#23: The many hats we wear....

On the boat there are several jobs that we rotate through during the course of a long day at work. While we always have a licensed captain on board, we all are experienced at piloting the research vessel. This is an important skill as the U.S. permit we work under allows us to approach these highly endangered whales.

The first position is the data recorder, located safe from spray behind the windshield. This person is responsible for recording each right whale sighted and photographed in both the computer's database and on paper. The computer continuously tracks our GPS position, allowing us to obtain data on the number of miles surveyed in a day as well as giving a GPS position to each whale sighting. On paper we record behaviors, associations and the numbers of all photographs corresponding to each individual whale. Back at the field house, it is much easier to work with the hundreds of photographs that we take each day if the recorder is diligent in the field.

Three researchers then work from the bow of the research vessel. Two stand with cameras ready to photograph each right whale while the third is our "whale watcher." Having two photographers is very important when working large groups of whales. As you can imagine, photographing 40 whales in a SAG (see previous post on surface active groups) can be extremely difficult as the whales dive and twist around each other.

But never fear, the "whale watcher" is there to clear up the confusion. The "whale watcher" is responsible for knowing which whales we have seen in a day (to minimize photographing duplicates) and which whale the photographers are currently photographing. To organize whales within a day we letter them from A to Z and you will hear the researchers yelling letters back and forth as they try to track which whales they are photographing while working a large SAG. Many times the "whale watcher" will recognize the whales on sight and record their catalog number while in the field. Several of the researchers on our team have worked with this population for over 20 years and recognize many of the whales on sight.

These five positions are always filled while we work whales here in the Bay of Fundy. There are many other tasks that pop up throughout the day such as collecting biological samples or matching whales with our field matching book. Everyone on our team is trained to work in each role and we take turns wearing these different hats!

1- Cyndi pilots the research vessel Nereid.
2- Data sheet used to record whale sightings, behaviors, associations and frame numbers.
3- Jon and Amy stand ready to photograph the next whale.
4- Yan uses his binoculars to identify the whale currently being photographed.
5- Some of the equiptment that is used throughout the day. The open book is the field matching book that we use to assist us in matching whales in the field.

- Cyndi

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