“There are dolphins here, and there’s breeding and birthing going on, and this is connected to D.C. — such a populated, urban area,” Ann-Marie Jacoby, associate director of the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project, said on a recent morning while scanning the lower Potomac from the 18-foot skiff that serves as a research vessel. River Otters There are about a thousand dolphins in the Potomac River. Donations help us in our mission to better understand and protect the Potomac-Chesapeake dolphins. Surprised, a group of men grabbed their guns and hopped into some … In August they also witnessed a bottlenosed dolphin giving birth in the river which is something that has rarely been observed in the wild, let alone in a once-polluted river like the Potomac. “Over the past four years, researchers from Georgetown University’s Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project have been cataloguing dolphins in the lake-like area where the Potomac joins the Chesapeake Bay, reports Bruillard for the Post. We depend on ad revenue to craft and curate stories about the world’s hidden wonders. Press alt + / to open this menu. The biologist says her team observes the dolphins in the Potomac River between April and October, with numbers peaking during the summer months. Jacoby and a Georgetown graduate student were present at the dolphin birth on Aug. 17. Due to their environs, Mann decided to name all of the Potomac-Chesapeake dolphins after American political figures. 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The roughly 1,000 wild bottlenose dolphins using the area have been recorded traveling as far up the Potomac as the Rt. Sections of this page. Dolphins were once a common site in the Potomac, along with bald eagles and other striking species, but by the 1960s that was no longer the case. Mann and her research team, most of them student volunteers, have been focused on the dolphins’ presence in the Potomac, working to understand how many there are and why they come. Naturecultures is a weekly column that explores the changing relationships between humanity and wilder things. Dolphins are making their way through the Potomac River off the coast of Washington, D.C., and scientists are looking to the public for names to give the migrating mammals. Ongoing research by the Potomac-Cheseapeake Dolphin Project—the first of its kind, headed up by the bottlenose expert Janet Mann of Georgetown University—has counted around 500, and the numbers keep climbing. How do warming waters affect their movements? Follow us on social media to add even more wonder to your day. Chesapeake Bay researchers have said they have counted more than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins congregating near the Potomac River, according to The Washington Post. I think Alexander Hamilton was there, too.”. When George Washington chose to build his Mount Vernon estate along the Potomac River, he declared the then-pristine body of water “the nation’s river.” At the time, even dolphins were a … They're bottlenose dolphins, too! Jacoby believes that citizen involvement can lead to a sort of trickle-up effect. Officials with the Potomac Conservancy said there’s roughly 1,000 dolphins have been identified swimming in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Approximately 1,000 bottlenose dolphins have been spotted living and mating in the Potomac river this year. Offer available only in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico). But now, after decades of environmental restoration efforts the tide appears to have turned and the dolphins are coming back. Several dolphin births have been recorded in captivity. As dolphins are currently returning to our waters, learn from expert Ann-Marie Jacoby of the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin … “We’re now moving on to Supreme Court justices.” They also have some catchup work to do: “Now that we have a new president, we’re naming a dolphin after [him],” says Jacoby. Sign Up. In July of 1844, a pod of bottlenose dolphins showed up in the Potomac River. River Otters. The Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project has documented over 1,200 dolphins in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac. See more of Potomac Conservancy on Facebook. She was in Washington and learned of the birth via a text message from Jacoby. Dolphins frolic again in the Potomac River. The first was Benjamin Franklin, because, she explained, “he was a scientist! The researchers take photos of each animal for a sort of dolphin yearbook; those are also added to a vast Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalogue managed by Duke University, where Jacoby is a doctoral student. Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project surveys dolphins in about 14 square miles of the Potomac. Most of what is known about dolphin births comes from seeing them in captivity: After being folded in the womb, newborns’ fins are bent to side and their bodies marked with lines. The photograph above is by Megan Wallen (G’17), while the other photos of dolphins were taken by graduate student Ann-Marie Jacoby (C’13). Donations are used for direct costs only including field operations (gas, boat servicing, field supplies, etc) and research personnel. “If you can get the general public involved in your science, they’re going to care more,” she says. Tags Potomac River Chesapeake Bay Dolphins marine life View the discussion thread. “These are the nation’s dolphins, in a sense,” she said. Dolphins are swimming, mating and birthing babies in the Potomac River While it’s still questionable whether the Potomac is safe for humans, one species of animal is thriving in the river waters: dolphins. Learn why the aquatic creatures are venturing into these local waterways from the project’s lead researcher: Janet Mann, biology and psychology professor at Georgetown University and author of Deep Thinkers: Inside the Minds of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises . An outbreak of cetacean morbillivirus that killed thousands of dolphins along the Mid-Atlantic from 2013 to 2015 convinced Mann and her colleagues that the animals deserved study. More grey matter means more complex social interactions. Now, Potomac River dolphin researchers want your help in naming two of its bottlenose visitors. The baby was named after her daughter, Gwendolyn Mink, a feminist policy scholar and author. Love. “Nobody has really studied them until recently… That came as sort of a shock to us.” Initial research suggests that the dolphins don’t live there full-time, instead moving in and out as the seasons change, perhaps splitting off from a massive migratory group that swims down the East Coast. All the photographs in this story were taken under NMFS Permit No. After rounding up funding, a boat, and cameras, the Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project launched in 2015. But sightings have been scarcer in recent times, and outside the Beltway. She said the project makes sure to keep things bipartisan. The Potomac River is our backyard, drinking fountain, and playground. Most of the dolphins are around the mouth of the river, but as the Potomac gets cleaner, they’re starting to head north — some have been sighted … © 2020 Atlas Obscura. They may be named after presidents and justices, but Jacoby and her fellow researchers are hoping the dolphins will act as something else: ambassadors. 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