There are a number of ongoing research projects at Dolphin Marine Magic that are helping us to better understand the marine environment and the animals that inhabit it.
One of our major projects is looking into exactly how odontocetes, that is toothed whales, hear. Cetaceans have many special adaptations that allow them to successfully survive and thrive in the marine environment, and one of these adaptions is their ears. Unlike humans, cetacean ears are inside their head and they use special acoustic fats in their jaw, rather than an external ear canal, to detect sound. Despite all we know about these animals, exactly how they hear is still a mystery to us. Without knowing this, we cannot predict how human based activities like shipping and sonar impact upon these animals. When you consider that these animals spend much of their time in environments of reduced light looking for food, hearing is pretty important. The project is a collaborative effort with various universities and government departments and is focusing on the anatomical variations of the ears between species.
Other projects include, with Southern Cross University we assisted in the collection of neonate dolphin vocalizations- Hydrophones were used to collect dolphin vocalizations before, during and immediately after birth. Behaviours were simultaneously recorded to see if there was any correlation between the vocalizations recorded and the behaviours conducted. This project is still ongoing, but we have data that is very exciting.
With the University of NSW, an analysis of what is normal gastrointestinal flora in pinnipeds (Seals) - Faecal samples from wild and captive pinnipeds have been collected and faecal cultures performed. The identification of normal gastrointestinal flora will aid in the diagnosis of intestinal disease and the process of predicting the impacts that human interaction may have upon wild populations.
Assessments of Pinniped reproductive hormones from faecal analysis - Faecal samples from captive marine mammals are being collected to analyse sex hormones and establish baseline levels. This research is ongoing with Charles Sturt University.
Other Projects are:
- The ‘Economic Value of the Pet Porpoise Pool on the Coffs Coast Regional Economy: An Exploratory Input-Output Analysis’ 2010 - Southern Cross University.
- ‘Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Education Provided on Dolphins at Pet Porpoise Pool’ 2010 – University of Western Sydney.
- ‘Environmental enrichment conditions for Australian and New Zealand Fur seals and Australian Sea lions, and the effects of these on their ability to display natural behaviours in a captive environment’ - University of Western Sydney.
- The ‘Dolphin Tourism Project’ aims to better understand the expectations, motivations and attitudes of dolphin wildlife park visitors, what they value about their experiences, any preference for wild-based or captive dolphin experiences, and the things they felt were most important about the activities in which they participated-Southern Cross University.
- Involment in a preliminary study of progesterone and oestradiol in faeces of female Australian Sea Lion through the University of Sydney, NSW.