Nov 24

Whales of British Columbia: An Earthwatch Expedition

by Staff

Recently SeaWorld team member, Cristina Berg, applied for and was chosen to participate in an Earthwatch Expedition to help in the study of grey whales. Here is a look into her trip:

SeaWorld Team Member Christina Berg

Where did your expedition take you?

I went to Flores Island which is off the West Coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. We stayed in a converted hostel in a small town called Ahousaht, with a population of six people.

What information were you assisting in the collection of?

In addition to photo-identifying the grey whales in the area, we were also looking at the different prey items the whales may be foraging on. To do this we would drift with a camera in kelp beds looking for small crustaceans known as mysids.

SeaWorld Team members with mysids

In recent years there have been very low populations of mysids, the scientists were diving to the sea floor where grey whales have been spotted to see if they are feeding on amphipods, a type of crustacean.

We would also grab samples of the sea floor with a device known as a PONAR from the boats. Scientists seem to think that the whales decimate a population of prey items and then slowly change to a different prey. This research may help to identify reasons why the populations of grey whales in the area are slowly decreasing.

How did your experience affect you?

I now have a greater appreciation of the hard work involved with research projects. Before my dreams with SeaWorld started, I wanted to be a marine mammal researcher, but for various reasons my plans changed. After this experience I realized that life as a researcher can be a very arduous job. There was a lot of heavy equipment to use, long hours on a boat, and a variety of weather conditions. Although, I had a blast while I was there, I don't know if I could do the job for an entire summer.

Not only did I learn about the research itself, I was able to make friends from around the world that I plan to keep in touch with. I now know more about the cultures from Canada, Germany, England and Australia. This was a great learning experience I will never forget.

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