HBOI's HERA Team Returns From South Carolina
For the first time since 2005, FAU Harbor Branch Health and Environmental Risk Assessment (HERA) project team leaders, Steve McCulloch and Dr. Juli Goldstein returned to Charleston, SC (CHS) to lead another safe and successful HERA research effort, a continuation of a decade-long comparative study. Since it was first initiated in 2003, more than 253 dolphins have been safely captured, examined and released between the IRL and CHS estuarine regions.
The research is designed to assess individual dolphin and population health in two southeast estuarine regions and compare the environmental and anthropogenic stressors that may affect the health and long-term viability of bottlenose dolphin populations. This study provides important comparative perspectives between the two dolphin populations that inhabit both IRL and CHS estuarine coastal regions.
A team of 60 researchers captured 35 dolphins during the seven-day operation. Different than the calm shallow waters of the IRL, the CHS region is known for deeper water, strong currents, unforgiving oyster bars and far more robust dolphins, some weighing over 500 pounds.
Many of the CHS dolphins examined this year had previously been examined... some as long as ten years ago. This represents a unique opportunity to compare any health changes over an extended period of time.
HERA research is conducted under NOAA Fisheries permit No. 14352-01 issued to Dr. Greg Bossart, Senior Vice President and Chief Veterinary Officer of the Georgia Aquarium and former director of HBOI's Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program. Funding for this project was provided by a grant from the Office of Naval Research, The Low Country Institute and from donations provided by the Brockman Trust and the Georgia Aquarium to HBOI's marine mammal program.