Thursday, October 28, 2021

Dolphins Wow Junior Leadership Students on Eco Day

It was Eco Day for the Junior Leadership students who joined Captain Michael and Master Naturalist Bob McConville on the Dolphin Explorer. The students were wowed by 11 dolphin sightings on the Marco River.

Bob McConville, a master naturalist and part “Dolphin Whisperer,” shared his dolphin passion with everybody on board. He introduced the students and other guests to his dolphins, almost conjuring up their appearance as the dolphins seemed to appear out of nowhere to frolic alongside the boat and say hello to everybody on board. It is so fortunate for residents that these dolphins live right here in our local waters.

For easy reference, McConville has created a catalog of all the dolphins on the Marco River making it easy to tell one dolphin from the other from their fin markings. According to McConville, as they come up for air, we see the fins on their backs called dorsal fins. When they play with each other, they actually nip or bite each other’s dorsal fin similar to the way puppies do when they play. Looking at the dorsal fins, you see nicks and scratches and that is how you can tell one dolphin from another – these markings are like personal fingerprints.

Adult dolphin females often give birth to calves at 3-4 year intervals, and reach sexual maturity between 5 and 10 years of age. The adult males are the big boys and the sub-adults are the baby dolphins who will stay with their moms for three to four years before going out on their own.

In February, the Junior Leadership students spent History Day at the Marco Island Historical Museum learning about the Key Marco artifacts and the Key Marco Cat. Although the half feline and half human Marco Cat wood carving stands at only six inches tall, it is viewed as one of the finest pieces of Pre-Colombian Native American Art ever discovered.

In March, the students experienced Police/Fire Rescue Day, spending an active morning where they got to be “firefighters” and put out a fire, and climb on top of a fire truck.

April was Beach/Earth Day visiting the “wilder” side of Marco Island. They crossed Tigertail Lagoon to get to the Gulf side of Sand Dollar Island for a glimpse of the unique ecology of this critical wildlife area.

The Junior Leadership Program is a collaboration between the Optimist Club of Marco Island and the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce. According to Jayme Lowe of the Optimist Club, this program is a wonderful way for the students to experience the many aspects of Marco Island that make is so special. The program is limited to only 12 students.

For more information for the 2020 session, please contact Donna Niemczyk, Chamber of Commerce at 239-394-7549 or Jayme Lowe of the Optimist Club at 239-249-4923.

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