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We need whale poo 📷 WDC NA

Whales are our climate allies – meet the scientists busy proving it

At Whale and Dolphin Conservation, we're working hard to bring whales and the ocean into...
Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...

Blogging from Biennial: Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of the Biennial Conference and sounds like it was full of information! Collen and Monica’s brains are already bursting with new facts so let’s hear what they have to report back:

Day 1:

Colleen and Monica at SMM Biennial Conference

After the welcoming reception on Sunday evening and the first full day of conferencing on Monday, my head is already spinning!  So much learning!  I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with old friends and hear about what they are working on now, and make new connections over interesting and innovative research.  I learned that:

The first day started with inspirational talks from plenary speakers Asha de Vos and Scott Kraus.  Like many of us at WDC, Dr. de Vos is a fan of whale poop, and what it can tell us about the unique population of blue whales that she studies off the coast of Sri Lanka.  Dr. Kraus spoke about different ways to look for population decline in whale and dolphin populations, and how those can act as an early warning sign that a population may be in trouble.  Both speakers talked about the importance of public engagement, making research accessible, and working with local communities who would be directly impacted by the recovery, or loss, of a species off their coast.  Dr. de Vos urged the conference attendees to think about the future – how the research we’re learning about can be used to protect whales and dolphins, and how we can include the local people impacted. Dr. Kraus made the point that protecting whales means nothing if we lose our oceans – we must consider the bigger picture and think in the long-term, while acting now to prevent some populations from being lost forever.  With those thoughts in our minds, we set off for a day of learning and thinking about how we can make those ideas into reality. -Colleen


Monica participating in whale anatomy labeling competitionThe first day of Biennial was a bit overwhelming but so informative at the same time.  I opted to listen in on presentations both in line with the work our office does and also out of our area of expertise.  A few of the points I found most fascinating:

  • Researchers at Baylor University examined stress levels in the layers of various whale earplugs and determined, among other things, that while whaling is definitely stressful for whales, they still showed elevated levels of stress hormones likely as a result of World War II despite whaling efforts having decreased.
  • 42(!!) species of marine mammals are used as bait for fish across the world, of which 2/3 are specifically for shark hunting.
  • Newborn and young land animals typically postpone development of locomotive skills to focus first on cognitive abilities; this does not seem to be the case for sperm whales calves off Dominica according to work being done by the Dominica Sperm Whale Project

It was a jam packed day of presentations and poster displays, but I took some time (25.4 seconds, to be exact!) to take part in a little whale anatomy competition. The goal was simple- label the correct parts of the North Atlantic right whale and Northern bottlenose whale. The competition was to see who could do it fastest, but at an event with 1,700 participants, the odds are not in my favor. I was in 2nd place when I left the booth- I’ll have to wait for the final results until the end of the week. Cross your fingers for me!!  -Monica

Catch up with the rest of the Blogging from Biennial series.