Streicker Snapshot: Taylor Machette '20 in Aarhus, Denmark

Aug. 26, 2017

Dolphins and Denmark

On the job: Over the past six weeks, I have been participating in a research project on echolocation in bottlenose dolphins at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark. My data set is from previous field observations and the hydrophone tagging of deep-diving bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Bermuda. I have been investigating how the echolocation parameters and foraging patterns of this ecotype are adapted to its utilization of the mesopelagic niche, and I’ve connected these discoveries to the fluctuating availability of various prey species throughout the day.

Dolphins, and all toothed whales, produce high-frequency outgoing sounds for navigational and foraging purposes. When these sounds reflect off of their prey, the dolphins detect the echoes and thus track the prey until an attempt at capture is made. When this attempt occurs, the dolphins produce the sounds at a faster rate, resulting in a loud, squeaky sound termed a “buzz.” Much of my work has consisted of auditing sound files from the three tagged dolphins and evaluating this raw data to differentiate between the types of buzzes and other social signals. I have been using MATLAB, a computer programming software, to quantify and manipulate the various sound signals produced by the dolphins.

Little is known about these deep-diving, offshore bottlenose dolphins compared to their familiar coastal counterpart. Therefore, it is essential to define their cyclical use of the water column and set criteria for social and foraging sound signals in order to understand their adaptations to a deep-water niche. This research can be applied for conservation purposes, guiding fishing regulations and allowing us to minimize other anthropogenic disturbances by understanding this species’ role in and usage of its habitat.

Earlier this summer, I was also fortunate to have a related internship at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, which was organized by my current internship supervisor. I participated in the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program during the month of June before coming to Denmark. While here, I did field work with researchers and recorded data, took pictures, and observed the social behavior of the resident bottlenose dolphin population in Sarasota Bay. This gave me an idea of how the data I work with in Denmark is actually obtained, and it helped me have a deeper, more comprehensive summer experience in the field of cetacean studies, fostering an appreciation for the species I’m studying through close interactions. Learning about the niche of the Florida bottlenose dolphin ecotype has enabled me to effectively compare and contrast the adaptations of the Bermuda ecotype for my current research project.

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My office in the Bioscience Department at Aarhus University, featuring some relevant literature.



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Field work in Florida. On this day, we used a purse seine net to count the number of individuals from the Sarasota dolphins’ prey species in transects of seagrass habitats. This allows the program to connect the monitoring of their resident dolphin population to prey availability.








































On the culture: From cheering on the Danish Vikings at a Viking battle reenactment, to experiencing hygge (quintessential Danish world for coziness) while sipping on my fourth coffee of the day at one of the hundreds of area cafes, I have effectively felt myself transition from the initial stage of merely observing the Danish culture to being an active participant in it.

The most important factor in this transformation has undoubtedly been the people I have spent my time with over the course of the internship. I’ve been living in a house with a native Dane and two immigrants from Spain who have lived here for several years. They have been kind enough to show me around the area and enlighten me with their (somewhat differing) perspectives on Danish culture. From watching Danish films on Wednesday nights to learning salsa dancing in the kitchen and trying it out on a real dance floor while downtown on the weekend, my roommates have been an integral part of my cultural experience here.

Moreover, I have been lucky enough share my office with another intern from Indonesia who attends school in Hong Kong. We make sure to explore the area and cultural festivities together every weekend, attending the many art festivals and other city events sponsored through Aarhus being named one of the 2017 European Capitals of Culture. We even recently traveled to Copenhagen and spent the day captivated by the castles and sculptures scattered around the city while learning about Danish architectural and governmental history.

Experiencing Danish culture with someone from a different background than me has given greater meaning to my time abroad and intersection with new cultures. Having the ability to discuss our preconceptions about Danish culture, our daily interactions with those around us, and how we interpret different aspects of the society has allowed me to understand my time here in a broader, globalized context. This has substantially increased the impact of my first international experience on my personal growth with respect to cultural awareness.

I have spent much of my free time here participating in a classic Danish pastime: biking. Biking has taken on a new purpose beyond simply being a form of exercise and transportation; it is another unique avenue for learning about Denmark. As I pass through the small maritime towns and ports, ride alongside Danes on the bustling city bike lanes, or coast past traditional Danish homes and farms in the countryside, I find myself gaining a new perspective on everyday life in Denmark and being able to deeply reflect on the things I encounter, realizing that the more of this country that I take in, the easier it is to comprehend the totality of what it means to live in Denmark.

Additionally, I have found myself gaining a greater sense of respect for differences between individuals of different nationalities during my time here. My initial culture shock at how reserved Danes tend to be compared to Americans has worn off as I have experienced their helpful, kind-hearted nature countless times whenever I approach someone with a question or strike up a conversation. I’ve learned to recognize the way that social tendencies differ between cultures, and I’ve realized that the American attitudes and sociality are not the only way of life. Defining kindness in ways I previously regarded as unconventional based on my upbringing in the United States has been one of the more rewarding aspects of this experience. I have enjoyed analyzing this aspect of Danish culture and connecting it to how the citizens of the “happiest country in the world” stay so happy.

Overall, I have had a wonderful, enriching experience during my first time studying abroad, and I am so appreciative for Mr. Streicker’s generous funding of the program and the help of those who organize it. My internship has allowed me to design a project well-suited for my personal career interests while also pursuing my goal of learning about the different cultures of the world. I will be sure to make the most of my last week here; whether it’s discussing ongoing dolphin research while eating smørrebrød (Danish rye bread) with colleagues in the coffee room at work, or wandering through a coastal park appreciating sculptures with new friends, my final days here are sure to be memorable.

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Exploring the arts and crafts at the viking festival after the battle reenactment.



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Copenhagen architecture: Rosenborg Castle, used for Danish royal residences during the Renaissance period.



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Copenhagen architecture: Frederik's Church, which is next to Amalienborg Palace, the current residence of the Danish royal family.



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The remains of the 14th century Kalø Castle at Mols Bjerge National Park, 20 miles outside of Aarhus. Captured during a biking adventure.



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The tranquility of the Danish countryside.



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Combining work and play in a final cheer for a great summer!



































































































Taylor is one of 12 undergraduates who were awarded 2017 Streicker International Fellowships. Streicker Fellows design their own projects or internships in conjunction with a hosting organization. She worked as an intern at Aarhus University in Denmark, where she participated in a research project on dolphin biosonar.

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