Captain Dennis Rogers with two budding scientists, Charlotte (9) and Alina (7) Ruffin onboard the Northern Song are three of our most prolific citizen-scientists!

Captain Dennis Rogers with two budding scientists, Charlotte (9) and Alina (7) Ruffin onboard the Northern Song are three of our most prolific citizen-scientists!

Alaska Whale Foundation’s citizen-science project is officially underway! We have commercial fishermen, naturalists aboard commercial recreational vessels, visiting tourists, and local Alaskans all collecting marine mammal data with our Whale mAPP Android application. I am grateful for all these volunteers, and would like to highlight two boats in particular that are helping us collect data: the Northern Song and the National Geographic Sea Bird.

            Aboard the Northern Song, Captain Dennis Rogers and two junior scientists, Alina and Charlotte Ruffin, have done an outstanding job at spotting and recording marine mammals. Whenever a new whale, dolphin, or pinniped was spotted, Alina and Charlotte enthusiastically entered the information in Whale mAPP. All told, the trio recorded a record number of 17 marine mammal sightings in one day. Witnessing their joy for science and marine wildlife was a wonderful testament to the benefits of citizen science work. Great job Northern Song volunteers!

Naturalist Justin Hofman scanning for marine mammals on the National Geographic Sea Bird.  Professional naturalists, like Justin, can provide helpful comments on how to improve the application.

Naturalist Justin Hofman scanning for marine mammals on the National Geographic Sea Bird.  Professional naturalists, like Justin, can provide helpful comments on how to improve the application.

            Naturalists on the National Geographic Sea Bird have also worked hard to record data. Three in particular, Justin Hofman, Ian Strachan and Rab Cummings, support the project and are using Whale mAPP in their spare time. They have provided helpful recommendations for making the application more user-friendly and efficient. Serendipitously, while talking to Justin and Ian on the bridge, Chief Mate Chris Rhodes spotted two pods of resident killer whales, which then proceeded to spy hop and breach multiple times. Of course, this was entered into the database!  This demonstrates the unique experiences with marine life that people encounter in Southeast Alaska.

            These are just two of the vessels that are helping out.  To all of our volunteers, thank you for your participation. Your contributions are helping us test whether citizen-science  can be an effective tool for collecting regional-scale marine mammal distribution and abundance data. This task would not be feasible without your efforts.

For more information on our citizen-science project visit Alaska Whale Foundation’s research page, or contact me at hannc@onid.oregonstate.edu.

- Courtney Hann, AWF graduate student and project leader.

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