Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Quincy Gibson

Second Advisor

Dr. Adam Rosenblatt

Third Advisor

Dr. J. David Lambert


Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in estuarine systems are often subjected to natural and anthropogenic risks, which may impact their health and behaviors. Effective management for this species should incorporate continual, updated information on behavioral patterns of a stock’s individuals. Currently, the Jacksonville Estuarine System stock assessment report, which includes dolphins in the St. Johns River (SJR) in northeast Florida, is based on data from the 1990s. Since then, dolphins’ use of the SJR has shifted, and the population has been impacted by two unusual mortality events (UME). This study analyzed site fidelity, space use and overlap, and social mixing with respect to the disease-caused 2013-2015 UME. In Chapter 1, examination of residency status determined that a majority of dolphins sighted in the river were year-round residents (mean = 44.92% ± 3.20). Space use and overlap of core areas varied among residency categories, between seasons, and across time. In Chapter 2, social network analyses determined key, highly connected individuals that may have influenced disease transmission during the UME. Additionally, disease-positive individuals stranded during the UME shared overlapping core areas with each other, and with individuals from different residency categories. Altogether, this information on site fidelity, spatial overlap, and social mixing will help improve management plans for SJR dolphins, better response efforts to future unusual mortality events, and increase the understanding of disease transmission through socially-complex species.

Available for download on Wednesday, December 18, 2024