Category Archives: Marine Animals

Dolphins and Sea Lions: The U.S. Marine Guardians

The United States implemented the  Marine Mammal Program  in 1960 with the purpose of training sea mammals to assist the U.S. Navy primarily with underwater mine detection. The mammals best suited for this job were the bottlenose dolphin and California sea lion. Today the Navy continues to care for and train sea mammals (including Beluga whales) for various  underwater missions.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

A trained bottlenose dolphin named K-Dog leaps out of the water during a training exercise in the Persian Gulf.  Petty Officer 1st Class Bria Aho, US Navy.

A trained bottlenose dolphin named K-Dog leaps out of the water during a training exercise in the Persian Gulf. Petty Officer 1st Class Bria Aho, US Navy.

Excerpt:  Military Dolphins and Sea Lions: What Do They Do and Who Uses Them? Janet J. Lee, National Geographic

“Military-trained marine mammals, including dolphins, can detect underwater mines and intruders.

Russian activities in Crimea now include taking over a Ukrainian military unit made up of bottlenose dolphins, according to news reports.

It’s unclear how the Russian navy intends to use these “combat dolphins,” although state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that the mammals will be getting equipment upgrades.

Zak a 375-pound sea lion being trained by the Navy. Photo- NPR

Zak a 375-pound sea lion being trained by the Navy. Photo- NPR

The U.S. Navy trains its marine mammals—including California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins—to find and retrieve equipment lost at sea and to identify intruders swimming into restricted areas. The dolphins are also used to detect underwater mines, either buried in the seafloor or floating from an anchor.

A beluga whale marks a training target Nat. Geographic

A beluga whale marks a training target Nat. Geographic.

The U.S. Navy uses them to find and retrieve unarmed test ordnance like practice mines. Handlers give a sea lion an attachment system it can hold in its mouth and send the mammal overboard. Once the animal finds its target, it clamps the device to it and handlers in a boat at the surface can bring the object in.” Read more…

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handouts (from this lesson) access to news article, and video clip.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions

Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Have students use the pre-reading organizer by TeachEm2Think to assist them in finding the main ideas from the reading.

Prereading organizerby San Juan Edutiff

II. While Reading Activities

Vocabulary

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Military-trained marine mammals can detect underwater mines and intruders.
  2. It is reported that mammals will be getting equipment upgrades.
  3. These animals have the ability to to detect and find targets in murky water.
  4. The U.S. Navy trains its marine mammals to find and retrieve equipment lost at sea.
  5. Dolphins can be especially effective close to shore,
  6. Mechanical systems can be overwhelmed by all the competing signals, but not dolphins.
  7. A dolphins’ sonar is finely tuned.
  8. Handlers give a sea lion an attachment system it can hold in its mouth and send the mammal overboard.
  9. The Navy deployed dolphins and sea lions to patrol the area.
  10. Sea lions also have the advantage of being amphibious.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T.  If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer.

  1. The ability of these animals to detect and find targets at depth or in murky water is something technology can duplicate.
  2. The Sevastopol-based “combat dolphins” are trained to search for and tag underwater mines.
  3. The U.S. Navy trains its marine mammals—including California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins—to find and retrieve other sea creatures lost at sea.
  4. Sea lions are better than any machine as far as detecting mines.
  5. Researchers now understand how dolphins can detect mines.
  6. Baby sea lions are good at detecting mines  because of their size.
  7. California sea lions, while they don’t possess sonar capabilities, have excellent eyesight.
  8. The navy also train sharks to detect other ships.
  9. Sharks are being considered for future use in the U.S. military.
  10. Both California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins are fairly hardy, smart, and very trainable.

 Grammar Focus

Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I.

  1. Military-trained marine mammals can detect underwater mines and intruders.
  2. Russian activities in Crimea now include taking over a Ukrainian military unit made up of bottlenose dolphins.
  3. It unclear how the Russian navy intends to use these combat dolphins.

II.

  1. The U.S. Navy trains its marine mammals to find and retrieve equipment lost at sea.
  2. The dolphins are also used to detect underwater mines.
  3. Dolphins can be especially effective close to shore.

III.

  1. Dolphins, and relatives like killer whales, send out a series of sounds that bounce off of objects.
  2. California sea lions, while they don’t possess sonar capabilities, has excellent eyesight.
  3. The U.S. Navy uses them to find and retrieve unarmed test ordnance like practice mines.

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

  1. The article states,It’s unclear how the Russian navy intends to use these “combat dolphins”. Why do you think the Russians refer to their dolphins as “combat dolphins”?  Describe  a task that the Russian dolphins might perform.
  2. In your opinion do you think using sea mammals to help the military is a good idea? Explain why or why not.
  3. What other tasks might dolphins and sea lions be used for?
  4. The sea mammals used thus far in the U.S. Navy have been dolphins, sea lions, and whales. What other sea mammals might be used for these tasks? What about creatures like sharks, eels, or  sea turtles?
  5. What are the functions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)?

IV. Listening Activity

Video ClipUS Navy Dolphins & Sea Lions to Serve as Marine Guardians
“ A new U.S. Navy Instruction (pdf) updates Navy policy on the use of marine mammals for national security missions. It seems that by law (10 USC 7524), the Secretary of Defense is authorized to “take” (or acquire) up to 25 wild marine mammals each year “for national defense purposes.” These mammals — including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions — are used for military missions such as locating and marking underwater mines, and providing force protection against unauthorized swimmers or vehicles, among other things.”


 

 While Listening Activities

Sentence  Fill-ins

Directions: Students listen for the correct word or phrase to complete the sentences taken from the video. They are to choose from the options presented.

  1. The Navy became interested in dolphins before/after WW II.
  2. Medical/medium care is provided for the animals.
  3. The medical stuff/staff includes a team of veterinarians from the army.
  4. Dolphins also have hearing/herding tests.
  5. This program has contributed the most scientific/science  information about marine mammals than any other organization.
  6. The program helps to definition/define what  marine mammals can and cannot do in support of navy operations.
  7. Dolphins are trained to signal when they find underwater mimes/mines.
  8. Dolphins don’t swim away because they receive fools/food and love.
  9. Navy sea lions are used in the recovery of training/trail mines.
  10.  It takes years to track/train dolphins and sea lions.

Post-Listening Activities

Questions for Discussion

Directions:Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions.

1. After listening to this video has your personal idea of sea mammals in the Navy changed in any way?   If yes, describe in what way.  If no, describe your original opinion.

2. Discuss which comments or ideas you agreed with and which ones you tended not to agree with.   Explain why.

3.  With your group members, make up questions that you would like to ask the speakers.

 ANSWER KEY: Navy sea mammals