Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station (GACFS) is located in Marineland, Fla. on the same campus as sister facility Marineland Dolphin Adventure. The facility was established in 2008 as a partnership between Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and Marineland Dolphin Adventure to support research and conservation efforts in the field.
GACFS is dedicated to the research and rescue of dolphins and small whales in the waters of north Florida. The team assists in conducting necropsies, or animal autopsies, to determine the cause of death in stranded animals. They can find anything from ingestion or entanglement in marine debris, to a variety of infectious diseases that may play a role in many stranding cases. These necropsy results give researchers vital information about the health of the waterways and how it affects the animals that live there. Should a dolphin or whale strand alive, GACFS has the capacity to triage and transport good candidates to a nearby rehabilitation facility.
The GACFS team also conducts photo identification surveys of bottlenose dolphins in the north Florida waters. By utilizing unique nicks and notches in dolphins’ dorsal fins, they are able to identify and catalog distinct individuals. These photo identification surveys help researchers keep detailed records of population numbers, movement patterns, and overall health. GACFS also participates in community outreach and education efforts in Flagler County public schools, helping to communicate the importance of preserving Florida’s waterways and its residents.
See how Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station’s work has impacted research efforts and the community:
- Since GACFS’s inception:
- 198 stranding calls received
- 104 necropsies (animal autopsies) conducted
- 71 manatee calls received
- 19 turtle calls received
- 20: Number of dolphin rescues and disentanglements GACFS has assisted with
- Three disentanglements have occurred in 2017 so far.
- 166: Number of photo identification surveys that have been conducted
- 350: Number of individual dolphins that have been catalogued
- 12,500: Number of students that the GACFS team has reached through the Conservation Outreach Initiative (CORI) in the Flagler County Public School District
- The team has taught 450 classes over eight years.
- 282: Number of community events, festival, tours, and presentations GACFS has participated in
- 25: Number of volunteers that GACFS maintains at any given time
- 20: Miles of coastline in Flagler County, the primary response area of GACFS.
- The GACFS team also responds to calls in the Intracoastal Waterway, Crescent Lake and Dead Lake, tributaries to the St. John’s River. As a member of the Southeast Regional Stranding Network, GACFS frequently responds outside of their primary response areas to assist network neighbors and have traveled as far as the Outer Banks, N.C. and Ft. Pierce, Fla. for rescue attempts.
- More than 15: Number of like-minded institutions works with including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Sea World Orlando, HUBBS Sea World Research Institute, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, National Ocean Service, National Marine Mammal Foundation, University of Florida, St John’s County, Flagler County, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, National Estuarine Research Reserve, Whitney Lab, University of North Florida, St John’s Water Quality Management District, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and more.
Organizations like Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station and their work with marine mammal strandings is crucial to research and conservation efforts relating to the health of our oceans and the animals that inhabit them.
For more information on Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station and Georgia Aquarium’s conservation efforts, visit www.georgiaaquarium.org/conserve.