Health assessments of dolphins have been done in Barataria Bay nearly every year since 2011 and will be done again in 2018. Dr. Hermann joined the team in 2013 because it was noted that many of the Barataria Bay dolphins assessed in 2011 were experiencing profound tooth loss, not typical of other dolphin populations. She developed a method to effectively radiograph the jaws and teeth of the wild dolphins.
In addition to the live dolphins they also documented the pathological tooth loss of approximately 100 stranded, deceased dolphins in the years from 2010 through 2014, after the oil spill. During this time Dr. Hermann realized she may be able to determine the age of the dolphins using dental radiology. She is still working on this methodology with success in a portion of the population under the age of 15.
The massive Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in April of 2010 affected all life in the area of the spill. Health assessments, begun in 2011 of all life forms, including plants, amphibians, and fish, were done by other teams of researchers. There are several films in the “Dispatches From The Gulf” * series showing other team efforts.
Part One of this series about the dolphins shows the care and interaction with Navy dolphins and the knowledge members of the team have learned from them, specifically the lead veterinarian Cynthia Smith.
Part Two shows Dr. Herman as part of the team effort that is working on following the long-term effects of health and reproduction that a large natural disaster has had on a population of resident inshore dolphins.
*”Dispatches from the Gulf” is a Journey to Planet Earth episode showing how scientists confront the challenges of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The documentary also investigates the impact of the event on the ecosystems and communities along the Gulf of Mexico.