Whale Wise (UK)
To contribute new research towards best practices within the whale watching industry - with the overarching goal of ensuring the greater protection and welfare of whales, dolphins and all marine mammals.
Connecting Humans + Whales – How can we do it better?
Whale watching is on the rise in the oceans and seas around the world. Now a widely popular ecotourism activity, it has great potential to promote marine conservation, benefit the economies of coastal communities, educate and encourage the protection of these magnificent animals and all marine life.
We are huge supporters of whale watching - after all, we ourselves love to watch whales!
It is a great privilege to connect to these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. And it is certainly a better alternative to captivity. For many, it can be a life-changing experience. As humans, we have a special fascination with whales, and in fact, we have more in common with them than many realise. Click here to read more on this subject
However, we believe we have a fundamental duty to protect the welfare of the whales we love to watch. As such, our research focuses specifically on the potential impact of whale watching encounters on whale populations, with the end goal of learning how to better protect them.
Through our research, we aim to contribute to best whale watching practices by providing scientific data to help answer questions such as:
· Are ‘green’ engine alternatives such as electric boat motors less disruptive to whales whilst we are in their natural habitat?
· What proximity standards could ensure a minimally invasive visit amongst whales?
· With climate change likely to affect whale populations worldwide, how can the whale watching industry best prepare and protect whales?
All of us on the Whale Wise team believe it is possible to provide high-quality encounters whilst minimising disturbance to whales and dolphins.
If you have a passion for whales, dolphins and marine life - please consider donating.
As a small organisation, any donation, no matter the amount, will make a massive difference to our work and the positive impact we can have for the welfare of whales. And we sincerely invite you to join us as we conduct our research through our blog at WhaleWise.org.
Whale Wise ( www.WhaleWise.org ) aims to assess the impact of whale watching encounters on whale populations. Utilising a range of methods and technology, we examine the behavioural and physiological responses of whales to whale watching vessels. With this work, we hope to improve the ways we watch and respect the lives of whales.
The hub of our research is in Skjalfandi Bay, Iceland. An important feeding ground for many whale species, this area in the North Atlantic has a large whale watching presence, with up to 50 boat trips per day during the peak summer season.
Specifically, we study two species:
1. Humpback whales - Megaptera noveangliae
These enormous ‘angels of the sea’ are known for their melodic songs and amazing aerobatic abilities.
2. Blue whales - Balaenoptera musculus
The largest animal in the world, majestic blue whales are listed as Endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
In the field, we use three principle methods:
1. Behavioural observations
In both the presence and the absence of whale watching vessels, we observe, photograph and document the animals’ activity, such as feeding, diving, breaching, etc. in order to assess any alterations in their behavior when in proximity to, or away from, whale watching boat activity.
2. Aerial imagery - drone photography
Utilising drone technology, we will monitor the body condition of individual whales in order to track their health, which help us to gauge potential vulnerability to human disturbance.
3. Blow sampling via the use of non-invasive drones
Our specially designed drone is used to collect samples of whale exhalations. Whale exhalation samples contain a vast array of biological data, including DNA, microorganism information, hormone levels and indicators of the whale’s metabolism.
From these samples, we analyse various hormone levels (like cortisol, the same ‘stress’ hormone we humans have) to assess the physiological and possible stress-related responses to whale watching vessels. Sampling occurs at different times of day, before and after whale watching encounters, so that we can compare differences in hormone levels.
This is the first study of its kind in Iceland.
Meet the Team
With a shared passion and commitment to marine conservation, the Whale Wise team is a group of people with solid experience in whale research, conservation action, public engagement and media.
As our consciousness evolves and we become aware of new and better choices we can make for ourselves, our planet, and all of its inhabitants, it is our privilege to contribute our research and experience in this field – with the ultimate hope that we can better co-exist in health and harmony with all creatures great (like whales!) and small.
Please meet our Team below, and thank you!
After graduating with a degree in Natural Science (Cambridge University, UK), Tom has spent the last two years working for various marine research and conservation groups, with a focus on whales. As part of this, he spent a summer working for the University of Iceland in Húsavík, contributing to photo-identification and behavioural research. During this time, he formed the idea of promoting a more sustainable whale watching industry in Iceland and beyond. This idea has now transformed into Whale Wise, with the broader aim of reducing human disturbance to whales. Whale Wise will form part of Tom's PhD with the University of Edinburgh.
Mark grew up with a fascination for all things wild. Now a freelance wildlife film-maker, Mark has extensive experience in flying and building drones for filming purposes, including whales and other marine life. He has produced and contributed to various films and documentaries ( www.markromanov.com). He also seeks to bridge the gap between science and entertainment. Now, Mark puts his skills to the test for our blow sampling project, in addition to using his experience in the film industry to shape media platforms for Whale Wise. Mark thinks that whales are more intelligent than given credit for, and excited for what the coming decades of research can reveal about their lives.
Our Funding Goals
£5,000 - allows us to conduct research for another field season
£10,000 - allows us to conduct research for another field season and purchase custom-built drones
£20,000 - allows us to conduct research for another field season, purchase custom-built drones and have the resources for our own research boat
Contributions of any size play a large role in the improvement of the relationship between whales and humans! Thank you!
If you would like to donate in dollars, please visit our North American page: www.gofundme.com/whalewise-northamerica