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Media Room: Press Release



Media Contact: Mary Stella, Director of Media & Marketing
305-289-1121, ext. 254

Dolphin Research Center Research Wins International Student Challenge

Grassy Key, FL… Middle school students in more than 1600 classrooms and 21 countries recently selected Dolphin Research Center (DRC) as a first place winner in the 2015 Ocean 180 Video Challenge for its Blindfolded Imitation research study.  Almost 38,000 student judges evaluated 10 finalists based on their creativity, message and educational value and ultimately determined which three-minute video abstracts best explained the results and significance of the scientists’ research.  The Blindfolded Imitation research revealed that bottlenose dolphins can imitate actions without using their eyesight.  Besides humans, dolphins are the only species that have so far demonstrated this ability.  In addition to a trophy, the non-profit marine mammal research and education facility will also receive a $3,000 prize to honor its work in communicating science to the public.  One Florida Keys school, Treasure Village Montessori, Islamorada, was among the 336 schools that cast ballots.

DRC participated in the Ocean 180 Challenge to further advance their mission of teaching, learning and caring about marine mammals and the environment.  “We’re excited that the students awarded us first place.  But we felt like we won in the most important way when we became a finalist, and tens of thousands of kids watched the videos in the judging process, and got to learn about dolphin research,” said DRC Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Mandy Rodriguez.

The challenge also provided a way to reach the next generation of ocean scientists.  As Director of Research Dr. Kelly Jaakkola explained, “For a lot of students, science can have a negative, scary image.  They picture people in white lab coats talking about topics that nobody understands in the most boring, unimaginative way possible.  If we want to get kids excited about science, we need to change that image.”

Dolphin Research Center’s video was created by the center’s Research, Media and Visual Communications staff which placed it in the category designated for videos produced with professional assistance.  All of the finalists in the 2015 challenge can be viewed online at  The Ocean 180 Video Challenge, sponsored by the Florida Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE Florida) and funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, was designed to inspire scientists to communicate the meaning and significance of scientific research with a broader audience.

Founded in 1984, Dolphin Research Center is home to a family of dolphins and California sea lions.  Located at 58901 (mile marker 59) Overseas Highway, Grassy Key, Florida, the center is open daily for the public to see narrated behavior sessions and educational presentations, and to participate in interactive programs with the dolphins.  The nonprofit organization is funded by admission and program fees as well as by private donors and members.  In addition to being one of the most highly respected education and research facilities in the world, DRC is the Licensed Manatee Rescue Team for the Florida Keys and is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.  For more information, visit the center’s website at



Our Mission - Through education, research and rescue, Dolphin Research Center promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals, humans and the environment we share with the well being of DRC's animals taking precedence.
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