Marine Mammal Rescue

Supporting emergency rescue of entangled or out-of-habitat marine mammals

The coastal waters and estuaries of the southeastern U.S. are home to several species of marine mammals, including bottlenose dolphins.  Unfortunately, growing coastal development and human activity are putting the health and well-being of these animals at risk. Pollution in our waterways, increased boat traffic, and marine debris–like fishing line or other trash–can cause dolphins to become sick, injured, or entangled. Even extreme weather events, like hurricanes, can impact dolphins by pushing them inland into dangerous areas and trapping them away from their natural habitat.

Our team of scientists, veterinarians, and animal care experts is dedicated to protecting and conserving marine mammals worldwide. Our rescue team is based at our Charleston, SC field station. From here, we deploy throughout the Southeast to help rescue animals that have become entangled in marine debris or displaced from their natural habitat.

This often means traveling to remote and rugged places that are flooded or have been damaged from major storms. Places like Cut Off, LA, where our team helped rescue a dolphin that found itself in a dangerous situation following Hurricane Ida. Heavy rain and a large storm surge had washed this animal nearly nearly 20 miles inland, where the dolphin became landlocked, trapped in a flooded cow pasture. Not only was the dolphin in danger from prolonged exposure to fresh and polluted water, but there were also limited food resources in the area. Luckily, working with our collaborators, we were able to successfully rescue this animal, transporting it back to a safer environment. We’re on call 24/7 to respond to these types of events.

In addition to rescuing individual animals, our team leads studies to investigate dolphin health at the population-level. Our field biologists have been monitoring Charleston’s local dolphin population for decades. And our work across the Southeast has helped develop new techniques that allow researchers to more effectively study dolphin population health. For example, we helped develop finFindR, an app that works like facial recognition for dolphins. It helps us more quickly identify individual dolphins and distinguish them from one another. 

We are dedicated to sharing our work with the local community to help spark a greater public commitment to conserving our coastal ecosystems. Through our educational programs, our scientists engage with students in schools across the region to inspire the next generation of STEAM leaders and ocean advocates.