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Help needed to continue dolphin research

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Molly Jubitz

Cedar Key Librarian

The “slow” season is beginning at the Cedar Key Public Library and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Cedar Key Librarian Molly Jubitz said she expects the library will look and feel different and be the comfortable, warm, inviting learning environment people have come to enjoy in Cedar Key.

Meanwhile, a friend who has been part of the lecture series for many years has asked for help that would allow her to continue her research in Cedar Key.

Dr. Stefanie Gazda has done research on the area’s bottleneck dolphin population since 2001 and has accumulated valuable data on our special population. She’s planning to enhance her research with another season of work, but she needs some help to reach her financial goals to make that happen.

“Dr. Gazda has presented her ongoing research findings in a number of lectures to our group over the years. Much of her initial work revolved around the very different feeding behavior exhibited by ‘our’ dolphins that is not seen elsewhere on the planet,” Jubitz said in letter to friends of the library members.

Dr. Gazda wrote in an appeal for donors that she has three goals for the summer.

• To continue my surveys of dolphins in the Cedar Key area.

* To initial survey Dixie and Taylor counties, which are sites covered by the new Marine Mammal Rescue program at UF. I am the only member of this program with any knowledge of the local dolphin population and the area in general. We know nothing about the dolphin populations in Dixie and Taylor counties at all. We need to determine if surveying the area is even feasible, and then collect baseline data that we can use as the basis of longer term research projects.

* To assist and to train the Marine Mammal Rescue team members on how to navigate the waters in the area as well as how to collect data in a useable way.

“As many of you know, I have been doing research on the bottlenose dolphins of the Nature Coast area, mostly Cedar Key, since 2001,” Dr. Gazda stated. “This work is important for many reasons: dolphins are frequently thought of as ocean sentinels, which means that what affects them likely affects humans as well. Having this research continue with little interruption is also important, as it is the only way we can get information on this long-lived species.”

Gazda currently has some funding from the University of Florida, but not have enough to sustain a field season. She has set up a GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/ckdolphinproject.

“If I can get $2.500, I will be able to come to Cedar Key for 4 weeks. If I can get $4,000, I will be able to come for eight weeks. Funds will be used for housing, travel, gas and equipment maintenance,” she wrote.

“As of April 27, Dr. Gazda has raised about 85 percent of the funds needed for housing and expenses of one month of research,” Jubitz stated. “Additional funding will allow her to extend her season to through the second month.”

Jubitz said research has been associated with the pre- and post-oil spill environments in the Gulf of Mexico, genetic information on the animals, their food sources and more. In addition, Dr. Gazda has been working with the Cedar Key Friends of the Library to produce an educational panel featuring Cedar Key’s bottlenose dolphins, which will join other panels on the A Street walkway adjacent to the city beach and the tour boat docks.