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IMB Seminar Series: Marcelo Magnasco

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 12:00pm

SAIL Room, 111 Levin Building (425 S. University Avenue)

Marcelo Magnasco
Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience, Rockefeller University

Opening a quantitative window onto the mind and communication of dolphins

Dolphins exhibit complex patterns of social behavior and communication, yet a quantitative understanding of their behavior has thus far proved elusive due to our technological limitations in tracking dolphin populations, their communication signals and behavior. We has overcome a number of challenges for the study of dolphin communication both in field and in the aquarium. In Belize, our research out of the Blackbird Caye field station of the Oceanic Society centers on the study of a population of resident coastal dolphins. In this site we concentrate on the use of technology to enhance our surveying ability, deploying aerial and marine unmanned vehicles (“drones”). The expansion into new technologies such as drones allows for collection of high quality data while minimizing the exposure of the animals to the research vessel. This data is also used to assess the anthropogenic impact of research surveys on animals of interest. In Bimini, our studies center on understanding bowriding behavior, particularly as a social activity, in the population of resident spotted Atlantic dolphins. Surveys here are conducted both from the vessel and by divers in the water taking photo and video footage of the animals. Studies at the national aquarium in Baltimore allow us to conduct experiments to assess the cognitive capabilities of bottlenose dolphin through experimental work. At the Aquarium, we have implemented a 24/7 monitoring system in order to observe the behavior of the animals from all angles. Additionally, an advanced hydrophone array allows us to localize vocalizations from all points in the tank. Currently, we are investigating the abilities of dolphins to perform tasks in high synchronicity, even when these tasks are novel. We are also interested in elucidating the spatial associations between individuals, and how individuals travel together according to the degree to which they are related to one another. In this talk, I will discuss challenges and progress in quantifying the rich world of dolphin communication..

The talk will begin at 12:00pm. A pizza lunch will be served at 11:45am.