that tomorrow will be my last time to work with the dolphins, but hey, all good things must come to an end...

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