I like dolphins…

(photos here)

My advisor told me, early on in grad school, to guard myself from being labeled a “dolphin hugger”.

For the dolphin hugger in your life, consider a declarative t-shirt

It seems that those of us who wish to learn the ways of charismatic megafauna can be dismissed as less than scientific by researchers who focus on the not so cute, the not so warm-blooded, the not so back-boned, even the not so metazoan.

I don't own this salt-pepper shaker combo...but if I did, I'd still be a real scientist!

Sometimes, when my friends in more abstract, quantitative fields explain their research to me in terminology-laced spiels, I’ll jokingly cock my head to the side, toss my hair, assume a vacant stare and inane smile, and slowly drawl in an exaggerated SoCal accent: “I like dolphins!”  But make no mistake, there are plenty of bright and brilliant minds at work studying dolphins and other charismatic megafauna.

I won’t bother making the case here that there are valid and fascinating scientific questions that can be answered by studying the “cute and cuddly”, because I think that’s obvious.  I will say that getting to be with megafauna in the field makes me deeply happy, and (prepare for hippie Tara to come out) I feel a sense of awe every time I see them, even as I’m busy collecting data on them.   I can obscure this passion in scientific papers with unemotional, dry writing and the presentation of quantitative results, but I don’t think my fascination with this creatures detracts at all from my abilities as a scientist.

And that emotional connection shouldn’t be disregarded…it’s a very real reason why people want to conserve these animals.

So, this is a not-so-serious post linking you to some photos from our first full week of Irrawaddy dolphin surveys in Malampaya Sound.  Though I’m passionate about conservation research and I do really enjoy my forays into social science research (interviewing fishers is really interesting), nothing matches the excitement of seeing those dorsal fins glide through the water.