#1: Heading Downeast

Right whale researchers are a lucky crew- just as the peak of the summer heat hits Boston, we get to head up north (ahem... downeast) to the cool Bay of Fundy, just like our research subjects! For the past 31 years, we’ve made Lubec, Maine, our home-away-from-home for the months of August and September, and this year is no exception! Our gear is packed, our cars are loaded, and we have a talented group of scientists coming from all over the U.S. and Canada for what we hope to be a busy field season.

A very small portion of the gear we transport for the field season.

Last year, we had surprisingly low numbers of right whales in the Bay of Fundy, and an equally surprising high number of sperm whales! We’re eager to see if this is a new trend or just a “fluke.”

On a sad note, we know there are several whales we won’t be seeing in the Bay this year, as five deaths have been confirmed and at least two others suspected since January. Two of these confirmed deaths were reproductive females, which are invaluable to such a slowly growing population. Slash (Catalog #1303), who had given birth to at least six calves, was a favorite of the team and easily recognized by her scarred flukes. Unfortunately, her carcass was never secured so we will never know the cause of death, although ship strike is a possibility.

While her calf rests at the surface, Slash lifts her uniquely scarred flukes to go on a dive in the Bay of Fundy.

Despite these losses, we are optimistic that we’ll see lots of new “faces” this season! This winter, 21 calves were born, and about 2/3rds of them will make their first appearance in the Bay! The others will travel with their moms to locations still unknown.

We hope our dedicated readers are just as excited as we are for the 2011 field season, and that those new to our blog will develop a love for these whales too! You can also follow the program via Right Whale Scoop on Twitter and by joining our new Right Whale Group on Facebook! See you soon!

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