Jul 25, 2021

Cracking the Code: Searching for Language in Dolphins with Dr. Denise Herzing (podcast)

What can the potential for language in dolphins teach us about the diversity of intelligences?

By Templeton Staff

For more than 25 years, Dr. Denise Herzing has been on a quest to "crack the code" — to discover the keys to the secret language of dolphins.

In 1985, Dr. Herzing founded the Wild Dolphin Project (WDP) with the vision of finding a pod of dolphins to observe in their natural habitat over a long period of time. WDP conducts non-invasive field research studies and reports on a specific pod of free-ranging Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis.)

Dr. Herzing and her team at WDP are examining if the observed symbolic communication in the spotted dolphin is complex enough to be considered language.

In this podcast conversation, Dr. Herzing talks about what she’s learned so far about dolphin “language,” what’s surprised her about wild dolphins’ interactions with each other and the researchers, and the possibility of humans someday communicating directly with dolphins.

The discussion also highlights one of the things that has changed over Dr. Herzing’s decades of study: the advancement of technology in artificial intelligence and “big data.” New developments now allow for deeper study into areas that before were virtually out of reach. Dr. Herzing hopes that her interest in these tools will not only be of benefit to her own work but to other scientists’ research.

Discover the video version of this interview.

Learn more about TWCF-funded research project related to this episode.

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay, presented by podcast producer Tavia Gilbert. Featuring: Dr. Denise Herzing, Research Director and Founder of the Wild Dolphin Project and Affiliate Assistant Professor at Florida Atlantic University in biological sciences. 

Built upon the award-winning video series of the same name, Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” podcast features stories of new scientific research on human flourishing that translate discoveries into practical tools. Bringing a mix of curiosity, compassion, and creativity, journalist Richard Sergay and producer Tavia Gilbert shine a spotlight on the human impact at the heart of cutting-edge social and scientific research projects supported by TWCF.