Expedition down under

Pacific Whale Foundation researchers arrived this week in Hervey Bay, a quaint community in northern Queensland. For the next few months, I will be documenting research efforts and managing our little shop as humpback whales make their annual migration from the subtropic waters of eastern Australia to their feeding grounds of Antarctica. Stephanie Stack, M.Sc. PWF’s Senior Research Biologist and Research Assistant Laura Behm will be photographing flukes and recording data of daily sightings for ongoing research in the area.

Began in 1984, Pacific Whale Foundation’s Australia humpback whale research program is the longest running study of this population. The overarching goal of PWF’s research is to advance understanding of humpback whale biology, population status and impacts of human activities on the population. PWF’s Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale ID Catalog is a compilation of 31 seasons of research, combining detailed data on life history, behavior, spatial distribution, and human impacts.

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Save Lolita

All Things Are Possible!

Summer break may be finished, but Ocean Camp memories gust thicker than my Oklahoma accent. As I plug away behind my computer reconciling administrative tasks and reacquainting myself with current events, I can easily become discouraged with the empty nest syndrome of a quieter classroom and the multitude of unjust issues impacting our precious marine life. Yet every climb down the stairs in our office confronts me with the reason why I do what I do. Tacked on an otherwise barren, white wall is a sign that speaks volumes above the noisy staircase it decorates. The artistically rendered petition reads, “Save Lolita” referring to a captive orca. This project is a representation of the many efforts that result from our educational program Ocean Camp.

Through the eyes of a child, all things seem possible. Children have a hope that knows no bounds and an uncorrupted knowledge of what’s right and what’s wrong. They haven’t been wielded by the norms of culture and are relentless in their demand for fairness. They are juvenile in their craving for justice, and this naivety can be potent when combined with an accurate education. Education is empowering. This understanding, combined with my own residual childhood dreams and a resurrected child-like hope, is why I do what I do.

Lendy Leslie, a fourteen year old freshman, has lived in Hugo, Oklahoma, for all of her life.  She is involved with honor programs and school activities.  She is a cheerleader, and she loves gymnastics.  Her favorite animal would probably be a whale or a dog.  Lendy would someday like to live near the ocean and become a marine biologist.

From a book I authored as a school project at 14 years of age.

Like our Ocean Campers, I was a young girl who desired to see dolphins and whales live in freedom, but somewhere along the way I lost that childhood aspiration. Maybe it was a lack of direction or available educational resources, but like many young people with dreams, it became a distant possibility.

On the other hand, they say a lot can happen in a year. During last summer’s Ocean Camp, the children created petitions in regards to the sea lion performances occurring at Hawai‘i’s state fair. This year, Hawai‘i’s Governor Ige respectfully vowed to cease the issuance of permits for wild animal acts like these. Although captive cetaceans (dolphins, whales and porpoises) are not included in this decision, such victories encourage us to keep hoping and using our voices whether BIG or small for matters both f-a-r and near.

I intend for my efforts at Pacific Whale Foundation to equip others with knowledge and awareness, so they are encouraged and inspired to protect our ocean and its inhabitants. So as I consider all the issues that threaten these creatures—adversities like captivitySONAR, marine debrisdrive hunts, and ultimately extinction, I remain child-like in my determination and tenacious in my teaching. Even though there is strong opposition in retiring captive cetaceans like Lolita, I continue to teach students about marine mammals and allow them to decide how they feel about captivity. I am hopeful that one day marine mammals will no longer face this particular issue because of the attitude the children demonstrate. As author Neil Postman stated, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”

I believe that all things are possible, and as a part of my job, I am thankful I get to be a part of creating that possibility.