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Dolphin Research


Life After Rescue

Helen, the Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) at the Vancouver Aquarium was rescued after becoming entangled in a fixed-fishing net. She was transported here after being confirmed unreleasable by government because of her injuries. She's now helping researchers understand how dolphins navigate underwater using sound (echolocation) and why they get caught in fishing nets. This is an important issue, as in the wild each year over 300,000 cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) die as unintended bycatch after becoming entangled in fishing gear. 

Eye Cup Study
Dolphin eye cup

Research Assistant With Fins

Echolocation is a voluntary ability that allows a dolphin to map its surroundings, even in the dark. In order to understand how this method of navigation works, Helen wore gelatin-based eyecups like a blindfold. Researchers were then able to observe her avoiding obstacles and retrieving objects. The next step will be to see how she detects various nets hidden behind a thin screen that blocks light but not sound. 

A Glimpse Of Life
In The Ocean

There are close to one million Pacific white-sided dolphins in the North Pacific Ocean, but we still know very little about how they live. Until recently, they were too far offshore for researchers to study on a regular basis. Now that they’ve returned to coastal waters, we’re starting to learn more about them. 

Dolphin Research

How Many Calories Does
It Take To Survive? 

The Pacific white-sided dolphins at the Aquarium give researchers intimate observation opportunities that wouldn’t be possible in the ocean. One researcher constructed a breathing chamber that sat on the surface of the dolphin habitat, which the dolphins swam in and out of freely. She measured how much oxygen a dolphin used at rest when it entered the chamber. This told her how many calories a dolphin needs to survive. She was able to confirm that Pacific white-sided dolphins have high energy requirements, which may make them more susceptible to the consequences of overfishing or climate change if they can’t find enough high-quality food. 

Support Marine 
Mammal Research

Your donation to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre will help fund important research. Research will lead to a better understanding of marine mammals and the conservation measures necessary to protect them.

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Interested in learning more about how cetaceans at the Aquarium are contributing to research? View a list of our publications


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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

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