Featured Project: Why is this Dolphin's Fin on Backwards?!

Welcome to a daily series featuring the astounding projects that make up the #SciFund Challenge. Jai and I will be featuring one or two projects a day from now until the challenge ends (Yes, we’re going to cover everyone! And like good scientists, we randomized the order!) So sit back, and enjoy!

Today’s (very first) featured project is Matthew Leslie’s Why is this Dolphin’s Fin on Backwards?!

We all know what a sleek smooth dolphin cutting through the open ocean looks like. But Matt’s been observing weird dolphins – odd dolphins with backwards fins and humps and upturned tails.

He wants to know why? What is this for? What is it about? Is there a benefit or a cost to it? So, he’s seeking funding to take medical CT scans of dolphin fins, construct models, and run them in a flow tank – “like a wind tunnel, but with a lot more water.” Then to go down and scout out sites to observe dolphin mating.

I think this project is amazing for a few reasons. First, he’s investigating something weird and odd about the dolphins and framing it in terms of sexual selection. Very cool. Second, he gives a great presentation, really laying out the details of dolphin biology and what he would do with his project. He’s also got awesome rewards – dolphin models and hand-made sculptures from the research. Amazing.

But what really amazes me is what he’s going to do. Let’s break it down – CT scan dolphin parts. At first, I thought this meant he was going to wrestle dolphins into a CT scanner. While he assures me he as done this before (!!!), sadly, he’s scanning parts that are from dolphin bycatch. So, science that tries to make good our of someting awful Then, on the lighter brigher side, he is planning on going down to observe dolphin mating. Oh my! Hot!

Matt’s project embodies a lot of #SciFund all in one fell swoop. Great science (evolutionary biology and sexual selection), great communication, great connection with funders, and science with both an emotional connection and a bit of zing.

So stop reading this, and head on over to help fuel his project!

And then, as Matt says, “Keep going outside, and keep asking why.”

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