As I’ve alluded to before, we had quite a few problems getting off the ground (as is always the case when mounting a large scale field project). One of the things that I’ve learned since I started working in field biology is that these setbacks, while frustrating and often expensive, can also be unexpected boons for any project.

Take for example our theodolite. To collect behavioral data on whales from the shore we use a high-powered scope traditionally used by surveyors. This scope gives us our geographic bearing to the whale (horizontal angle), and the angle at which we are looking down at our whale from the observation tower (vertical angle).

Theodolite Cartoon

We connect this theodolite to a computer running Pythagoras, a cetacean tracking program design explicitly for shore based theodolite work. It automatically converts these angles to Cartesian coordinates using trigonometry, the curvature of the earth, and adjusts for tide height. While I’m capable of doing this calculations manually the ability of the theodolite to communicate directly with the computer greatly increases our accuracy in terms of timing, as the computer operator can click a button and instantly store the data from the theodolite.

Without going too far into the details, we had some concerns about the calibration of the instrument we had borrowed, and it was giving us some trouble prior to leaving for the field. In the spirit of prudence we decided not to risk the field season with an instrument that might have (but in retrospect did not) prove to be faulty. I conservatively opted to replace the instrument, and located a replacement theodolite at a good price; only I later discovered that the company was a front, and the deal was a sham. At this point, running out of time, I took the advice of a contractor and began investigating total stations, which are like theodolites, only they contain many more features (none of which we need). I bought one in the nick of time and hauled her up to Alaska.

At the risk of running on too long about the technical details of this last minute equipment swap I’ll jump to the end of the story. The total station didn’t communicate with the computer, the theodolite had to be sent up to Alaska (via what was a pretty comical string of communication and the hard work of my buddy Kevin who happened to be dog sitting for me at the time, and who is unbelievably reliable). The theodolite was calibrated in field, looks to be totally fine, and what we ended up with is one total station – great for surveying, doesn’t talk to computers – and a theodolite that does talk to computers. Double trouble.

The total station is finicky, sensitive, and bulky, she doesn’t like surveying from the tower (which isn’t quite stable enough for her), but she’s super precise, and does the trick if she’s on solid ground. It seemed like a waste not to use the instrument since we had her, so we put the total station down on the beach to see just what would happen if we tried to survey from there. What failed in the tower, seemed to work just fine from the ground. So we decided to keep her, and run her. We call her the TB …. Because she’s a Total Beach.

What we’re doing now is running both instruments simultaneously (something I’ve been dreaming about- remember this conversation Garcia Lab?). From the beach we conduct scan point surveys where we mark every whale in the survey area and record it’s location, group size, and group composition. While we are unable to connect the total station to the computer, we are able to manually input the data into an iPad app called TapForms. The iPad, which is wearing a Lifeproof case, can withstand the rain and weather on the beach, making it ideal for surveying in the elements. We survey in 20 minute intervals and conduct anywhere from 15-21 scan point surveys per day

Meanwhile, in the tower we have our theodolite, which we refer to as the Darling because she’s such a delight to work with (even if her battery does turn off from time to time). We use the Darling to conduct focal follows. We pick a single whale, or a group of whale travelling together, and record their fine scale behavior (blows, surfaces, dives, breaches, etc.) as they forage and move throughout our survey area.

The result is a comprehensive picture of how the distribution of whales changes in the survey area as a single whale moves within it. In my imagination (I haven’t gotten this totally plotted yet) it will look something like this.

Visual cartoon

Pretty cool stuff right? But we’re just getting started. Once we have this visual picture we overlay our acoustic data to see if we can pinpoint which whale was vocalizing (fingers crossed it was either our focal animal, or an animal that our focal animal interacted with). By having both the broad distribution of animals and the fine scale focal follow data I can begin to investigate relationships between vocal behavior and social context, vocal behavior and foraging contexts (do lunging whales vocalize?), and ultimately I can glean something about what makes humpback whale produce these social sounds.

And it gets better…

Our area is subjected to very little vessel traffic, but we do have cruise ships that pass by predictably twice a day. By building our sampling schedule around these cruise ship arrivals and departures I can effectively ‘control’ for quiet periods and noisy ones. This gives me the opportunity to assess whether noise changes the acoustic behavior of the whales. Which is the ultimate goal of the Acoustic Spyglass project.

As one last added bonus, remember when I told you in my last post how close we’ve been able to get to the whales? This enables us to take fluke photographs as well as dorsal photographs that can be used to identify individuals that frequent our survey area. In many cases we hope to identify our focal animal. The whales in Glacier Bay are subjected to longterm monitoring by Park biologists (like my mentor and P.I. Chris Gabriele); many of these animals are of known sex and age class. While in year one our sample size many not be large enough to glean differences in behavior as a function of age or sex, after a second year of data collection we may have enough representative samples to begin investigating questions of this nature.

So while the first few weeks of our field season were… rocky. I’m happy to report that this rocky start has effectively doubled the amount of data that we’re able to collect on any given day, while simultaneously allowing me to collect behavioral data on multiple spatial scales.

While I hope this has been informative for those of you reading through this blog, I realize that the only pictures I’ve posted so far are cartoons. So, to scratch the photo itch check out the slide show of beautiful moments from our field season to date that I posted here. As lovely as these photos are, I assure you they don’t come anywhere near to the reality of just how spectacular this place and these animals really are.

Your Alaskan Correspondent,


*Note- we have not yet had any negative encounters with our neighborhood bear, though she has been visiting a little more frequently. Meanwhile our Oyster Catchers are raising a family (we have two new additions on the island) and our vole community (not pictured) is thriving.


If you read my last post, I left off on the dock in Newport, RI waiting for a storm to clear. As expected, the thunderstorms (and lightning) passed us by and we cast off our lines the next day.

Blue skies heading under the Newport bridge.
Blue skies heading under the Newport bridge.

But to our disappointment (but not lack of trying), we didn’t find many turtles during our first couple of days on the water.

Here is the scene from the lower observation deck.
On the big eyes! I helped out the visual team during the day when we could not tow the hydrophone array.
On the big eyes! I helped out the visual team during the day when we could not tow the hydrophone array. (Photo credit: Annamaria Izzi)









But after heading north to Canadian waters our luck changed and the turtle rodeo began!

As soon as we spotted a turtle, we deployed the small boat and sent a team to bring it back to the Bigelow to be outfitted with a satellite tag.

We had to travel pretty far off-shore to find the turtles!
The fast rescue boat heading back to the Bigelow.









We transferred the turtles onboard very delicately in a special turtle “hammock” so that the sampling crew could get to work taking vitals and adhering the satellite tag.

Transferring a turtle to the Bigelow.
Transferring a turtle to the Bigelow. (Permit: NOAA-NEFSC-Fisheries & Oceans Canada – DFO Research Notice: M-15-07)
Once the adhesive was dry we used the turtle hammock to release the animal back into the ocean. (Permit: NOAA-NEFSC-Fisheries & Oceans Canada – DFO Research Notice: M-15-07)











Then we were back to our lookout posts to spot the next turtle. (Photo credit: Loren Kellog)

Despite a few setbacks (there are always a few), our turtle mission was a success! At night and on bad weather days we were even able to sneak in some acoustics. In the photo below we are getting ready to deploy a HARP.

(Photo credit: Elizabeth Broughton)

I am back in Oregon now and my summer fieldwork days are over. I am trying to motivate myself to find as much fun in writing and analysis as I did in gluing my face to binoculars in hopes of spotting the next elusive loggerhead, hearing pilot whale harmonics on the array, and enjoying the glorious show that is a sunset at sea.

Acoustic Spyglass Field Team 2016

Research of this scale cannot be conducted in a vacuum. I am not capable of running a theodolite, a total station, a hydrophone, a data computer, and an iPad simultaneously, no matter how good a scientist I may be. To this end field biology is by necessity collaborative. Bringing a team into the field is unbelievably rewarding (and challenging), but the nature of studying charismatic megafauna in a place like Alaska means that expectations must be managed.

My master’s advisor Dr. Andy Szabo of the Alaska Whale Foundation, who imparted on me many words of wisdom as we’d sit waiting for the weather to break so that data could be collected, once told me that the science that was the least exciting to collect was the most valuable to have. I’d remind myself of this as I’d strain to locate a whale from my lighthouse perch that was in fact foraging four miles away, or as I sat with my soggy headphones in a 3-meter skiff in the pouring rain waiting for a whale to call. I’d remind myself that the beauty of using these methods (land based observations and passive acoustic monitoring) was that I was in no way changing the behavior of the whales.

The view of the sunset from our beach as we end a long day of surveying.
While we are here to study the whales in the ocean, it is often the contrast between land and sea that holds our attention. The view from Strawberry Island at sunset.

These are the sorts of stories I told the Acoustic Spyglass field team prior to disembarkation into the field. We learned how to spot blows, because we may be too far away to identify the backs of the whales, we learned how to use a theodolite to finely measure location and behavior from miles away, without ever interacting with the animal. I like to think that I ingrained in my team a sense of humility when thinking about the reality of these whales existing not for us, but despite us. We were prepared to watch, and listen, quietly from a distance.

But the whales came to us.

The dorsal fin of a humpback whale as it was foraging in the intertidal zone surrounding our Strawberry Island field camp
Me just before midnight unbelieving of just how close to shore these two whales were foraging (photo: D. Culp)

In the nine summers that I’ve been coming to Alaska to work with whales I’ve never been as close to a humpback whale as I’ve been, repeatedly, here in Glacier Bay while standing on shore. We are woken up to the explosive breath of humpback whales foraging outside of our tents, we rinse our dishes under the mist of humpback whale exhalations, sitting on the beach writing this blog post I’m not more than fifty yards away from a pair of humpback whales cruising through the intertidal zone. In fact, one blew so loudly a moment ago, that it startled Kate as she made her way across the rocks to begin a survey.

It’s four A.M. and someone is shaking my tent; David tells me that I have to get out of bed there are three whales in our intertidal zone, and one just beyond breaching. It’s ten P.M. and Luke and Kate and I are a puddled mess on the floor of Kate’s tent, moments away from being fast asleep, when David yells from the beach. There’s a whale lunge feeding right off of the shore, and then another; so close that you could count their baleen. Yesterday we cancelled our surveys for fog, again. Sitting disappointed on the beach we watch four whales scattered between the peninsula where we conduct our surveys and the point directly south of us, all of them within 50 yards of the beach – and then one breaches. Years on the water in Alaska and the closest I’ve ever been to a breaching whale was standing ankle deep in the intertidal zone. We have animals so close to the shore with such frequency that Tom coined the term “Drive By”, and the whales do in fact drive by multiple times each day.

Tom surprised by a nearby humpback as he rinses dinner dishes in the intertidal. (Photo: D.Culp)
Humpback whales in Glacier Bay regularly forage in the intertidal zone. Anecdotally we’re finding increased ‘near-coastal’ whales during peak high and peak low tides. Senior thesis project anyone?

I never expected this. I expected tiny teakettle spouts across the ocean (and we have no shortage of that), but I never expected to grow so accustomed to whales on our beach that I’d assume we would see at least one up close everyday. It is a great gift to stand on this shore in awe of these creatures, and content myself with that same knowledge that got me through my master’s degree, that this interaction (which appears to be a one-sided one… whether the whales even know we’re here is unlikely) is not harming these animals or changing their behavior, yet they are still close enough that I can see their muscles flex under
their own locomotion.

Kate and I on the shores of Strawberry Island with one of Glacier Bay's 'regular' humpback whales.
Kate and I on the shores of Strawberry Island with one of Glacier Bay’s ‘regular’ humpback whales.

It is an even greater gift to be able to share this experience with my team, who came to Alaska never having seen a humpback whale. There is a saying about Alaska that I used to quote everyday when I worked on the boats in Juneau, it’s a version of a John Muir quote about coming to Alaska, that goes “for the purpose of sightseeing, if you are old please come. But if you’re young, stay away. For the beauty and the grandeur of a place so huge could ruin you, and it never bodes well in life to see the finest first.”

I fear my team may be ruined.

Luke and yet another of our coastal whales.  Life in Glacier Bay is spectacular.
Luke and yet another of our coastal whales. Life in Glacier Bay is spectacular.

Not everyone likes changes and not all changes are likeable.

Several people that I know cannot stand routine and are always seeking opportunities that will alter and disrupt their everyday lives. I confess to be a committed representative of this group. On the other hand, I know of people that despise changes, find peace in routines and love their comfort zone. Some of my very favorite people in the world belong in this group.

Admittedly, in both cases, changes either include the promising potential of a better situation than the current, or threaten to cause decline, pain and in some cases disaster. The risk of a change varies in a wide spectrum depending on each case, and naturally, some people/organisms are more favorable or resilient to risks than others are.

Affected by the impact of the latest politico-socio-economical changes to the Greek people, and inspired by Samara’s older post on climate change and the effects on human communities, I decided to write about the impacts of climate change on the marine environment and particularly its organisms. Since a song tells a better story, bear with me for the lyrics I wrote and follow later on this post.

The North Pacific is the area that this post focuses on (it is also my main study area) and is experiencing intense environmental changes with evident consequences to both the marine and terrestrial ecosystems. U. S. temperatures have increased between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees, mostly since 1970 and this change is affecting everyone. Agriculture and water management suffer from extreme droughts and increased flooding; human health and relocations face the increasing issue of climate change migration; energy demands increase and fossil fuel supplies decrease, encouraging resource wars; forests suffer longer wildfire seasons; marine ecosystems respond with the animals expanding their distribution north or experiencing massive die offs.


The Californian year round warm climate has been my personal subject of envy the last three years while soaking under the Oregonian mist/rain. Even though the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, in this literal case (where fence=Oregon-California border) the opposite is true. Higher rates and longer droughts are affecting dramatically our southern neighbors with corresponding financial consequences.

Were you wondering why lately the Californian huge cars do not shine as they used to? Why Californians have to let their signature emerald yawns go brown? The state is going through the driest period of its history. Cactus and rock gardens now sound like a great idea. Talking about ideas, the San Francisco’s Department of the Environment recently staged an “Ugliest Yard” competition to encourage more water saving.

uglyiest yard
The winner of the “ugliest yard” competition wins a full yard makeover featuring drought tolerant native plants.

Even though studies are inconclusive about the drought been caused by climate change, the drought’s effects are probably more evident and severe because of global warming increasing temperatures on land.

Nevertheless, the trouble does not stay only on land.

Unusually high seawater temperatures at the coast of California are changing the behaviors of different marine species. Whole fish communities strand dead on the shore and so do thousands of seal pups.


Dead fish stranded in Monterey Bay (Courtesy: Before its News)
Dead fish stranded in Monterey Bay (Courtesy: Before its News)

Recent toxic algal blooms at the Monterey Bay caused impressive numbers of fish to die and dead anchovies covered big areas of the coast. Even though similar events are regularly recorded during summer months, this year’s events appears to be the most intense and severe ever recorded. Climate change is inculpated for increased frequency and severity of such phenomena. Higher temperatures and less mixing of the ocean water masses, traps nutrient rich water and toxic algae in a narrow coastal zone and induces the occurrence of algal toxic blooms. Sea birds, fish, and marine mammals, consume the toxic algae and the food chain is immediately impacted. Man is part of the food chain and for this reason big part of the West Coast shellfish fisheries has closed for safety precautions. Washington, for first time, had to close the coast to Dungeness crab harvesting. Among many, you can imagine the financial cost of such a result.

Undoubtedly, the Pacific marine ecosystem is suffering from unusual weather records. The number of sea lion pups found dead on the California coast is continuously increasing, with about 2000 of them having washed up the last 6 months. The pups starve to death or die in their premature effort to look for food on their own. Their moms have to leave them for long periods to travel to distant cooler and more productive waters to forage. Often they do not obtain enough energy from foraging, for either self-maintenance or lactation, and they struggle to support their pup.

Seal pups to be rehabilitated (Credit: Marine Mammal Center,
Sad seal pup faces at rehab (Credit: Marine Mammal Center,

On the North, Arctic air temperatures are increasing at twice the rate of the rest of the world with consequent increase of the sea temperature. The Arctic ice sheet and glaciers are melting faster than ever, affecting different marine organisms and particularly mammal species. A typical dramatic example is the one of the polar bears who are on the edge of extinction since the edge of the ice where they forage is constantly withdrawing and that seriously diminishes their ability to find food. The polar bears belong to the ‘‘ice-obligate’’ species that rely on sea ice as a platform for resting, breeding, and/or hunting. Thus, reductions in sea ice remove their hunting and resting platforms.

A baby effect causes adult troubles

Studies suggest that El Nino (means “the baby” in Spanish and refers to baby Jesus because in South America it typically occurs around Christmas) events are intensified and become more frequent because of the global warming. El Nino forms by the high-pressure system in the western Pacific and the lower pressure system in the eastern part. This pressure gradient and the weakening trade winds (the winds that travel from the east to the west along the tropics) cause a pool of warm water to expand eastwards to the west coast of the Americas. In turn, these high sea surface temperatures cause decrease in primary productivity, chlorophyll, plankton and fish communities, since warm water tends to carry less oxygen and is less “fertile” ground for the ocean life. The El Nino that occurred in 1998 is characterized as “the climatic event of the 20th century” with severe effects on the ecosystems and human communities.

The song

The Wind of Climate Change is track #1andOnly on the album Moment of Worry. Inspired by the song Wind of Change by the band Scorpions and appeared in their album Moment of Glory.

Interestingly the original song became a hit in January 1991 when the Soviet Union was going through some historic changes…

Listen to the original song while you read my lyrics. Do not miss my imaginative rhyming!


The Wind  of Climate Change – Lyrics

I hear the sea lions bark

Down to Santa Barbara

Contemplating the effects of climate change

Eyes stop being dry

When seal pups don’t survive

Affected by climate-driven change


The ocean is warming

Did you hear about the krill

Whales struggle to feed, through trophic levels

El Nino is not a flare

Is challenging this era

Weakening the winds of trade (remember 1998)


Show me the time series to follow

In the absence of light

Where the sardines and the herring tend to stay, (tend to stay)

For the whales to find prey


Searching for quarry to eat

On melting ice-sheets

Polar bears will not cease to endeavor

I hear whales buzz

Down the deep ocean

Echolocating in the short range


Show me the environmental component

Of the climate change fight

For the seals cause me sorrow to strand on bays (strand on bays)

Their moms flee

The trophic cascade occurs

From shifts in oceanographic regime

Weakened upwelling,  ecosystems being unwell

Brings on chlorophyll decline

Deepens the thermocline in spring

The anchovies at warm won’t play


Show me the environmental component,

Of the climate change fight

For the seals cause me sorrow to strand on bays (strand on bays)

Ocean is warm and strange (warm and strange)


Since we are in the merge of science and art, acoustics and visual, check out this video that captures the effects of high rated climate variability in the poles. The glaciers of Greenland, Nepal, and Alaska are depleting by the hour.


Whether we are talking about a drought in California, thousands of dead sea lion pups, skinny polar bears, record aggregations of Walruses, attributing a single event to climate change is certainly under discussion and often subject of scientific controversy. The human-caused global warming and its serious impacts however, are not.

The same time, U.S. faces a serious issue with a significant number of climate change deniers who are particularly aggressive against the climate scientists and relevant policy. To explain that, Jeffrey Kiehl (senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research) implemented a long psychological study and concluded that:

 Consumption and growth have become so central to our sense of personal identity and the fear of economic loss creates such numbing anxiety, we literally cannot imagine making the necessary changes.

His results seem to be applicable in other cases of crisis than just environmental.

Jason Box  said: “It’s unethical to bankrupt the environment of this planet”.

All the choices we make every day affect ourselves, people around us, and the environment. Whether it is choosing what type of dish detergent to use, choosing a political party, or choosing whether to drive or bike, ethics play a factor in the morality applied to these decisions.

Aristotle  and Kant talked about the value of ethics for rational and intelligent human beings.

Ethics is part of a responsible scientist’s work. At least it should be. Ethics is part of everyone’s everyday life and decisions.

Be ethical.




links to other blogs!!  Like this one: LADC-GEMM

Lately I’ve been doing some “field work” although that is not nearly as glamorous as my labmates Michelle and Samara are doing right now. I am piloting a glider in the Gulf of Mexico for a monitoring project around the area of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This is an awesome project because it is using three types of passive acoustic monitoring systems: gliders, autonomous surface vehicles (that look AWESOME) and bottom moored hydrophones. However, me piloting means staying in Oregon with a strong internet connection and doing all of that from my laptop, so I don’t have any cool pictures, or fun field stories. This deployment has been going very smoothly, compared to the test flight, knock on wood.

Anyway, Sara Heimlich, of the OSU/CIMRS Bioacoustics Lab, has been maintaining a great project website and I encourage you all to check that out for more detailed info…and cool field photos.


It’s been two weeks since our research team met up in Gustavus Alaska to begin our 2015 field season. While Chris, Holger, and I have been working for over a year to get this up and running, our newly formed field team is reaping the benefits of hundreds of pages of proposals, permits, emails, and budgets. Now that we’ve made it to the island I can say wholeheartedly that ever word that was put to paper was worth it. Now, my four interns and myself, are trying to live up to the promises that got us here.


Introducing the crew:

Our team is made up of a diverse group of undergraduates from Oregon State University, all whom I met when I was a teaching assistant for a field sampling class. We’re a diverse bunch to say the least, with complimentary skill sets, all of which have held us up through the rocky first few weeks of the field season (the first week of any large field season is a little rocky, this one is no exception). Everyone is expected to survey for whales from our 15-foot observation tower, and to listen for whales from our kayak, but other tasks have been divvied out according to desire and ability. Tom, our resident Texan, is quick with a joke or a story if you don’t beat him to it, and took up the bulk of our photography training. The plan was to use a spotting scope to photograph whales and seals across the survey area (a plan that regretfully doesn’t seem to work); when that fell through – much to Tom “I never stop working” Plank’s chagrin – Tom happily trained everyone up on ORCAA’s dream machine camera, and has personally taken over 500 photographs to date.

Kate, native Oregonian through and through, came with instruments in tow and cooking skills to match. Aside from her keen attention to detail and organization, having another woman in science around has turned out to be more important to me than I’d originally realized. Of my fifteen previous field technicians only once was there a gentleman on the team. Similarly, our deployment team for this project was made up exclusively of women as well. It’s refreshing to have Kate on the team, not just to represent ladies in science, but to share the perspective of being a strong undergraduate woman in science.


Lucas, recently dubbed “Pioneer Man”, is working on a senior thesis under my supervision. So in addition to his daily survey duties he and I have been brainstorming the next steps in his personal project. What we hope to do is to build on the legacy of acoustics work that’s been done in this area to see if humpback whales are using sound shadows to avoid being inundated with the noise produced by passing ships. This question, which was originally posited in the late 1980’s when the impact of noise on humpbacks in Glacier Bay became a topic of great concern, was addressed with a smaller population of animals and a quieter ocean. During our next stint Lucas will kayak throughout our survey area taking recordings in various spots that we will later quantify using acoustics software to assess variation in the noise levels as a function of ships. He will then use our visual survey data to map out how humpbacks are using the spaces during periods with passing cruise ships. He’s also fond of daily swims in the frigid 38 degree ocean, and holds a personal record of 13 minutes in the water (shoulder deep). This record was beat only yesterday by Kate and myself, the pioneer women on the team (who hold a 20 minute record, but only waist deep).

Lastly we have our Whale Whisperer, David. David, who is also doing a senior thesis with me, has an unbelievable talent for spotting whales. It didn’t take long before the student outdid the teacher; he’s now able to find whales further away and faster than any of us, for which I am grateful and admittedly humbled. His electrician skills have come in similarly handy as we stumble through an enduring love-hate relationship with power supplies. David’s thesis, which investigates diel trends in humpback whale vocal behavior, is going well. Thus far David has navigated the 3:30 AM surveys without complaint as the rest of the team snooze through the early Alaskan sunrises.


Our camp is set up and well organized. I’ve had to move my tent twice, both times due to the proximity of my sleeping quarters to bear habitat. Yes. We have bears. Up until a few days ago I’d grown quite comfortable with Teddi, our neighborhood black bear. She’d been a good neighbor, only coming around the beach twice a day to gaze from afar at our camp. When I interrupted Teddi eating salmon berries a few hundred yards away from my tent, however, I decided to move further into the spruce thicket. This morning David had a close encounter with a second bear on the beach, I’ve yet to see him, but unlike Teddi (who is a shiny black bear), Pete appears to be a large cinnamon bear (or possibly a small brown bear). We haven’t encountered Pete enough to determine a routine, but he hasn’t yet visited the camp.

We’re able to hear the whales breathing from our tents at night, and at least once or twice a day they’ve been swimming about 10 yards off of the beach, usually during high tides. It’s frequent enough that the team has coined the term ‘Drive By’ to describe it. We’re now familiar enough with the sound of breathing whales that not only can we tell which direction the whales are in, but also whether or not they are on our side of the channel or the opposite.

Also on the island we have humming birds and hermit thrushes, Swainson’s thrushes and crows, a pair of nesting bald eagles, and a colony of voles. The ocean is thick with harbor porpoise, stellar sea lions, and (Leanna you’ll be so pleased) with harbor seals! 

Perhaps the best news of all? The whales are calling and the seals are roaring all around the array. We’ve yet to drop the hydrophone and hear nothing. When the hydrophone is near shore the roaring seals dominate, but when you drift mid-channel the swops and whups of whales can be heard. I couldn’t be more pleased.




There will be much more to come, including the trials and tribulations of our research (so many things that haven’t worked, so many things to carry up and down through the intertidal without breaking them), but for now I’ll leave you with the mental image of five happy, damp, researchers, watching whales from the shores of Glacier Bay. Signing off.


Your Alaskan Correspondent,