Saturday, November 14, 2015

WHALES: Spying on animals is relatively inexpensive | From Cape Cod to Labrador

WHALES: Spying on animals is relatively inexpensive | From Cape Cod to Labrador

Another old post from 2007 – Scientists listen to endangered whales

English: Two right whales surfacing
English: Two right whales surfacing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Russ Bynum, Associated
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Beneath the ocean, microphones listen around the clock for the mooing calls of endangered North Atlantic right whales in an eavesdropping experiment that could help save them from extinction.
For 20 years, researchers have relied on airplanes and their own eyes to keep tabs on right whales that migrate south to the coasts of Georgia and Florida every winter to birth their calves before returning to the North Atlantic.
Cornell University scientist Christopher Clark thinks he’s got a more efficient method that can be used to warn boaters and commercial ships to steer clear of the rare whales – use sound to pinpoint their whereabouts.
“You’ve got a 24-7 listening system,” said Clark, director of bioacoustics research at the Cornell Laboratory of Orinthology. “I think it has all the promise of offering mariners real-time information about whether or not there are whales in the area.”
Collisions with ships killed four of six right whales known to have died in the Atlantic Ocean last year. Scientists believe only about 350 of the whales still exist, so losing even one is a step toward extinction.
In late February, rearchers will collect six buoys they sunk in mid-December off the coast of Brunswick, 75 miles south of Savannah. Each contains a digital recorder collecting more than 1,400 hours of undersea sounds.
Those recordings will help determine if whales make enough noise – which sounds like a “moo” or a “whoop” – off the coast to justify trying a more sophisticated surveillance system that automatically picks out whale voices and relays them by satellite.
Gary Waxman, a developer building luxury homes and condominiums on the Brunswick waterfront, donated the $125,000 used to fund the project.
Clark says the advantage of audio surveillance is that it works day and night and in all weather. Spotting right whales from the air requires daylight and clear skies for flying.
Though the whales measure up to 56 feet long, spotters have only three planes to look for them over more than 4,000 square miles of ocean between Sapelo Island, Ga., and St. Augustine, Fla.
“It is like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Amy Knowlton, a right whale researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston. “You might see a dozen whales in a day, and the next day you might see nothing.”
Clay George, right whale program coordinator for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said whales sighted in daily flyovers get reported to the Navy, which alerts ships coming into port.
But aerial surveilance is expensive – costing up to $500,000 per winter – and gets limited results. George estimates the planes spot only about 25 percent of the right whales present off the southeastern coast.
Waxman got involved after learning of the right whales’ plight while working with Georgia regulators on permits for his coastal housing development and a marina that would launch pleasure boats in the same waters as the whales.
Waxman brainstormed with his environmental consultant and they got the idea of contacting Clark at Cornell University.
Clark has been eavesdropping on right whales in Massachusetts’ Cape Cod Bay since 2001. Using federal grant money, he’s also recorded whales off Savannah and Charleston, S.C., since 2004.
Because sound travels farther underwater than it does in open air, Clark said, his microphones can pick up whales up to 10 miles away.
It also helps that right whales are almost perfect tenors. Their mid-range voices don’t get washed out by high-pitched fizzing of bubbles or the low-register shifting of ocean-floor sand.
A big question is whether right whales talk enough when they migrate south for microphones to detect them consistently, the key to making audio surveillance worthwhile.
“The jury is still out on that,” Clark said. “Mothers and calves are notoriously quiet. The mother’s not out there to advertise she’s got a baby. She doesn’t want to attract killer whales or other company.”
Clark can already tell a big difference in how right whales behave up north compared to when they travel south in the winter.
At Cape Cod, they’re awfully chatty – sometimes yielding 2,000 recordings in a single day. The whales spend their summers and fall between Cape Cod and the Bay of Fundy. In the winter, they travel south through the Gulf of Maine toward warmer waters.
With the Brunswick study, Clark’s team will compare its whale recordings with sightings logged by the aerial survey teams. Meanwhile, Clark is developing mufflers for the underwater microphones to eliminate noise caused by waves and storms.
A second array of satellite-tracking buoys will be placed offshore of Boston in the spring.
Inside each buoy, sounds picked up by the microphones are analysed by computers programmed to pick out right whale calls from other noises, using patterns based on hundreds of thousands of samples of the whales’ voices. Electronic identifications are transmitted in real time by satellites, though Clark said humans still doublecheck to make sure they’re right whales.
Multiple microphones picking up the same whale can triangulate its position from about 100 meters to as close as 50 feet, Clark said. Location points could be posted on maps on the Internet and used to issue warnings.
“Spying on animals like that is always full of surprises and it’s also relatively inexpensive,” Clark said. “Their voices are designed to be heard, so we’re taking advantage of that.”
On the Net:
Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University:

Friday, November 13, 2015

WHALES: Canadian Whale Institute delivers the message about the North Atlantic Right Whale | From Cape Cod to Labrador

WHALES: Canadian Whale Institute delivers the message about the North Atlantic Right Whale | From Cape Cod to Labrador

Dr. Moira Brown
Dr. Moira Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The following post from 2006 provides an interesting history of the New England Aquarium and Canadian Whale Institute in their continuing efforts to save the North Atlantic Right whale.  I think it’s worth repeating a decade later.  Art MacKay
By Mark Pavilons
Sarah Haney of the Canadian Whale Institute, welcomed Dr. Scott Kraus andDr. Moira Brown, from the New England Aquarium, for a presentation about the right whale.
Whales are the harbingers of things to come. Helping to save one species from the brink of extinction can very well help humankind preserve our planet.
That message was delivered to supporters of the Canadian Whale Institute, during a special presentation by two top research scientists. Caledon’s Sarah Haney, CWI chair, hosted An Evening in the Company of Whales, which brought New England Aquarium scientists Dr. Scott Kraus and Dr. Moira Brown to Caledon to share details of their work.
Haney noted Kraus has worked with marine species for more than 27 years and joined the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) in 1979. She met him in 1996 and her life “has never been the same since – it’s gotten better!”
Dr. Brown was the first Canadian allowed on Dr. Kraus’s boat and the accomplished researcher is now the senior scientist with NEAQ and CWI. She will receive a lifetime achievement award from the IFAW, putting her in the same company as Farley Mowat and Jane Goodall.
Dr. Kraus said the NEAQ is unique in that it contains a large research and conservation program.
Given the progress made over the years, many are under the impression the whales have been saved, but that’s far from true. Antiwhaling was put in the spotlight during the ’70s, largely due to the efforts of Greenpeace.
Whales have been hunted for hundreds of years, but the modern enemy of many species, particularly theNorth Atlantic right whale, is accidental deaths from ship strikes and fishing net entanglements. Dr. Kraus admitted the object of his affection is “very ugly,” but “quite endearing.” The North Atlantic right whale has no dorsal fin and is easily recognized by the callosities (growths on the head). The baleen skim feeders move slowly and their stout, robust shape unfortunately works against them.
Studies on the right whale since the 1980s have included photo identification, surveys and biopsies, to the point where all 350-390 have been catalogued.
Dr. Brown said the creatures flock to the Bay of Fundy, bordered by Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Calves are typically born December to February off the coast of Florida. Another popular spot is the Great South Channel off of Cape Cod, but unfortunately
these are also popular shipping lanes. Some two thirds of the animals arrive in the Bay of Fundy and Scotian Shelf around July. It’s still a mystery where the other one-third of the whales go.
She helped start a genetics programs in the 1980s and by 2006, 80% of the creatures have been biopsied and they’re working on a complete genealogy for the entire species.
With a low birth rate, and a mortality rate of 1-2 females per year, the fate of the whole species hangs in the balance.
While she’s a trained scientist, Dr. Brown has had to become an advocate and politician when it comes down to presenting the cause to governments and industry.
Hard work and pressure paid off, as they were able to alter, for the first time in history, shipping lanes in the Bay of Fundy with the International Maritime Organization and Transport Canada. In the last three years, there have been less than 2% of whale sightings in those lanes.
Another very popular spot for the right whales is Roseway Basin. More than 150 creatures were seen in just eight days earlier this year. Dr. Brown said Transport Canada and IMO hope to move ahead with shifting lanes in that area next spring.
Dr. Kraus said some 70% of the whales bear scars from fishing net entanglements. Ship strikes are constant, and the whales simply can’t decipher the low frequency ship hum. They have also been known to fall asleep directly in the path of ships.
Scientists are limited in their research because it’s virtually impossible to get blood samples through the whales’ thick layers of blubber. They rely on sampling feces and have even used drug dogs to locate whale feces. Concentrated on the U.S. east coast, the whales encounter a hive of human activity.
However, their long lives and long reproductive cycles may be their saving grace.
Supporters are also trying to encourage the fishing industry to adopt different types of nets to lessen the impact on the whales. Pressure on Canadian lobster fishermen to alter their habits and gear, seem to have fallen on deaf ears, as we enter a busy lobster period.
“It’s time to change business as usual in order to save the whale,” he said.
He added if we can solve the right whale dilemma, we can perhaps prevent the demise of any other species.
Dr. Brown said given the adversities, it’s amazing the North Atlantic right whale is still around. Progress can be made if researchers, fishermen and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can sit down together and develop strategies to allow man and whales to co-exist.
Paula Curtis, executive director of CWI, noted the organization is about developing relationships and spreading awareness, through talks and presentations such as this. She noted Haney herself is more than willing to share her expertise with groups in the area.

WORLD WHALE BUZZ is out! Edition of 13 November 2015

Marine mammal news from around the world.
Published by
Art MacKay
13 November 2015
Science Environment Leisure Business Art & Entertainment Politics #whales #whalewatching
Today's headline
Baby whales learn vital traditions from mothers
thumbnail phys­.org - Cultural traditions among Southern right whale populations are shaping their genetic patterns, according to a study led by the University of St Andrews. The research, published today (Monday 9 Nove...
192 contributors - featured today:
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WORLD WHALE BUZZ is out! Edition of 06 November 2015

Marine mammal news from around the world.
Published by
Art MacKay
06 November 2015
Science Environment Leisure Business Technology World #whales #whalewatching
Today's headline
This Pink Manta Ray Might Be The Most Fabulous Animal In The Ocean
thumbnail www­.azula­.com - Manta rays are some of the most glorious creatures in the sea. But this recently-sighted pink manta ray truly takes the cake. A diving group near Lighthouse Bommie in Australia encountered the rosy...
102 contributors - featured today:
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WORLD WHALE BUZZ UPGRADED: Marine mammal news, jobs, and images from around the world.

Marine mammal news, jobs, and images from around the world.

This fabulous Ezine collects news articles from Twitter, Facebook, and other websites around the globe to bring you up-to-the-minute information about the things that are interesting folks who care about whales and other marine mammals.

Check it out and subscribe to get the latest in your inbox.

We've spent some time upgrading "World Whale Buzz" and think we have hit some good sources that bring a good look at current events, activities, and opinions around the globe. Check it out and subscribe to get the latest in your inbox.  Enjoy! Art MacKay

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Quoddy Anthology – 15,000 years of history along the coast of Maine and NB. | From Cape Cod to Labrador

A Quoddy Anthology – 15,000 years of history along the coast of Maine and NB. | From Cape Cod to Labrador

A Quoddy Anthology – 15,000 years of history along the coast of Maine and NB.

A Quoddy Anthology
The Passamaquoddy Bay or Quoddy Region is a unique area tucked into the southwest corner of the Bay of Fundy. The State of Maine occupies the western side of the area, but well over 75% of the land and ocean belongs to New Brunswick, Canada. Superimposed across this border area are the ancestral lands of the Passmaquoddy Tribe of the Wabanaki Nation. This unique accident of history has truly created a “land of three worlds”; a politically volatile dynamic in an area of great natural wealth.
The principal features are the St. Croix Estuary, Passamaquoddy Bay and the adjacent Maine shore, the New Brunswick mainland to Point Lepreau, Deer Island, Campobello Island, and Grand Manan Island which sits offshore but is under the influence of Passamaquoddy Waters.
The Quoddy Region is known around the world for its spectacular scenery, birds, and whales. It includes a number of well known places: St. Stephen – famous for Ganong Chocolates; St. Andrews – a spectacular resort town; Deer Island – home of the largest Canadian lobster operation, Campobello – the site where Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s summer cottage and Campobello Roosevelt International Park are located; Blacks Harbour – home of the world’s largest sardine factory, Cutler – location of an important military facility, Lubec – the most easterly community in the United States, Eastport – a spectacular City that is being rebuilt from the bottom up, and Grand Manan Island – known around the world for its spectacular scenery, birds, and whales.
Enjoy your tour through time! Art MacKay
$9.95 – You’ll get 1 PDF