Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

Based in Sarasota, FL, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program is the world’s longest-running study of a wild dolphin population, focusing on many aspects of dolphin biology, including health, behavior, genetics, environmental change, and adverse interactions with humans. The program is unique in many respects – nowhere else in the world can researchers work with a group of wild dolphins in their natural habitat where the medical and behavioral history of each individual is so well known. “Discoveries” take place over years and decades, and knowledge about health and behavior of coastal bottlenose dolphins has been greatly enhanced by the Sarasota study. In addition to this pioneering research, the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program provides unique education and training opportunities to researchers around the world and helps establish dolphin conservation research programs in other countries.

The program is led by Chicago Zoological Society Senior Conservation Scientist Dr. Randall Wells, whose lifetime dedication to dolphins is featured in the book "Dolphin Man." 

Five Generations of Dolphins

The research focuses on five generations of bottlenose dolphins that reside year-round in Sarasota Bay. The population includes about 150 animals, most of which can be identified by Wells and his team of researchers. For 44 years, researchers have collected biological, behavioral, ecological, and health data, and the data are repeatedly used in scientific studies, as well as public policy decisions that can help protect marine animals.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Study

A study was released in December 2013 that shows a clear link between dolphin illnesses and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The study compared the health of dolphins living in an area hit hard by the spill to the health assessment of dolphins that are part of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. The data collected helped in the analysis of the impact that the oil spill has had on dolphins in the area.

Provided below is a link to an National Public Radio story about the study:

Learn more about the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program
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