“This month CMA’s Stranding Team has assisted on a variety of calls. Right at the start of the month, CMA’s Stranding Team participated in a collaborative effort to disentangle a dolphin calf in the Indian River Lagoon system. The calf had been spotted several days earlier with the line and buoy from a crab trap wrapped around its tail, and being followed closely by its mother. CMA joined forces with fellow organizations including Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Hubbs SeaWorld, SeaWorld Orlando, Georgia Aquarium’s Conservation Field Station, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Marine Mammal Conservancy, to help disentangle this dolphin! A fleet of boats set out in the early morning to locate the mother-calf pair. After about five hours of searching their 50 square mile home range, our very own Chuck White spotted the pair! Under the direction of Larry Fulford, the legendary captain of the capture boat, a 400-yard net was thrown out and we went to work! Everyone entered the water to support the net, which encircled the pair. Once both animals were restrained, the line was removed from the calf, and both the mother and calf were released! Hubbs SeaWorld monitored the pair after the intervention to ensure that there were no complications. This dolphin intervention was a success largely due to the dedication and effort put forth from each and every one of the participating facilities. It truly is amazing what teamwork can accomplish! 

The Stranding Team has also been given the opportunity to assist on a variety of sea turtle calls; a total of 5 this month, which were all green sea turtles. Once again, a big thank you to the Sea Turtle Department for allowing us to partake in these calls. 

We rounded up the month by doing some training with the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, the largest nonprofit bird sanctuary in North America. All in all it was a very insightful and interesting day, topped off by capturing, disentangling, and releasing a pelican that had been entangled in fishing gear. 

This month has been very exciting, with many rescue success stories! As always, we would like to extend a huge thank you to our dedicated Stranding Team Members for all of their hard work! We are excited to see what next month has in store!”

 Happy Holidays!

Reinforcement Contingency refers to the direct relationship between the properties (approximations) of a behavior and the reinforcement that follows.

Reinforcement contingency allows trainers to work all aspects of a trained behavior. Reinforcing the entirety of a behavior (from start to end) is very important, but maintaining a behavior and preventing break down is equally important. Behaviors are maintained by reinforcing all aspects (aka steps or approximations) of the specific behavior.

For example, when sending Hope on bows (jumps), we as trainers can work on the different approximations like her run (agility to get moving up out of the water), the height of her bows, number of bows, her body position when reentering the water, etc. By reinforcing specific approximations, this communicates to Hope specifics of the behavior like the speed, height, or body positioning. In the end she will be able to put all the parts together to create a complete picture, thus shaping and maintaining the behavior “Bow” as a whole from start to finish. This way, when asked for bows, she will be able to consistently give a desired speed for her run, height to her bows, reentry to the water, etc.

Not only does reinforcement of specific aspects of a behavior strengthen each part of the behavior, it also keeps training variable and unpredictable, which can strengthen the behavior as a whole and keep the animal engaged.