Our Impact

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The activities of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program (SDRP) officially began on October 3, 1970, when the first bottlenose dolphins were tagged by Blair Irvine in Sarasota Bay. The subsequent discovery of long-term, year-round residency of a community of bottlenose dolphins set the stage for the development of an unparalleled program of research, conservation, and education.

Today, the Program conducts cutting-edge research on high-profile animals and their ecosystem, engages with the public and stakeholders through education and outreach, trains tomorrow’s conservationists, and combines these activities to achieve conservation action for dolphins in Sarasota Bay and around the world.

The program leverages these accomplishments by complementing the activities of its small staff with strong collaborations with experts in a variety of scientific fields who have recognized the unique opportunities provided by working in the Sarasota Bay natural laboratory established by the SDRP. Over the course of 50 years of research, we have documented six generations of resident dolphins, through the efforts of three generations of researchers.

The Multifaceted Significance of Our Work

  • In the United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has used the Program’s findings to improve protective measures for bottlenose dolphins throughout the Southeastern United States.
  • NOAA also uses the Sarasota dolphins as a reference population for comparisons with more at-risk populations to identify and define impacts of natural and human-induced phenomena, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and red tide harmful algal blooms.
  • Techniques, approaches, and tools developed, tested, and refined with Sarasota dolphins — such as satellite, and research methods — have greatly enhanced research capabilities locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Training and education opportunities afforded by the SDRP have increased conservation capacity in the U.S. and in many countries around the world.
  • Along the west coast of Florida, the Program leads and participates in rescues of entangled and out-of-habitat dolphins; these rescues support future generations of dolphins and help to maintain populations.
  • The information from detailed studies of behavior, health, and ecology of the Sarasota dolphins benefits the care of dolphins in zoological parks and aquaria around the world.