Naming Dolphins Has Added Meaning for Kemah Couple

  • September 16, 2022
  • News

“What do you give somebody who has everything?” asked Marian Cornelius.

While searching for a gift with extra special meaning, Marian and her husband Austin came across a unique option: adopt a dolphin.

“When we go out on our boat, seeing the dolphins in our backyard is really phenomenal,” Marian said. “So, we thought it was a really cool idea to adopt a dolphin and have some kind of ownership.”

For the past several years, the Corneliuses have been members of the Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program’s Dolphin Society. People become members of the Dolphin Society by symbolically adopting and even naming bottlenose dolphins cataloged by the program. Adoption and naming proceeds directly support the program’s research to better understand the dolphins that live in Galveston Bay.

The adopted dolphins have become popular family gifts, and Marian and Austin have had fun with it, too.

“Around baseball season we were like, ‘Alright, we’re giving Astro.’” Marian said.

Membership in the society includes an adoption kit (delivered electronically) in addition to a quarterly newsletter that informs members of the program’s latest research as well as the most recent sightings of named and adopted dolphins throughout the Bay.

“It’s just really the gift that keeps on giving, so we kept doing that more and more and more,” Austin said.

To date, the Corneliuses have also named three dolphins – Sheba, Shiner, and Olive – and plan to name a fourth soon. The names selected for the dolphins are in honor of deceased family pets. It is the couple’s way of remembering them while also helping to support the study of Galveston Bay’s bottlenose dolphin population.

“We might be crazy, but a lot of times Shiner will be doing something that Shiner our dog did,” Austin said. “He’s always around the ladies, or something like that, and loves being in this part of the Bay. We’re like, ‘Shiner would have loved that, too!’”

The couple has learned a lot about dolphins through their membership in the Dolphin Society. For Austin, finding out dolphins reside in Galveston Bay was a bit of a surprise, and he was not alone.

“I grew up in Katy, and I didn’t even know we had dolphins an hour away from where I grew up,” he said. “Coming to learn that was pretty fun. And then, we’ll bring friends out on our boat, and they don’t even know that dolphins exist in our region, the greater Houston area. It’s fun to let them experience that for the first time.”

As a Kemah native who grew up near Galveston Bay, Marian was especially interested in learning how environmental factors, such as water salinity, impact the dolphins’ movement throughout the Bay. She cited the influx of freshwater from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 that forced the dolphins to find areas with a higher salinity as an example.

“It makes sense, but I just never really thought about it,” Marian said. “When we had all that rain, it affected where the dolphins went. That was kind of an eye-opener.”

After living in Houston’s Heights neighborhood for 12 years, the Corneliuses recently moved to Kemah with their two sons Leo, 3, and Graham, 1. Their proximity to the Bay has allowed both boys to see dolphins in their natural habitat while also reiterating to Marian and Austin the importance of protecting it.

“It’s just so cool seeing their excitement,” Marian said. “We need to protect our Bay for the future. We need more awareness to keep the Bay safe for future generations.”

The Galveston Bay Dolphin Research Program was established in 2014 as a partnership between the Galveston Bay Foundation and the Environmental Institute of Houston at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Click here for more information on becoming a member of the Dolphin Society.