End of a Bumper Blue Whale Season!

It’s just been just over a week since the 2012 Geographe Bay whale season ended.  The team have had a few days to tidy up, get all the equipment sorted, and say their goodbyes until next year.  But just because we’re parting ways for a few months doesn’t mean the research stops there!

Ron Glencross (D-CALC) is still collecting in the monitoring forms from the community volunteers.  He has been keeping a tally of whales sighted throughout the season, and so far the count is up to over a whopping 100 blue whales!  As for the D-CALC volunteers, they can give their eyes a rest and stop thinking about whales for a wee while!

Chris Burton (WWR) taking whale photo-ID at Pt Picquet

Chris Burton (Western Whale Research) will be working with Ron to process the monitoring forms, but he also has around 70 GB of photo-ID images to go through!  Chris will select the best shots of each animal he saw and enter them into his catalogues for humpback and blue whale individuals.  He can then compare all this season’s photographs to those of previous years, to determine which animals we may have spotted before.  This helps us build a picture of how individual whales are using Geographe Bay.  As part of the development of photo-ID research in Geographe Bay, Ian Weise will be investigating different aspects and uses of the southern right whale pictures taken this winter…  But more about that later!

In the final part of the season, Chris was accompanied on the boat by Catherine Attard (Macquarie / Flinders University) who is finishing her PhD investigating the genetics of blue whales in Australia and surrounding regions.  Cat was able to secure some more genetic samples for her project,which allows her to determine the sex of the animal and which population it may belong to.  We will await the outcome of this with interest!

Chandra Salgado Kent, Angela Recalde-Salas and Sarah Marley (Curtin University) have taken the theodolite back up to Perth and are beginning analysis of all the whale tracks we collected this year.  Next week, Chandra and the Dunsborough Sea Rescue group will go back out into the bay to collect our noise logger.  Then the Curtin team can start listening to the whales and their underwater environment too!

And amongst all the data analysis, new plans for the 2013 season are being hatched!  But of course to fund all of our research, training, and education activities for next year we need money!  The research team will be applying for several grants in anticipation of the 2013 season, but if you would like to assist SouWEST in continuing whale research in Geographe Bay, either visit the Support SouWEST page or let us know!

In the meantime, we will keep you updated with exciting news, the results of our research and any upcoming SouWEST events.  But for now, from all the SouWEST team, we wish you a Merry Christmas!

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