Eric Conger and Tita Curtin Help Examine the Health of Gulf Coast Bottlenose Dolphins

Two College of Charleston seniors spent their summer as part of a research team examining the health of wild bottlenose dolphins in Florida and Louisiana.

Eric Conger, a marine biology major, and Tita Curtin, a public health major, worked with Leslie Hart ’03 (M.S.), associate professor of public health and director of the College’s B.A. program in public health, to determine exposure to plastic pollution and possible health impacts on wild dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, and Barataria Bay, Louisiana.

Both students participated in bottlenose dolphin health assessments, helping collect and process the samples used for their research. Working on boats that served as floating laboratories, Curtin’s job was to process samples of blood, blubber, urine and skin collected from more than 20 dolphins during the trips.

Conger’s experience was completely different. He was in the water with the dolphins as a handler so that veterinarians could collect the samples: “Most of the time I was holding a dolphin and helping to keep it calm and still while the sampling was taking place.”

Both students are using this experience to write their Honors College senior research theses. Curtin plans to concentrate on exposure to chemical plasticizers in Barataria Bay dolphins, while Conger’s research will focus on microplastics in the prey fish of Sarasota Bay dolphins.


To learn more about how Eric and Tita spent their summer, check out the full article by Mike Robertson in The College Today.

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