Over the past six months, students in the Upper School's Field Studies Signature Academic Program have frequented the Island Dolphin Care (IDC) facilities in Key Largo as part of their marine mammals behavior research. The group has been working side by side with IDC staff to develop research protocol which will serve as the foundation for a variety of future research projects.
During these visits, students monitored the dolphins in the lagoon and collected behavioral data using ethograms. One major challenge was learning to identify individual dolphins based on their dorsal fins and other unique features. Through pictures and videos, and with the help of IDC staff, students learned the names and distinct features of the eight dolphins at the facilities.
On May 20, Gulliver students presented their work to Middle School students from Key Largo School. The day included a tour of the facilities, a presentation on dolphin anatomy and behavior, and a student-led data collection session.
Next year, Field Studies students will continue to expand on the program and develop new tools and educational materials for schools and children in hospital outreach programs. IDC is not a typical "swim with the dolphins" facility; it is, in fact, a therapy center for children with disabilities including cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome. Gulliver's GOALS Club, which provides opportunities for children on the autism spectrum to enjoy exercise through soccer and various games, has also visited the facility. Recently, IDC was accredited to provide services for veterans with PTSD.