Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program

The Galveston Bay Foundation has partnered with the Environmental Institute of Houston at the University of Houston – Clear Lake (EIH-UHCL)  to create the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program (GDRCP) in Galveston Bay, TX. The primary objectives of the GDRCP are to:

  • Implement a long-term monitoring program for the bottlenose dolphins in Galveston Bay.
  • Conduct research on the ecology and behavior of Galveston Bay dolphins, with a particular focus on the upper Galveston Bay dolphin population.
  • Study human-dolphin interactions in Galveston Bay and their impacts on both dolphins and people.
  • Raise awareness about Galveston Bay dolphins and their habitats in Galveston Bay communities.

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Current Focus on Upper Galveston Bay and Houston Ship Channel


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In December 2015, GDRCP presented at the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s 21st Biennial (Click here to view post).
Upper Galveston Bay (UGB) hosts commercial and recreational fisheries, accommodates boat traffic supporting the second-largest petro-chemical compound in the world, receives runoff from over half of Texas’ population, and is subjected to regular dredging operations. Regardless of these high levels of human activity, bottlenose dolphins are regularly seen in UGB, including the Houston Ship Channel (HSC). As habitat degradation continues in these waters, substantial research and conservation efforts are needed to better understand and protect this potentially vulnerable population.

Between August 2013 and November 2015, we conducted 28 boat-based observational surveys in UGB and HSC.   During these surveys, 670 dolphins were sighted in 109 groups. A total of 304 dolphins have distinct marks, cuts, and /or notches on their dorsal fins that can be used for individual identification. Of these “marked” dolphins, 43% were sighted more than once, suggesting that at least some dolphins frequent and may reside in UGB. We are continuing these surveys to learn more about the dolphins’ habitat preferences, seasonal movements, and population numbers.

Do you fish, boat, or do any other activities in upper Galveston Bay?
Take a short survey asking about your interactions with dolphins in upper Galveston Bay!

Please contact Dr. Vanessa Mintzer for more information about the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research and Conservation Program.

eih-watermark-logo-darkTo learn more about our partner, EIH, please visit their website

Our efforts are part of the Texas Bottlenose Dolphin Research Collaborative a cooperative network of scientists and institutions facilitating the creation of a long-term monitoring program with goals to provide population distribution and abundance estimates, identify natural and human generated risks and establish baseline health parameters for Texas bay, sound, estuary and near-coastal bottlenose dolphins. In addition to the EIH-UHCL and GBF, current collaborators include Baylor UniversityTexas A&M – Galveston, Texas Sealife Center –Corpus Christi, and Texas A&M – Corpus Christi.

A special thanks to our GDRCP sponsors:

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