Up and running!

I was hoping to have posted a little something by now… but as it stands the internet is slower than I remembered. That being said I want to let you know how things are going.

Our first session of interns arrived and are hard at work! The later season interns will reap the benefit of their hard work. We met in Petersburg to last minute preparations (buying propane, grocery shopping, finalizing sampling gear). Norma and Nicole (to be introduced shortly) arrived early and we met for a short hike and some last minute supply shopping (so maybe they forgot to bring sleeping bags… and rain pants… if they didn’t turn out to be so incredibly charming and competent I’d have been tempted to hold it against them.) We were joined the following day by Kate and Ryan (who apparently forgot nothing) and met for our first crew dinner in Petersburg. By Friday morning we had two boats filled with fuel, food, gear, personal effects, and were headed to the lighthouse with our 10′ zodiac (“Noble Stead”) in tow behind us.

Our interns can attest, research is hard work. While the act of surveying the whales might not involve heavy lifting, moving our supplies through the intertidal, across the island, and into the lighthouse may have been harder than it sounded. (Not to mention carrying the refrigerator, the freezer, and the new 300 pound generator… did I mention that the other interns will reap the benefits of Session 1’s hard work?).

We now have the lighthouse all set up and after a few equipment snafu’s (namely Noble Stead’s engine not being ready yet) we’re getting close to a routine. Our research team has been trained up on theodolite use, data protocol, acoustic equipment, and skiff handling. I couldn’t be prouder of their progress.

We spent the fourth of July camping on the Brothers, a set of nearby islands, kayaking with sea lions, and hiking through Alaska’s pillowy moss. This speckled with tide pooling, an wild ride with Dr. Szabo to see some killer whales, an interpretive visit on the Wilderness Adventurer (a pocket cruiser that stopped to ‘borrow’ us from the lighthouse), a few games, and lots of Harry Potter (yes, Ryan brought the entire series. I think I am the only person not reading some sort of fantastic book right now), has filled our down time as we sort out the details of the weather, the equipment, and the tides.

Tower sampling is going well. Now that all of the interns have their eyes trained on whales and can identify the different boats (so it may not be as easy as you think) we’re averaging about 12-16 surveys a day. I’m hoping to have our points uploaded into ArcGIS soon (in progress) so we can start getting a preliminary idea of what our patterns of dispersion look like.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is that we’ve starting hearing sounds. Kate heard our first whale sound from Noble Stead before she even left the mooring buoy. A later trip into the Southeast Sector of our survey area with Norma and Nicole produced a myriad of squeaks and chirps. I was beside myself with excitement.

Now… our team:

Norma Vasquez is a graduate student at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute studying interactions between Stellar sea lions and transient killer whales.

Nicole Chabaneix is a recent biology graduate from Boston University. She is originally from Peru, and is the unofficial Session 1 photographer.

Kate Indeck is a student at Eckerd College in Florida double majoring in Environmental Studies and Marine Science.

Ryan Meeder is a rising sophomore at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. (You can follow his blog on the RASMAS website… I’ll try to link it soon!)

We’ve taken so far a collective 2500+ photographs. Once I’m closer to a strong internet connection, I assure you I’ll post some so can see the smiling faces of our team!

Cheers for now~
Miche

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