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Photo of Dolphin Tales movie poster and dolphin. Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros (left) and Clearwater Marine Aquarium (right).This Just In: One alum saved this cetacean movie star. Another is the "world’s leading authority on the species." — Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros (left), Photo by Clearwater Marine Aquarium (right).


If dolphins could write thank you notes, the star of the new film "Dolphin Tale" might be inclined to send one to Nicole Meyer (M.A., ’08), senior animal care specialist at Sea World in Orlando, Fla. According to the Brush Tribune News, in 2005 Meyer was part of the rescue team that freed the then-two-month-old dolphin from a crab trap that had crushed her tail. Transported to the Clearwater Marine Hospital, Winter the dolphin struggled to swim with only a stump and overcame numerous obstacles until she was fitted with a first-of-its-kind prosthetic tail. Now six-years-old, Winter is the portrait of marine mammal health and an inspiration to those who have adjusted to their own disabilities.

Photo of alumna Denise L. Herzing in the ocean. Photo courtesy of Denise Herzing.Photo courtesy of Denise Herzing.

While Meyer helped send one dolphin on a remarkable journey of rehabilitation and recovery, another alumna marine biologist was just profiled in The New York Times "as the world’s leading authority on the species." For the past 25 years, Denise L. Herzing (M.A., ’88) has been studying a pod of dolphins off the coast of Jupiter, Fla. After capturing three generations of their lives on video, she is embarking on an ambitious goal: "real-time two-way communication, in which dolphins take the initiative to interact with humans."

The next phase of her research will place two divers in front of these marine mammals. One diver will sound a whistle and then hand the other a scarf or a piece of seaweed. If the divers can establish an association between sound and object, Herzing hopes the dolphins will imitate the whistle to ask the divers for the objects. While dolphins have long performed tasks for the reward of food, this would find them seeking "to communicate with humans, and the reward will be social interaction itself."


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