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UNF urban dolphin research in the St. Johns River

Dolphins jumping in the waterThe University of North Florida’s Dolphin Research Program provides critical information on the population of bottlenose dolphins inhabiting Jacksonville’s estuarine waters. Over the past nine years, Dr. Quincy Gibson, program director and associate professor of biology, and her team have identified and conducted studies on the behavioral ecology of over 500 individual dolphins in the St. Johns River, approximately half of which are year-round residents.

The program is currently investigating the social structure of the urban dolphin community with an emphasis on the complexity of male mating strategies. “It’s definitely drawing the attention of researchers within the marine mammal community,” said Gibson. “When people talk about male alliances, they talk about our research on Jacksonville’s dolphins."

Gibson published two studies on the UNF Dolphin Research Program findings earlier this year in the Aquatic Mammals and Marine Mammal Science journals.

In a recent interview with The Florida Times-Union, Gibson explained that Jacksonville’s urban dolphins face unique habitat challenges such as pollution, noise, boat strikes, and algae blooms. These challenges present interesting research variables to provide insight on behavior patterns and why the dolphins continue to choose the St. Johns River as home. “Given all of the environmental concerns, there has to be something really critical and positive for them about this habitat,” Gibson said.